Baby Names

12 Things to Consider When Choosing the Perfect Baby Name for Your LO

Source: @raven.vasquez
Source: @raven.vasquez

Choosing a name for your baby can be one of the most exciting things you do as a new parent. At the same time, it can feel like a ton of pressure knowing what an important and permanent decision a name is. Given how many options there are, it can help to start by finding ways to narrow down the search.

We can always go the traditional route and pass a name on that means something to our family. Or we can look at the latest baby name trends and see what piques our interest at the time. Or perhaps we take something out of left field that’s highly unique. No matter what sounds most appealing to you, we’re here to guide you when picking the perfect name for your little bundle of joy. Read on for a list of 12 things to consider when choosing a baby name for your child—plus, tips on how to make the final decision.

1. Talk it over

First and foremost, you want to get on the same page with your partner or co-parent about how you’ll choose a name. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you come up with a list on your own only to realize that they already had their heart set on another one. Even if neither of you has an idea yet, you can talk about your values and priorities. Discuss whether you’ll use a relative as a namesake, go traditional or modern, gender-neutral or not, and so on. If you’re both feeling very open-minded, you can brainstorm the themes that would be meaningful to both of you.

2. Find creative ways to use your family tree

It’s a tradition in many cultures to name children after family members. Beyond parents and grandparents, consider your siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even people from older generations you never had the chance to meet. If you like the idea but don’t love any of the name choices it leaves you with, you could still use a family name as a starting point from which to think of similar names. For instance, Mary could be adapted to Marietta or Marigold. Or, you could combine two family members’ names into one, like Mary Ann or Marianne. You could also look at relatives’ middle names or even surnames for something more unique.

3. Honor your heritage

Throughout history, many families arriving in the U.S. from other countries have let go of or altered their original first and last names in favor of western or anglicized versions. This was either by choice or because teachers, employers, and other people simply gave them new ones. Sometimes, names were hastily westernized on public records by people such as immigration officers or doctors creating birth certificates. Today, many Millennial and Gen Z parents are reversing that pattern by looking to their families’ countries of origin when naming their children. Even if you don’t speak the language of a particular culture (or only speak it a little), you can still choose a name from your heritage as a way to reclaim pride and maintain a connection to your history.

how to choose a baby name
Source: @francois_et_moi

4. Pay homage to a public or historical figure you admire

Influential authors, actors, artists, and musicians can all make great namesakes, especially if you love their work. You could also look to celebrated people in your particular field of work. For those with careers in STEM, that might mean someone like Ada Lovelace, the English mathematician often regarded as the first computer programmer. Or Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA employees who inspired the movie Hidden Figures. You could even consider baby names based on fictional characters from classic films or books that moved you.

5. Look at the current name trends

Each year, new baby name trends emerge: think grandpacore baby names, or western-inspired baby names, for instance. On top of that, each May the Social Security Administration releases the list of the most popular baby names of the previous year. When picking a baby name, we can use this information to our advantage and maybe a fun trend will be a good thought-starter for naming conversations. Or, maybe you want to avoid anything too trendy, so you use the SSA list to know what to avoid. No matter what, the gathering of this information can help inform your decision.

6. Celebrate a specific place or time

You could pick a name based on the season and time of year in which your baby is due. If you’re expecting a baby to be born in the summer, for example, you might choose a summer-inspired baby name. Or, you could consider a location that’s special to you, like a vacation you took while expecting, the city where you and your partner met, or your hometown. You can even expand things from there: is there a nice-sounding street, town, or lake that reminds you of those memories? Maybe a flower, tree, or animal common to the area? Whatever it is, it’s sure to make a special baby name.

7. Prioritize meaning

If you feel a strong pull toward a particular theme like “strength” or “resilience,” you could search for names with that meaning. For common themes, you may find that there are many names to choose from. For instance, more than 50 names are associated with the word “hope.” From there, you could pick the one that sounds best to you or the one, pairs well with your last name, or that corresponds with your cultural heritage.

how to choose a baby name
Source: @fulchersunfiltered

8. Consider the full name

Thinking about which names will sound best with your child’s last name or middle name could help narrow your choices. Maybe you’re drawn to something alliterative like Meghan Markle or Steven Spielberg. Or, if your last name has many syllables, you might want a short first name (or vice versa). As you consider options, try saying the full name out loud several times and see how it feels. If you’re giving your child a middle name, do you plan to use it every time you refer to them, or only on occasion? If you choose the latter, the sound of only the first and last names together might take priority. Then there’s the matter of initials; be sure to pay attention to how certain letter combos work together and certain arrangements if you love the idea of personalized or monogrammed baby items.

9. Don’t forget nicknames

You could end up using a nickname more often than not, so it’s worth thinking about how a name will naturally get shortened (either by you or by your kid’s friends and classmates). For example, maybe you like the name, Robert—but will others inevitably call your little Rob, Robbie or Bobby? And do you like those variations? On the flip side, maybe you don’t love a particular first name but love the nicknames that could come with it. If you don’t love the moniker Margaret, for instance, but would love to honor a family member with that name, consider calling your baby Maggie or Margot. Or, skip the original name altogether and use a favorite nickname as a given first name!

10. Look beyond traditional gender norms

Opting for a gender-neutral name can be a good choice if you don’t want to know the sex of your baby until they’re born or if you want to avoid raising your child in a stereotypically gendered way. Alternatively, if you love a particular name that’s historically feminine or masculine, you can decide to buck tradition and use it regardless of whether your child is a girl or a boy.

11. Consider sibling names

Whether you’re naming your first baby or already have a few littles at home, it’s helpful to consider how potential monikers might pair with other sibling names. It’s certainly not a requirement that children’s names “match,” but some parents like sticking to specific letters or time periods to give a group of kids within one family cohesive names. Think ahead to signing your family members’ first names on a birthday card one day—do you like how they all pair together? Do you like how they fit with you or your partner’s names? These considerations can sometimes be helpful when choosing the perfect name!

12. Put off the decision

If your baby’s due date is fast arriving and you still haven’t made a choice, there’s no hard rule that you have to make an ultimate decision before the baby is born. In fact, in some cultures, it’s considered bad luck (or at least very unusual) to name a baby before they arrive. You could come up with a short list and wait until you meet your child, then see what feels right to you.

Looking for More Baby Name Ideas? Click to Check Out All Our Baby Name Articles