Monday, February 25, 2013

Naming Your Baby

Congratulations! You're pregnant! There are so many things to think about now that you're going to have a baby, from where you're living to your parenting style to how you will handle work and childcare to where your child will go to school. Some of these decisions can wait weeks, months, even years.

Some decisions, though, you'll need to make within a few days of giving birth, and having an idea of what you'll do even before the baby is born will help once you're in the throes of newborn care and adjusting to your new family life. Some of these decisions, of course, are how you will feed the baby and where the baby will sleep. Another is much more basic: What will you name him or her?!

Sometimes, a name comes to you early in the pregnancy, you love it, your partner loves it, and the decision is made. But for many of us, we're still toying with name choices while in labor, and some babies don't even have a name until a few days (or even weeks!) after they're born! It's especially difficult if you don't know the baby's sex until he/she is born, or if, surprise!, you think you know but the ultrasound was unrevealing or read inaccurately.

What are some factors to consider when choosing a name for your child?

One is family tradition. Is there a naming tradition in your family? Is there a name that is passed from father to son, or mother to daughter, or a name that is traditionally given as a first, middle, or nickname? Does your family prefer to honor living or deceased relatives by passing along their names to children and grandchildren? If there is a family naming tradition on one side or the other, the baby's other parent will, of course, have to be in agreement with using the legacy name.

Another is cultural. In your culture, are there certain naming traditions or taboos? Are there names to be avoided or names you are expected to consider? Are there honored leaders whose names are often given to children? Is your cultural background different from the majority of the country you live in? If so, do you prefer to give your child a name from your culture or language or a name that will be more familiar to the majority population where you live, or some compromise? (For example, there may be a name from your culture or language that is similar or identical to a name that would be familiar to the majority population.) If the child's parents come from different cultural backgrounds, it may be difficult to find a name compatible with both sets of cultural traditions.

There's also the religious aspect. If you are religious, is there a particular naming tradition in your religion? Is there a holy figure you would like to honor, such as a saint or leader? Are there certain names or naming patterns to avoid?

Then there's personal preference. Are you a fan of more common or classic names, or do you prefer the unusual? Do you go with trendy, modern names or do you like throwbacks to other eras? Is there a particular historical person or literary character you would like to honor by using their name? Is there a particular family member you wish to honor by naming your child for him or her? Do you like unisex names or not? Do you want to use a nickname or do you prefer not to? If so, do you want to give your child the full name and then use the nickname, or do you want to simply give the nickname as their legal name? (For example, you like the name Alex; do you name your child Alexander and call him Alex, or do you simply name him Alex?) Do you want your child to be one of three by that name in his class or the only one in his generation? How do you want to spell it? Do you want to use a traditional spelling or make up a new spelling? Consider how these decisions will impact your child as he grows - will his name cause him frustration or difficulty? Will people be prone to mispronounce or misspell it? Does that bother you?

These considerations will give you a framework for choosing a name. Once you've picked out a few, try them on with the surname your child will use (whether it's the father's name, the mother's name, a hyphenated version of both parents' names, or something else entirely - by the way, you'll have to figure that out, too!). Make sure it sounds okay, that there aren't awkward transitions between final and initial sounds, that it flows easily. Try shouting it in anger to see how it falls off your tongue. Try out potential nicknames to see how they work for you. Make sure there aren't potential teasing opportunities. Double-check the initials to make sure they don't spell anything offensive or unfortunate. Put "Doctor" or "Supreme Court Justice" before the name to get a feel for how the name will reflect on them in adulthood.

Finally, if you have other children already, see how the new name fits with the ones you've already chosen. Say all the kids' names in a row to see how they fit together. Do your names fit any sort of pattern? Do you want them to? (For example, do all the names start with the same letter, or have a certain number of syllables, or rhyme?)

I recommend having two or three names on your list when the baby is born. Sometimes when you see your baby and try out a name, you find it doesn't fit after all, so having other names you've already considered and agreed upon can be helpful. And, possibly, have a name or two for both genders, just in case!

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