Bringing a baby into the world is a huge responsibility. And on top of the stress of keeping that baby alive and healthy for 18 years, parents have to come up with a name that the child will be stuck with for the rest of their lives. The entire concept can be totally overwhelming.
Names are important. They set impressions and communicate about personalities. They can set the tone for so much, and parents want so badly to get it right. The answer is different for everybody — traditional won't work for an earthy mom, and trendy won't do for some families. Some people want names that stand out, while others like the more popular picks. And there are so many options that it can be hard to nail down a style, much less narrow it down to a name or two.
There are many stages to choosing a baby name. It starts early — many times long before there is a baby on board — and it can continue for a full nine months and maybe a few weeks tacked on at the end. Parents can go through lists and categories and have a hard time narrowing things down. Then when they compared notes, they can find that they aren't on the same page and have to start all over again. With the deadline — or due date — approaching, things can get more anxiety-laden as they compromise and get creative to find the perfect pick.
Here are 15 stages to picking a name for the baby.
15 Baby Doll Practice
The first stage of picking a baby name begins before a mom-to-be even hits puberty. That may not be the case for the dad, whose action figures already came with names. But little girls begin figuring out their name preferences when they play mommy to their dolls.
Those first choices are likely to reflect their friends list or maybe their favorite TV shows or pop stars. There may be more than one princess name circulating around the play room, and the baby's name could change next week, but that is the first taste of having a decision on naming something, and some girls can get addicted.
As they grow older, some girls start to dream about their wedding, and they begin to make plans. Then they move on from wedding fantasies to baby fantasies, and they pick out the perfect names for their future children. Many girls never graduate past the doll naming stage, but if she picked a favorite name for her daughter when she was 10, that doesn't mean that she won't go through the next stages of picking a name. She may land back on that name, but she'll still go through a few steps along the way.
14 Early Listening
From the moment that the news sinks in that there is a baby on the way, a parent-to-be starts to notice names. It may not even be intentional at first, but they will find themselves noticing the characters' names while they watch Netflix, and stopping on a moniker when they read the newspaper. Every name — from a sports broadcast to the one called over the intercom at the grocery store — will cause an expectant parent to pay attention. Some will be immediately discounted but others will remain on the mind for a few hours or days.
Before they even get to the listing stage, the parents-to-be are at the listening stage of finding a baby name. The sounds of the spoken name are important, and if something strikes a chord, it is worth keeping in mind. Before long, the hunt will be on, but for now, it's a listening game.
13 Kitchen Sink
Once the listing begins, it can quickly get out of control. In the early stages of baby naming, parents get so excited that just about every name has potential. Don't get us wrong, there are names that will never make it to a written list, but when things are just beginning, then one name idea tends to lend to another to another.
Mom may not like Ashley, but Ashton and Asher are possibilities. Oh, and if she likes unique spellings then maybe Ashleigh will make it to the list. What about Nash or Bailey or Lashley? There are no parameters yet, so she might as well add everything but the kitchen sink to the list. It can get long and disjointed, but there is plenty of time to cull the list and find a favorite. The brainstorming stage can be a favorite because the sky is the limit, and every name is full of possibility.
At some point, a mom-to-be will want to make sense of the maddening, long list of baby names she has been compiling for weeks. She will find names written on napkins and scraps of paper beside the bed, on her notes at work and on her phone. She needs to pull them all together and figure out a way to make decisions. That's when she'll start to categorize.
Of course, she can divide the list into names for boys and girls — although there are more and more names that can work for either gender. She can put all the nature-inspired names in one category and the names that are inspired by family or mentors in another. There can be a list for word names, a category for the unusual names and another for the more traditional ones, plus an extra one for place names that have special meaning. The monikers can be divided into syllables or by favorite nickname. Categories help a parent-to-be figure out the direction they like or the options that make sense. Plus, it can just be fun to find a top 10 list of baby names that start with V or that could honor the grandparents.
