It’s the first big decision you will make together as parents ... so how do you decide what to call your baby – and who do you tell ?
If there’s one question expectant parents are asked above any other, it’s whether or not they have chosen a name. Yet this is a topic that has the power to both gall and enthrall in equal measures. Loaded with associations and carrying the weight of history with them, names can be very emotive and, for better or for worse, everyone has an opinion. Tell one person the name you have chosen and they’ll go into raptures. Tell another, and they’ll remind you it’s their dog’s name or someone they dislike at work.
So how do you handle this social minefield? According to Siobhan Thomas, Chief Editor at BabyNames.co.uk and author of Best Baby Names For 2013, the most popular approach is to announce the name once the baby is born. ‘There are a couple of good reasons for this,’ she says. ‘Firstly, it’s nice to keep some surprises. With most people now finding out the gender of their unborn baby, it is possible at 20 weeks to know you are having a baby Samuel, for instance. The only surprise left when the baby comes is the weight. ‘Secondly, if you tell people the name before the birth, they are more likely to react negatively. Once the baby has arrived and you reveal the name, they will likely keep quiet.”
Of course, you may not be in a position to divulge your baby name if you have joined the growing band of parents who struggle to name their newbies. Take actress Uma Thurman and fiancé Arpad Busson. They seemingly found it so tough that they went with them all, hence one daughter now holds a very long name - Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson.
To avoid last minute panic, Siobhan advises to start early. ‘The longer you live with it before the baby comes, the better. Write it down, see how it sounds shortened, with the other names in your family and with your surname.’ She advises to look at other sources of inspiration in addition to the regular A to Z book of names. ‘Film credits are fantastic. They are an eclectic list of names with a good mix of nationalities, genders and age groups and they’re presented randomly,’ she says. ‘Or look at your favourite books for names you like. Victoria Beckham was inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee for her baby daughter’s name.’
The final step? Google your chosen name with your surname - you don’t want to inadvertently give your child the name of a cartoon character or worse. ‘It’s not the end of the world to share a name with Angelina Ballerina or Hello Kitty, but it’s good to be armed with the information,’ says Siobhan. ‘It can take the wind out of your sails to find out afterwards.’
If you and your partner are struggling to agree on a name, write a list of your favourites and swap. ‘Often women think they should get to choose the name,’ she says. ‘But if you can’t make this first important decision together, it doesn’t bode well for parenting down the line. Let your husband/partner have his say.’
Siobhan warns against naming your child with something too extreme. ‘Some people use their child’s name as a way of expressing their individuality,” she says. “Find another way to rebel. It’s not fair to indulge yourself like that.”
However, wouldn’t the world be a dull place if we all chose from the safe, traditional pot of names that has existed for centuries? ‘Names come in and out of fashion in cycles like any trend,’ says Siobhan. ‘The classics will always be popular because they are universally respected names that suit people of any age.
‘Ultimately, the most important thing is that as a couple, you agree. You - and your child - are the ones who really matter.’
By Deborah Arthurs