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Baby Names 101: What to Consider Before Naming Your Baby

Have you been weeding through baby names for a while now and just can't seem to narrow them down? Put your favorites through the following tests to find the perfect fit for your child:

Say it out loud

How simple, but how critical. It's important to make sure the name has a pleasant sound when spoken. Vocalizing the full name and possible nicknames will help confirm whether your top baby name flows well with the last name the baby will have, and avoids the creation of an unwanted rhyme (say, Sarah Berra) or inadvertent phrase (Barry L. Ground).

Go with your gut

When choosing baby names, close relatives can be a lot of help, but they can also be a burden by becoming too concerned with contributing to the name. Whether people are pressuring for traditional family names or wrinkling their noses at your list of favorites, extra opinions can cause extra stress. It may be best to keep the decision among a few people and remember that it is ultimately a personal decision.

Think less about meaning

"Protector, manifestation of divinity, defender of mankind"—while meaning can add substance to a name and provide a reason for the choice, don't get too caught up in definitions. Make sure you admire the name for other reasons, too, since only a limited number of people will appreciate it for its full significance.

Brainstorm nicknames

Think about what your child will be called on a daily basis—at home, school and on the playground. Though you may have a specific shortened version in mind, give thought to what others may call her—in an endearing way and not. Don't push your child into a middle-school bully's trap with a name that may lead to future humiliation.

Avoid naming siblings too closely

"Lydia; I mean Liz; I mean Linda...oh what's the difference?" Baby names that rhyme, are closely related or start with the same letter as siblings' names lead to confusion in and out of the household. Give your child a solid identity that separates them from siblings and allows them to be an individual.

Recognize that trends change

Be cautious of fad names as popularity and associations can greatly change throughout a lifetime. Remember, you have very little control over the pendulum of popular culture.

Creativity may cause headaches

"Unique" baby names and unconventional spellings could cause your child to stand out in the crowd, and possibly for the wrong reason. Consider whether the name makes phonetic sense. Too much creativity could cause your little one to face a lifetime of correcting strangers during every introduction.

Give it time

Your decision will stay with your child as he maneuvers through life, so it shouldn't be taken lightly. Relax and take your time choosing the name that best reflects how you would like your little one to be perceived.

Check initials

As a final precaution, check to be sure the initials don't spell something you will later regret. The initials P.I.G. don't make a very pleasant monogram.