How to Pick a Baby Name: 7 Dos & Don'ts

When I named my daughter "Indiana," it definitely raised some eyebrows, particularly among my more conservative family members. And yes, I wanted to smack that "What kind of name is that?" expression off their faces. Because let's face it: Choosing a baby's name is a highly personal choice that can cause some friction if it's not received well.

Whether you're discussing your own top picks or another parent's choice, there are some basic rules you need to be following ... or else:


Baby naming: How to do it right

DON'T diss someone's name, no matter how strange. "Once the baby is born, the only acceptable response to the name choice is praise," says Laura Wattenberg, founder of and "If the name totally baffles you, it's fine to ask about it, but couch the question in positive terms: 'What a pretty name! Is there a story behind it?'"

DO practice patience if you choose an unusual name. "There's no way around it; people are going to mangle your child's name," says Wattenberg. "They mean no harm, so correct them graciously -- even if it's the 10th time you've had to correct someone today."

DON'T steal someone's baby name behind her back. Nothing is worse than working hard to come up with a great, original name, then having a friend use it for their own kid without your permission. It's even worse if your kids are the same age, and their kid was born first, because that family will automatically hog all the credit for their creativity. Awk-waaard! All that said, if you do love a friend's baby name, there is an alternative ...

DO ask permission to use someone's name. If a friend chooses a name for her baby that you just adore and can't live without, "don't be afraid to just ask the family involved," says Wattenberg. "And if you're the one being asked, remember that having somebody want to choose the same name you did isn't an insult; it's a compliment to your taste!" Also let's get real: There's no copyright on names, so you really have no right to have dibs. And sooner or later, your kid is bound to run into someone with the same name. So, get over it already, be gracious, and grant that parent's request. 

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DO consider keeping your name under wraps. You never know, once you're staring your little nugget in the face, if the name you picked will fit. So, by not telling others the name beforehand, you ward off tons of confusion, as well as long drawn-out arguments about whether your name choice is best, because hey, the decision is done!

DON'T tell some people your name but not others. If you do decide to keep baby's name incognito until she's born, it should be a blanket policy. If your mother-in-law finds out she'd heard the news after your friends, that's just a recipe for hurt feelings. So unless you know for sure it won't get back to her, keep mum until the big day.

DO take into account your child's feelings and future. Remember, your kids are the ones who have to live with their name, and you aren't just naming a baby. You're naming a teenager who'll want to avoid being teased and an adult who may want a professional-sounding name. So keep these things in mind before you name your child something you might regret!

Have you encountered any baby name no no's or annoyances?


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