11 Perfect Pairs
There is no limit to the number of names that a baby can have — well, in most states. And who is to say that a middle name is necessary? North West didn't need one, so your baby doesn't have to have one. Yet, the next stage of picking a baby name usually involves starting to pair them off.
If you want to honor Great Aunt Beatrice but can't see naming a baby Bea, then a parent-to-be will start figuring out the best pair that could help the name along. Does Willow Beatrice work? What about Natalie Bea? Sometimes the perfect pairing doesn't manifest itself until closer to the baby's arrival, but it can help a parent figure out what names are the higher priority and which ones will never fulfill the top spot. Sometimes the middle name is easier to figure out than the first, such as a maiden name that has always earned a place in the first family. That can help in narrowing down the first ones.
10 Monogram Matches
At some point in the baby naming process, a mom and dad to be will realize that the letters chosen will soon become part of a monogram. Some families are all about monograms — they are on everyone's Christmas stocking and smocked dresses, and there is an expectation that the initials be interesting. Others don't much care about the monogram, but then they realize that the initials can make or break a baby name pick. After all, it would be bad news if a kid's friends realize that his initials spell out A-S-S or C-U-M.
The monogram stage can start with a few sketches, but it can end up taking over the whole process if you aren't careful. Pay attention to the initials, but don't let them be a deal breaker. Trust us, you can find a solution, such as switching the first and middle name but calling the baby by the middle one. Don't let it add to the stress.
9 Comparing Notes
This is usually the point where the baby naming process goes off the rails — when mom and dad share their lists and start to compare notes. As Ross and Rachel showed us in "Friends," sometimes a perfectly compatible couple can be on opposite pages when it comes to baby names. One likes trendy names, while the other prefers the traditional ones. One prefers word names, but the other is concerned that those won't look good on a resume.
Names can bring out many opinions, and that can make it hard for parents to find one that both of them love. That's one reason why it's good to start off with a long list — there are more likely to be a few that can be found on both. The types of names that each parent prefers can sometimes seem disparate, but usually there are a few crossovers that could make both parents happy. But not before they have to go back to the drawing board again.
This is the stage when things begin to get serious. It usually happens about halfway through the pregnancy, right around the time that the 20-week ultrasound is scheduled. Many parents find out the gender at that point — or at least they get the results and plan a big gender reveal party to share the news. That can bring about pressure, as the family will immediately follow up their congratulations with the question, "Do you have a name picked out?"
Before, the list making felt like fun and games, but now it starts to get serious. The parents have found out by now that they have vastly different tastes, and they wonder if it is possible for find a name that both of them can stand, much less love. This is usually when the scouring of the internet starts, as the need for new inspiration feels intense. At this point, picking out a baby name feels like a big responsibility, and type A parents can't stand to last much longer without a name for their bundle of joy.
As mom and dad restore their list after the first disastrous comparing of notes, now they realize that they can't be quite as picky if they are ever going to figure out a name before the baby is born. There will be a greater tendency to lift up on the so-so monikers, and both mom and dad will admit that some of the other's choices aren't as bad as they initially thought.
This is the point, though, where the names that get a visceral reaction will get immediately shut down. Yep, it's the stage for vetoes. There are only a few months left, and some parents want to have things personalized pretty soon. The game is over, and that means big decisions have to be made. While it can be hard to give some names a definitive yes, this is the time when moms and dads find they can give a definitive no to the most offensive names on the other's list. It can cause a few casualties, but it has to be done or the baby might never get a name.
6 Short List
Eventually, the anxiety is going to build, and the parents are going to come to reach a few compromises. They will settle on a short list, something three to five names long, although it's likely that the two don't share the same top preferences. It'll help them feel a little better about having a short list, and as long as they each have one or two of their top choices on it, neither will be terribly upset about about the names that they lost to vetoes.
