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Tips on Picking Baby Names

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Your grandma Gertrude's cookie recipe is timeless. Her name—not so much. Choosing a name for your baby is one of the first decisions you'll make as her parent. Some lucky parents strike upon the perfect name easily, but for most people, finding the right name is a process. Start by compiling a list of monikers that you both like, then consider input from a few sources to trim your list to the perfect name.

Comb the Family Archives

Naming your baby after a beloved relative, living or deceased, honors your family's history. Make a list of the first and middle names of every relative that's had a significant impact on your lives. If you want to go beyond your own memories and have a family historian, a talk with that person might reveal that your beloved late grandma's middle name is a perfect fit. Look for ways to combine or alter family names that appeal to you. For instance, honor his grandfather Andrew by naming your baby girl Andie, or acknowledge your mom Jackie and his grandpa Anderson with Jackson.

Consider the Meaning

When brainstorming fails to produce a single name, approach the task from a different angle: start with the meaning first. Choose a few traits you hope your child will embody, then find names that symbolize them. Consulting a religious leader may also help you choose a name with significant meaning in your religion. Your ancestral culture may also have naming traditions that can help you make a choice. For instance, an article on Kveller.com says some Jewish parents honor a relative by choosing a name with the same meaning as the relative's name.

Think Future Implications

An unusual name seems fitting for your one-of-a-kind child, but it might come back to haunt you. UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian, who studies the psychology of how people react to names, says the less common a name becomes, the worse its impression on others. It's worth consulting the Social Security Administration's baby name database to research whether your prospective names are becoming more popular or falling out of fashion. Consider too how your baby's name will affect his academic career. David Figlio, then an economics professor at the University of Florida, found in 2005 that boys with traditionally feminine names (think Ashley or Alexis) were prone to misbehavior at school.

Don't Commit Too Soon

Hold off on engraving any silver baby rattles just yet. Try living with any prospective name for a week or so, referring to your future baby by that name to see how well it seems to fit. Combine any names with your last name to check for unflattering nicknames or initials that could result from the name. While calling Brendan Louis Thomas "BLT" may appeal to some parents, others might prefer nickname-proof monikers. And you may find that when baby Sophia arrives, she seems more like an Emily than you expected. Leaving the door open means that instead of naming your bump, you'll name your real, live baby.

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