5 Things I Wish I Thought About Before Picking a Baby Name

Tips to help you choose carefully, from a mom who's been through it all.
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March 24, 2021
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One of the most fun parts of pregnancy for me was picking a baby name. I would pour over the baby name books and stalk the latest Social Security baby name rankings looking for the perfect name for my child. But there were a few things I never considered that now, I wish I had!

1. Baby names are extremely subjective.
I think we’ve all encountered a baby name or two that’s made us raise our eyebrows. Or worse—my mom actually burst out laughing at a name we were seriously considering. Needless to say, our son was not named Jasper. After that, we stopped telling people our potential names. Even if they ask, no one really wants other people’s opinions of their baby names. Some couple’s even settle on using a decoy name to keep unwanted comments away. One mom’s North is another mom’s Nora.

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2. Have an explanation ready.
If you’re considering an unusual name, get ready. I have a friend whose children’s names would be at home in Hollywood next to Apple and Blue Ivy. I’ve never been at a school event or party with her when someone hasn’t asked how she came up with their names. I’m sure it gets old after awhile. When in doubt, just say it’s a family name. That usually shuts people up.

3. Be prepared for confusion.
Similarly, if you choose an unusual spelling for a common name, or if you pick a gender-neutral name, be prepared. You will probably have to spell it every time you introduce your child or sign them in for a doctor’s appointment. And you will have to correct all those people who think your Ryan’s a boy and your Riley’s a girl. Fortunately, gender-neutral names are becoming more common, but if I had a nickel for every time I said, “Actually, he’s a boy…”

4. Practice it on the playground.
When I was tossing around potential names, I pictured it spelled out in colorful letters on the nursery wall, and murmuring it softly to my baby as I snuggled him before bed. I certainly did not imagine myself bellowing that name across the playground several dozen times a day. It gives you a different perspective on the name, is all I’m saying.

5. Think about nicknames.
The ironic thing about baby names is that often, after all the time and effort you put into choosing, you don’t even end up calling your kid that. I know this from years of sitting on the sidelines at sports practices. I’ve heard every nickname in the book–Buddy, Buggy, Bunky, Lulu, Ry-Ry, Mimi…the list goes on and on. Lots of times, these monikers aren’t even close to the kids’ real names. Though I guess that’s good news if you’re having second thoughts about Blue Ivy by the time you get to toddler ballet class.

Abigal Green is a work-at-home writer and mom of two active young boys. She’s the author of Mama Insider: Laughing (And Sometimes Crying) All the Way Through Pregnancy, Birth, and the First 3 Months. Follow her on

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