The short list will help the parents feel like they have something accomplished, like having the crib together even if the rest of the nursery is still empty. It usually happens somewhere around the beginning of the third trimester, when a mom-to-be needs to feel like something is ready for when labor comes. That short list often doesn't contain the final selection, but after months of battling over names and wondering if a compromise is possible, it feels good to have a few choices that both parents can agree on.
But that short list doesn't survive long, unfortunately. It usually collapses after one or both parents-to-be decide to tell a few loved ones about the names on the list. Inevitably, someone will make fun of a selection or openly scoff at an idea or two. Even parents who swear they won't let outside opinions sway them usually end up throwing the short list out when their sister-in-law tells them that their top three choices are sure to lead their child into a life of crime.
The unfortunate thing about names is that they are attached to people. Inevitably, that means that some perfectly lovely picks will be tossed out because it reminds someone of a bad breakup or a criminal mastermind or a high school frenemy. Teachers have an especially hard time with baby name picks because they can put a face to a demon child with your favorite name almost every time.
Usually people on their second or third child skip the step of sharing because they know that no good can come of it, but first-timers, especially, can't help but share. And then they end up back to the drawing board.
4 Back To The Drawing Board
There is nothing like a little judgment in the final hormonal stages of pregnancy to kick baby name anxiety into high gear. Sometimes a raised eyebrow or an outright mocking of just one pick can cause the expectant couple to cut the entire short list and go back to the drawing board for the baby name.
They will go back to their original long forms, and they may reconsider some of the picks that were quickly vetoed in the beginning. A good name can not only grow on your but it can come out of nowhere and hit you with inspiration. Whereas the first short list came together with months go go before the baby's arrival, this second go-round has the added pressure of the impending labor. It sets a deadline, but it could draw some major anxiety before labor day arrives.
3 Test Stage
With another short list on deck, parents-to-be will be ready to test out the baby name. They'll be cautious of oversharing after the last ordeal, but they will still find themselves trying out the name in conversations with each other and in talking to the bump. They may call out the name on the playground just to see how it feels coming out — and to see how many youngsters turn around.
The test stage is where the mom will write down every possibility to see how it looks in cursive and in print — first, middle, last and then first and last and then two initials and last and first and middle initial and last and reversed. She will scrutinize the initials and try a monogram design on the internet and maybe even a resume template. She'll test the name in every way she can imagine. And she may do that with the top three or more, just in case.
The test stage can last up until the baby's birth, although some parents settle on a name and get some personalized swag in time for baby's arrival.
2 Perfect Pick
All of the worry and anxiety and rage can make a mom and dad wonder how they will survive co-parenting with each other. But at some point, they will find the perfect pick. It can happen months before the baby arrives or that day. Some parents even wait a week or so to give the baby a name, and some world customs call for a big delay. That can make the paperwork a little difficult, but it is OK to wait if you haven't found the one.
Naming a baby is a big deal, and it can have implications from family pressure and traditions to finding success later in life (yes, research studies have proven that names do have an impact on how people look at resumes — it is worth a consideration). As Romeo pondered: "What's in a name?" Parents know that a lot can come down to that, and they take it seriously. Eventually, though the perfect pick will come.
1 Second Guessing
Unfortunately, for many moms and dads, filling out the birth certificate is not the end of the story. According to a Mumsnet.com survey released last year, one out of every five moms regret their name choice. That's in England, but it happens here too. About a third felt the remorse in the first six weeks of the baby's life, while about a quarter said it started after their child went to school.
There are lots of reasons for baby name regret. Sometimes the name takes on a bad connotation, which parents of children name Isis know all about, and sometimes it skyrockets in popularity, as the moms of little Elsas understand. Other times the mom didn't win the parent battle and they regret giving in, or they don't think that the name matches the child's personality.
For about 90 percent of moms, the feeling fades, but some end up legally changing the baby's name. It can be a difficult process, but it is possible for those who really feel the need.
We know how hard it is to come up with the right name for your child. We hope that you find something that fits your personality and your child's, and we hope that you love it.