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The Name Game: Deciding What to Call Your Baby

Pregnancy & Postpartum

Naming your baby may be one of the more significant decisions you will make during or shortly after your pregnancy. What you decide will last longer than the baby clothes you picked out, matter more than the color of the nursery and may have more of an impact on your child than the doctor or midwife you choose.

Babies' names can influence their personalities and shape who they become as adults. So give this decision plenty of thought. You and your partner may want to discuss your favorite options with friends and family to gain their input.

First, decide whether it's important for your baby to have a family name or one that reflects your culture or religion, which may narrow the selection. Naming your child after a family member is a great way to pay homage to that person. Perhaps there is a public or religious figure that has had major significance for you, and you want to instill that person's traits in your baby.

Some faiths and ethnicities have naming traditions. The Jewish faith, for example, has no formal naming requirements. However, Ashkenazi Jews have the custom of naming a child after a deceased relative, both to keep the name and memory alive and to form a connection between the baby and the deceased relative.

Some followers of Judaism choose to name their children based on the Jewish holiday near their birth or after the Torah portion that corresponds with the week of birth. Similarly, names like Summer, Autumn or April, which also correspond to the calendar, have been popular in many cultures.

As you think of names that you find to be strong or beautiful, try to look at them critically. Ponder the possible nicknames, keeping in mind that kids can be cruel—and clever. Is the name dated? How will it sound 30 years from now? Think about famous people with the same name and other associations that you may want to avoid. Does it rhyme with your last name? Is it too cute? Realize that naming your daughter Cupcake may cut her lifetime earning potential.

Write your favorite names down on paper to see how they look. Make sure the initials don't spell something undesirable and that the full name rolls off the tongue nicely.

If you're having trouble thinking of something, search online for lists of popular names. This could either help you eliminate or pick out a name, depending on whether uniqueness is something you desire. Also, think of the protagonists in your favorite books and movies and consider whether you want your child to grow up like them.

Thinking of a name early on will help you think of the child as a person throughout your pregnancy. You can always change your mind if the name doesn't feel right after your baby is born, but it's good to have given it some thought and have some options ready to welcome your baby.

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