How to name your baby: The dos and don’ts

How to choose a name for your baby
Baby naming is an art. Do you follow the trends, go timeless or go weird (but not too weird)? Here’s how to navigate the expectations of family and friends and arrive at a name you’ll love for life!

Aside from sex, money and politics, the next most controversial topic to talk about at a dinner party is baby names. The topic of parenting methods (or lack thereof) has the ability to polarise normally quite easygoing people. If you’ve read The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from.

There’s nothing quite as inflammatory as a discussion on how to raise your kids (how long to breastfeed, discipline, potty training and sleep issues being particularly emotive topics). In a world where thousands of kids were named ‘Olympic Games’ as an ode to Beijing 2008, and legislation is needed to stop parents from naming their twins ‘Benson’ and ‘Hedges’, I’ve got my two cents worth on how to name your kids in a way that won’t have you regretting your choice in five years’ time…

The golden rules of baby naming

1. Never divulge your baby names to ANYONE.

And yes, this includes your mum and your best friend. Why the secrecy, you say?

When it comes to your mum, I’ve got two words for you: judgement and opinion. “Wouldn’t Alice or William be much more appropriate?” or “Granny Joan would love it if you named the baby after her,” or, my personal favourite: “I’ve never heard of ‘Chichi’, did you make it up?” Enough said.

But your closest friends? Surely you’d trust them with, well, the name of your first (or second) born child? No. They are your nearest and dearest for a reason – you have similar tastes and style. I’m not saying they will intentionally steal your highly original name. I’m saying that the name may slip unknowingly into their subconscious only to resurface when their baby is born (sadly just one month before yours, throwing you into a panic and on the frantic hunt for a new name). I’ve seen rock-solid friendships ruined over this very issue. Silence is golden – and necessary.

2. Postpone the announcement of your baby’s name until the ink has dried on the birth certificate

This way, there’s little people can say other than “what a beautiful name” with a smile plastered on their face. Even if they raise eyebrows and make snarky comments behind your back, who cares? All that matters is that you (and your significant other) love little Swayze’s name.

3. Think about what the entire name spells as an acronym (first, second and surname).

While Dylan Isaac Cooper might be a perfectly handsome name, a schoolyard-bullying situation WILL happen when some bright spark puts two-and-two together and comes up with ‘DICk’, and penis and wee-wee-pants jokes ensue. (In my day, it was Wayne King. Oh, the fun to be had!).

The winning formula

Okay, I’m going to assume if you’re reading this that you’re a mum or mum-to-be. Baby naming just doesn’t have the same click-ability for men. Or so I thought, at the joyous occasion of my first pregnancy. Before the blue positive line had faded on the test, I’d named our first baby. I’d had Scarlett and Charlie earmarked since teen sleepovers, so, clearly, it was all sorted. Oh, no, no. Apparently the father of the baby has opinions. Worse – a say in the matter. I’d totally neglected to factor him into the equation. Four babies later, in solidarity for mothers worldwide, I’m willing to divulge my winning formula…

  • Feign openness to your partner’s suggestions. Nod and listen to their clearly unacceptable names without a whimper.
  • Suggest you both sit down and write a list of up to 20 names. Lob into the ring some ridiculous names of your own to throw them off the scent.
  • Then, over time, consolidate the list to 10, to five, and eventually to one (making a show of reluctantly giving up your fake names if they agree to forego their shockers).
  • Simultaneously put little post-it notes around the house or chalk drawings on the back patio of your favoured name. What was it I said earlier about subliminal messaging?
  • And, BAM, Scarlett and Charlie are back baby, and your partner thinks they were his idea all along!
  • If all else fails and you can’t agree in the final weeks, pull the post-partum woe-is-me card. Yes, Mum does know best. You deserve naming rights after all you’ve been through.
  • A word to the wise however: it’s best for everyone that you are both completely on board with the name before shouting it from the rooftops. Our lovely ex-editor Tracy and her husband chose Delilah for their little princess. Husband was not entirely on board, but he went with it. Some two weeks later (following a published birth announcement and receipt of embroidered gifts) it didn’t sit quite right with said husband and it had to be changed. All of their congratulations cards have the wrong name and Tracy is still waiting to regift the monogrammed Delilah towels. Epic fail.
  • Make sure you love the name in every situation – whether it be spoken, sung or screamed. You will say this name more than any other word in your vocabulary. You have to love it. There’s no room for ‘I kind of like it, this name will do.’
  • Think about how the baby name sounds with your other kids’ names (if you have them). If you’ve opted for an offbeat name like Atticus the first time, an uber-trad name like Roger just won’t roll off the tongue right (and vice-versa). Remember you will constantly refer to your kids in a running sentence: ‘Minnie-Willa-Ted-Gilby’ in my case.
  • Imagine a nightclub scene 20 years from now. Your darling, now fully grown (sad emoji!) has to shout their name above the heart-thumping beats while meeting potential suitors. Blue Ivy, for example, is not easily heard and may result in the adoption of a nonsensical name like Blivey. What a waste of this entire painstaking process.
  • In a similar vein, if you opt for a common name with a clever modern spelling (like Kristopher) you are sentencing your child to a lifetime of spelling out their name to the pizza delivery guy and tolerating incorrectly typed placecards at weddings. Grrr…

Get inspired

You’ve probably already got a pretty good idea of where you stand on the baby name continuum (modern, traditional or otherwise), but finding the ONE name can cause an inordinate amount of pressure. Here’s where I went to find the names my husband and I say 25 million times on any given day:

  • For an old-school romantic way to find the name of your dreams, do what generations of parents before you have done. Circle your fave names in baby naming books and pass them to each other. Pick up Baby Names by Ella Joynes on Amazon to get you started.
  • Check out – it groups names in categories, from popular to hipster and everything in between (I pored over the vintage baby names list). There’s a forum for bouncing ideas and even a name-suggestion function for selecting a complementary middle name.
  • Keep an ear out on travels for interesting names. Films, books and newborns at school pick-up are perfect sources of name inspo! I personally have a bent towards unusual, quirky names, given a childhood of having an initial permanently affixed to my first name – there were four girls called Georgina in my graduating class. And today I know my daughter’s bestie hates being referred to as Sophia B. It’s worth a thought. Happy naming!

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