Portrait of a smiling baby outdoors at the park

How To Choose A Baby Name You Won’t Regret

Questions to ask and things to consider.

Your child’s name is the first real “gift” you give them, and chances are they’re going to carry this gift with them for the rest of their lives. It’s an exciting opportunity, but a big responsibility, so choosing a name can also be stressful. Figuring out how to pick a baby name can be a process for some people, but it doesn’t have to be. Romper spoke to Taylor Humphrey, a birth doula, Reiki practitioner and professional baby name consultant to help give advice about ways to approach baby naming, what to consider when choosing a name, and how to avoid baby name regret.

Humphrey, who goes by @What’sInABabyNameDoula on social media, provides “full-spectrum perinatal support” to help parents “discover” their child’s name. Consultations begin with a questionnaire to provide a starting point for inspiration and, from there, Humphrey provides clients with a bespoke list of names, tailored to the their personalities and values. “For some parents, it's as quick as this questionnaire and the resulting bespoke name list,” she explains. “But increasingly I'm working with parents who are looking for a deeper level of one on one support. I have worked with parents throughout the entire perinatal journey: from trying to conceive all the way through postpartum, specifically parents struggling with name regret.” Services range from $350 for baby name inspiration to up to $5,000 for more intensive support.

“A name was an energy, a personality, a collection of experiences and memories,” she told Romper in 2021. “A name is like an encrypted file filled with every bit of information that person would ever do, be, or have.”

As an overview, this piece will cover the following.

  • How to prioritize what’s important to you
  • Where to find inspiration
  • Methods and resources to keep a list of names
  • Steps to avoid baby name regret

Decide what’s really important in a baby name

There are so many different ways to approach baby naming. Names that run in the family, names that “go” with sibling names (aka “sibsets”), names that start with the letter J (or Q or M or any other preferred letter), names that have certain meanings, names that take numerology or astrology into account, names of saints — all of these might be meaningful for some people and thus may try to take everything into account — too much, even. As with every major decision, it’s important to recognize and prioritize what is and is not inherently important to you and your partner. “Anything that is just not truly aligned with your values is not something you suddenly have to start glomming onto,” Humphrey says.

What’s in a name? Ultimately, whatever you decide is important.Shutterstock

Inspiration can strike in the strangest of places.

Names are all around us and sometimes a great one will just leap out at you if you’re open to finding it. One place to Humphrey suggests exploring for baby name inspiration is your family tree. “So many times also you [and your partner] will go through a family tree and start to realize that you and your husband have ancestors with shared names. Like, you go back far enough and you start to see, ‘Oh, I had an uncle Maurice and you had a grandpa Maurice,’” she says. “So it's like you start to see this overlap and then that really just feels so meaningful.”

Where to find baby name inspiration:

  • Family trees
  • Favorite books, movies, or TV shows
  • End credits of movies (if you think about it, it’s just a super long list of names)
  • Street names
  • Nature (plants, minerals, bodies of water, and even animals)
  • Favorite places you’ve visited
  • Childhood friends and acquaintances
  • Teacher friends (Humphrey says they’re a great source to tell you what names are getting popular among younger generations)

Keep a running list of names you love and hate.

Keep track of all the names you and your partner consider, both together and independently on your phone, in a notebook, in an excel spreadsheet — whatever feels best for you. Humphrey suggests starting early (you don’t want to be scrambling at the end of a pregnancy when you’re getting nervous and/or cranky). It’s a good way to recognize patterns in your naming aesthetic. “Over time you can kind of be surprised by like how certain names from your hate list might actually start to grow on you,” Humphrey says.

She suggests starting a list in your phone’s notes app and filling it with “Names I LOVE” and “Names I HATE” (“I find that this makes it easier when approaching baby name discussions with your partner.”) Other ideas include...

  • Creating a Google Doc or other form of shared digital doc (this can be really helpful starting conversations with your partner, since you’re creating a running one online)
  • Posting notes on a good old-fashioned cork board or similar physical display (one Romper editor knows someone who used sticky notes on a window)
  • Any number of baby name generators
  • Any number of baby name apps, including BabyName (this one allows you and your partner to create a list Tinder-style: swipe right on the names you like and left on the ones you don’t and the app will find the common ground)

And speaking of common ground...

Keep naming conversations playful and curious.

Sometimes a couple’s naming tastes, philosophies, and values aren’t perfectly aligned. It can be a source of conflict — you like names like Juniper, Harlow, and Busy while he’s more inclined towards names like Jenna, Hailey, and Brianna. It can be a situation that’s ripe for conflict, but it doesn’t have to be. Approach these conversations with genuine curiosity. Talking about why you love or hate a name, or why your partner just can’t get “Gwen” or “Liam” out of their head can be a great way to learn more about your partner and deepen intimacy.

This isn’t a battlefield: it’s a land of opportunity.Shutterstock

“Sometimes these conversations feel like a battle,” says Humphrey. “Like you have to defend your position. That's not what we want; we want this to be fun! We want to bring some magic and vitality and ask good questions to have a better basis for understanding.”

You never know what you might find out in these conversations. Maybe you’ll learn all about the special relationship your partner had with their grandma Gwen, or how someone named Liam saved their life once. And that might just win you over. Be curious, be open, and be ready for interesting conversations that can deepen intimacy between you and your partner.

How to avoid baby name regret.

There are lots of reasons one might regret a baby. A 2020 survey from Mumsnet polled over 1,000 parents in the UK and found the reason for regret fell into the following categories...

  • The name was too common (25%)
  • It just doesn’t feel right (21%)
  • They felt pressured into using it (20%)
  • It causes problems with spelling or pronunciation (11%)
  • It doesn’t suit them (11%)

With this in mind, consider paying attention to naming trends (you can explore the data on the popularity of a given name over time on the user-friendly Social Security Administration website) and not shying away from difficult conversations with your partner (aka don’t let them or anyone else railroad you). Furthermore, if you foresee spelling or pronunciation being an issue, maybe talk to other people who have that name and see what life has been like for them having that particular name or spelling. (If the name is invented or unusual, maybe try talking to other people with similarly unique names.)

Anecdotally, Humphrey has found that a lot of her clients experience baby name regret after a particularly traumatic birth experience. While birth trauma can’t always be avoided (unexpected emergencies do happen, for example), she encourages pregnant people to do their best to make sure they feel empowered going into birth. “Make sure you feel really supported by your care team,” she suggests. “That they fully understand your desired birth plan and know how to support you and advocate for the things that you truly want to be experiencing in childbirth.”

Remember: it’s not about you.

OK, yes, it’s your baby but, ultimately, they’re going to be their own person and they will make everything, including their name, uniquely their own.

Ultimately, it’s all about the baby, not the name.Shutterstock

“At the end of the day, I think people can really narrow this whole process down to just asking themselves two questions once you've narrowed it down to a couple of names,” says Humphrey.

  1. “How do you actually feel when you imagine yourself calling your child by this name?”
  2. “Does this name honor your child and set them up for happiness and success in the future?”

Considering these two questions, advises Humphries, can “cut through a lot of anxiety really quickly.”