Musings from the Newborn Nursery: Naming Your Child

Caucasian pre-school age girl admires her new baby sister as her mom holds her up to show it to herBaby names are a big deal.  There are many considerations to be made such as cultural traditions, family names and how the name will sound with the baby’s surname.  There are constituencies (family and friends) to satisfy.  The name must be smart, elegant/dashing, fun, interesting, dynamic, CEO-esk and not too common but not too weird.  After all you are selecting a word that you will utter more than almost any other for the rest of your life.

As a pediatrician, I hear a lot of names and am often asked for my opinion.  I didn’t take a course in medical school on naming babies.  I don’t have a degree in baby naming.  However, over the years I have developed suggestions on how to approach baby naming which I offer when asked.  Here are my 10 pointers when naming your child:

  1. If you choose a very popular name, know that it is highly probable that a few others will have the same name in your child’s future kindergarten class.  My daughter, for example, has 3 friends named Sophia and it can get confusing.  Also, in the internet age, it just takes one bad Sophia to ruin the reputation for all the others especially if you have a common surname.
  2. When possible, choose a name that is easy for others to pronounce and spell (including family members for whom English may not be a native language).  You will save your child a lifetime of frustration and wasted time correcting others who mispronounce or misspell it.
  3. Just because your 2 year old picks a name for the baby doesn’t mean that you have to use it.
  4. Naming your child after a television character may or may not be a good idea.  Keep in mind that if the show is still on there may be future plot twists you may not want associated with your child.
  5. Very rarely will you get consensus from friends and family when choosing a baby name.  Don’t worry.  After you name your child, most everyone will get on board.
  6. Get acquainted with popular kid’s books, movies, and television shows.  You may want to avoid popular character names like Mickey, Ariel, and Dora.
  7. School children are cruel so consider how your child could be teased with the name you have in mind.  For example, if the name you choose rhymes with an anatomical body part that is commonly discussed in health education it may be worth reconsideration.
  8. Ethnic names are beautiful but be mindful of the potential distortions when pronounced by native English speakers. (i.e. Shi-ting)
  9. If your child is born on Valentine’s Day and you want to name your child Valentino, know that you are not the first one to have this brilliant idea.  The same goes for Noelle during Christmas.
  10. If you want to involve friends and family (or make them feel involved) do a poll of names you have preselected.  Regardless of the majority vote use the name you decide and declare it the winner.  No one needs to know.
  11. If after all that you still love your chosen name, ignore rules 1-10 and just go for it.  Your child will never know different.

Ricky Choi MD

Ricky Y. Choi, MD, MPH is the Department Head of Pediatrics at Asian Health Services Community Health Center in Oakland, CA. He also provides primary care for those patients who speak any of ten different Asian languages and is a Co-Founder of HealthBegins, a nonprofit think-and-do tank that demonstrates how smart medicine starts upstream.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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