Black baby wrapped in blue wears a tag that says “Hello, My Name Is” before parents do baby name selection
Black baby wrapped in blue wears a tag that says “Hello, My Name Is” before parents do baby name selection

Whether you’re expecting your first or fourth child, naming your baby is deeply personal. Some parents have known the names of their children for years. For others, there are complicating factors that make choosing a name a challenge. That’s why we’ve identified some of the most common obstacles parents face during baby name selection and found solutions for working through them—including a printable worksheet to help you brainstorm.

1My partner and I can’t agree on a name.

Solution: Spend some time finding common ground. Try brainstorming 10 to 15 baby names each and then swap lists. When reviewing the other person’s list, checkmark the names you like (or could live with) and strike out the ones you won’t even consider. At the end, you may be surprised to see that you’ve chosen the same name (or something similar), or that there is an option acceptable to both of you.

You can also try the teched-up version of this solution with an app like Babyname. You and your partner swipe through names like in a dating app—left for names you don’t like, right for ones you do. When you both swipe right, the name will be saved.

2I have negative associations with a lot of names.

Solution: Look for positive examples of people with the same name. Everyone has negative associations with at least a couple of names—people you knew who behaved badly or treated you poorly. So what do you do if you or your partner love the sound of one of those names? Look for reasons to love it through stories told by family and friends or a Google search into extraordinary people with the same moniker.[1]

3I want to incorporate multiple cultures.

Solution: Consider names that have equivalents in different languages. You or your family members may wish to represent your child’s cultural heritage in their first or middle names. If you don’t already have a name that’s passed down within the family or you’re looking for an original option, you may want to look at names and words that have equivalents in other languages.

For example, the word “Joy” is translated as “Chará” in Greek. “Chara” can also be used as a short form for Charlotte. If you like the name Chará, you might use it as your baby’s first or middle name, or you might go with Charlotte or Joy on her birth certificate and use Chará as a nickname.

4I need a first name to go with a long last name.

Solution: Keep it simple. If you’re looking at your 14-letter surname and wondering how to make it easier on your child, the answer is to go short and sweet. A single-syllable first name is a great way to balance out a longer last name. In a few years, your kid will start school and it’s only fair that they get a break on their first name when their last name is going to take effort for teachers to learn.[2]

5I have my heart set on a name that’s really popular.

Solution: Give it a unique twist. If you love a name that often shows up on lists of popular baby names, there’s an important thing to remember: While your child may end up with other kids in their grade with the same name, it probably won’t seem as common in adulthood because they’ll be surrounded by people born in different years and countries. However, if you’re really set on the name and still concerned about the popularity factor, consider an alternate (but recognizable!) spelling to up the uniqueness factor.

Here are the most popular baby names chosen by American parents in 2020:

Rank Baby Girl Names[3] Baby Boy Names[4]
1 Olivia Liam
2 Emma Noah
3 Ava Oliver
4 Sophia William
5 Isabella Elijah
6 Charlotte James
7 Amelia Benjamin
8 Harper Lucas
9 Mia Mason
10 Emily Ethan
11 Ella Henry
12 Evelyn Jacob
13 Abigail Alexander
14 Elizabeth Michael
15 Camila Daniel

Click here to Pin the top baby names to your Pinterest inspo board!

6I really love a name but I hate its typical short form.

Solution: Get ready to correct others and teach your child to correct them, too. If names like William, Michael, Josephine or Rebecca are on your short list, people will want to call them Will, Mike, Josie and Becky. If you don’t like the shortened name, be prepared to correct people and, eventually, to teach your little one to do the same.

There is a sticking point, though: If your child someday prefers the nickname, it’s their call. So carefully weigh how much you hate the truncated version.

7There’s a family name in the mix that I can’t stand but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Solution: Translations, middle names and similar meanings to the rescue! There’s no law that says you have to choose your family’s favourite name that dates back generations. But if you’re worried about offending grandma by skipping the name altogether, try it as a middle name or search for variations that you like better in another language. If neither works for you, look up the meaning and pick another baby name with similar origins. Family members will (hopefully) understand that you were thoughtful enough to keep tradition in mind.[5]

8I love the way a full name sounds but I’m worried about what the initials spell.

Solution: Swap the names around or add another middle name. A monogram that spells a word isn’t always a bad thing. No one is going to notice if your baby’s initials spell SAT or LOW or PIN. The trouble happens when the initials spell something that’s profane or an easy target for teasing. If you come across this issue, consider swapping the first and middle names around to change the order of the letters, or add a second middle name to alter the acronym altogether.

9I want a unisex baby name but don’t want it to cause difficulties for my child.

Solution: Mix and match a gender-neutral name with a gendered name. More and more parents are choosing unisex baby names that can be easily interchanged for boys and girls. But if you’re worried that your child will constantly have to explain their name to strangers, you could try one of these fixes:

  • Pick a unisex first name and pair it with a traditional masculine or feminine middle name.
  • Use a gendered first name for legal documents and class lists, but have your child go by the gender-neutral short form—think Charlotte/Charlie or James/Jamie. You child will also have the option to use either form as they grow into adulthood.[6]

10I’m plagued by indecision and worried I won’t like the name in five years.

Solution: Do your research but wait to decide until your little one arrives. There’s a lot of pressure to choose a name before you even go into labour, but if you can’t decide or you’re afraid to make a decision, narrow the list down to a few names and wait until you meet your new arrival. Your baby may look or feel a little more like one of the names on the list and make the decision for you. Failing that, make a choice and invent a creative nickname later if necessary.

Use this printable worksheet to help you brainstorm

Baby name selection printable worksheet

Pin the most popular baby names of 2020 to your Pinterest board

Top 15 baby girl names of 2020
Top 15 baby boy names of 2020

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