Choosing a name for your baby is one of the first, and most important, responsibilities you undertake for your child. You may have had ideas for favourite baby names for years, or you may want to name your baby after someone important to you. Wherever you are starting from, a baby names book will definitely come in handy, or check out the baby namer on our sister site MadeForMums for some great ideas.
Here are 12 useful tips for things to think about when deciding...
1 Living with a name - When it seems that almost everyone has an opinion on what you should name your baby, it can be difficult to remember that you're choosing a name for your child, not for yourself or your family. Of course it's vital that you like your child's name, but it is your child who will have to live with the name and while you can't predict what your child's tastes will be, you can avoid some common pitfalls such as choosing a name that is easily made fun of or is very hard to pronounce or spell. Make sure it's a name that your child can use as an adult as well as as a child - try to imagine what it will be like for your child to carry the name in the playground, at college, at work and out socialising. Can you imagine it on his or her wedding invitation as well as on the sports day programme?
2 Choosing together - When there are two of you responsible for a child it's important that you an both agree on a name. You may not be able to talk your partner around to your absolute favourite name, but you should find one that you both really like and are happy to give your child. You may also be able to reach a happy compromise by using the middle name, or even two middle names - for example, if your partner is keen to have a family name but you'd prefer something a little different. Try going through each other's shortlists and looking for common sounding names, or names with similar structures and rhythms and be honest with each other in saying what you like or don't like about names - you may find you have more grounds for agreement than you realised and at least you should be able to understand what each other's likes and dislikes in names are.
3 Take the name as a whole -When choosing a name for your child it's important to think about how the christian name will work with your surname. Try writing down the full name and saying it aloud. How does it flow? Are the names complementary? Is it too much of a mouthful or does it trip nicely off the tongue? Then think about the first initial and the surname and the initials for the entire name, checking that they don't spell out anything untoward.
4 Sounds like? -When there are hundreds of thousands of names out there, it can be difficult to know where to start in finding a name for your child. One idea is to work out what sorts of names you like. Try going through a list of names from a name source (like a book or online list) and note down names which you particularly like. Now go through the list and look to see if any sounds or similarly kinds of names crop up, look for similar lengths of names as well. For example, you might find you like two-syllable names ending in 'a' (Clara, Sara, Carla, Anna, Hannah), you may be partial to regal-sounding names (Henry, Charles, William, James), or that you have a preference for names which are gender neutral.
5 Don't start at 'A' - If you're using a name book or list then why not start at a random page, rather than starting with the 'As', so the beginning of the alphabet isn't given undue weight.
6 Popular, fashionable, conservative or unique? - Whether you're fashion-conscious in name terms, or prefer a little more individuality, it's a good idea to check out the most popular 30 or so names in recent years in whichever country you are in. If you're keen to avoid a situation where your son is one of 4 Daniels in a class of 20, this is a must-do, and even if you think you've found a more singular name for your child, it's worth checking recent lists, you may be surprised at what makes it into the top 20.
Some people will have no problem with taking a name from a celebrity baby, or a celebrity themselves, if they like it, others will have been put off 'Lila' and 'Grace', and from 'Brittany' and 'Romeo' forever. And then there are the celebrity trends, would you name your baby after a place of conception or a piece of fruit a la Gwynnie?
If you've chosen what you think is a more unusual name then bear in mind that you're influenced on the most subtle levels every day, and people sharing similar influences might also think that, say, Jolian, is a lovely and unusual name, and it could suddenly become popular. Try to think about where you first heard the name, or what positive associations it has for you and consider whether these might be popular influences. Also try doing an internet search to see what popular results show up - you might find prominent associations that you don't like.
7 Spelling and pronunciation -
If you're looking to give your child a more unusual name, bear in mind that the more unique a name is, the more likely it is to be mispronounced and misspelt. This might not bother you so much, but always needing to spell out and correct a name may be a source of irritation for your child by adulthood. If you do give your child an unusual first name it's not a bad idea to give him or her a more ordinary second name which s/he can use as a matter of preference later, rather than needing to go to the trouble of changing a whole name.
8 Think about abbreviations and nicknames - Most name books will provide lists of abbreviations for names, but if there aren't any common abbreviations for a name then try and think about what the name is likely to be shortened to, and whether or not you can live with that. also think about what likely nicknames may be formed from both christian and surnames. Of course you can't control what eight-year-olds in the playground will call your child, but you can avoid some of the most likely scenarios. If, for example, you can't stand the name Mike, then calling your child Michael might not be the best idea. If you do go ahead with a name with shortened versions that you really don't like then you'll just have to accept that you won't always be able to insist on those shortened forms not being used, no matter what you do at home.
9 Look up the meaning - Even if you don't think that the meaning of a name is important to you, you might later find yourself piqued if someone responds to your child's name with 'Oh, doesn't that mean 'the untrustworthy'?' At least if you know the meaning of the name you can put them straight! Of course, many names have lovely meanings and plenty don't mean anything at all, but it might be worth the couple of minutes it takes to check if you're not sure.
10 Test out your favourites -
When you have a shortlist of names it can be useful to bounce the ideas off a few people to see what they think of them, what nicknames they come up with for the names, and what associations they have. Ask people whose opinion you value and preferably ones who won't be insulted if you decide to ignore their advice. It's not a bad idea to ask someone younger, or a child, as they can have quite a different perspective on names. Other people may come up with some unexpected pronunciations (spell it out for them, rather than telling them the name), associations or nicknames for a name, which may make you re-think, but of course you don't need to be swayed if someone just simply doesn't like a name. If you put a name to the test on an internet forum like Thinkbaby's then you may get lots of useful feedback, but you have to be prepared that you may also have some less useful comments.
11 Give it the test of time - Some names may strike you as wonderful when you first think of them, but then lose their appeal. When you think you really like a name, try writing it down in full somewhere you'll see it everyday - like on the
fridge, and see whether you still both like it so much several days or a week later.
12 Don't rely on the scan - Remember that gender scans aren't 100% reliable, so even if you think you're going to have a girl it's a good idea to spend at least some time thinking about what boys names you both like. That was if you are surprised on the day, you won't have to start from scratch when it comes to name-choosing.
Finally, while there's plenty advance work you can do for naming your baby, be prepared that you may change your mind when baby arrives. Not everyone believes that names can not suit some babies, but if you've ever had a baby yourself then you'll know that they DO NOT all look the same. If you look at your darling newborn daughter and decide she's not a 'Julia' but an 'Elizabeth' after all, you certainly won't be the first!