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

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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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nonmember avatar BostonBob

I'll never get parents that take a "regular" name and decide on their own spelling. Like spelling "Summer" as "Sumyr".

Michaela too as "McKayla". "Mc/Mac" is Irish/Scottish for "son of" (or "daughter of").

more butchering here.

nonmember avatar Heather

When we had our daughter we chose the name Lauren and everyone said it was a plain name. It irritated me so bad. Her name is Lauren Avery and people tell me they love her name together like that. When we had our son we didn't tell a soul. I got tired of hearing everyone's opinions so we just kept it a secret. When Sawyer was born, no one would say "I don't like that name". It was way better than hearing everyone's opinions for 6 months!

knitt... knittykitty99

I agree with Heather.  Best to keep it a secret unless you want LOTS of feedback.

nonmember avatar Stephanie

My parents and sister knows my soon to be daughters name, and his grandmother knows her name. Those are the only opinions we need right there. We learned the hard way with our son. We had chosen Alexander for his name, and DH cousin stole that name for his son born two months sooner than our little man. We just chalked that name and went with another one, Dalton. The funny part is no one in the family calls the little boy by Alexander or even Alex. They call him by is middle name. So ha to them and karma coming into play. We call our little girl by a nick name my son gave her when we first found out I was pregnant. Everyone is super excited to find out her name and we like it that way.

tbruc... tbrucemom

Who owns a name? If you want to use it, use it. Agree about considering the child's feelings and preparing for comments if you use an unusual spelling, which I wouldn't recommend having an unusual spelling myself.

Chris... Christinanass

I agree in keeping spelling regular. Poor kids having to spell and correct their names their whole life. So unnecessary.

nonmember avatar RhysMom

I love unique spellings of common names. I have a 3 year old names Rhyen (Ryan). He loves it and so do I

AliPa... AliParker

Because there are usually more ways than one to spell a name you will always have to spell your name. Aimee/Amy, Brittney/Brittany, John/Jon, Steven/Stephen (although if you spell it Stephen it should not be pronounced Steven). So I don't think different spellings are a big deal as long as they're readable (ex: Jesica not Jezyeka). My name is Alison. There are a lot if ways to spell it. I spell my name every day. It doesn't bother me, it takes seconds, if it irritates you or your kid they have bigger issues. And I agree that no one owns a name. While it might be good manners and nice to ask if you know someone loves it/had planned to use it/did use it, it's not mandatory.

And just a side note: I love that the author actually included what her child's name is. A lot of the people that write her don't, even if the article has to do with names and it's just plain annoying.

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