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Life Kit: How To Pick A Baby Name

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

It's Mother's Day. And if you're expecting a child, you have a decision ahead of you - what to name your new baby. Thankfully, NPR Life Kit reporter Diana Opong has put together a framework to help new parents make that process a little smoother.

DIANA OPONG, BYLINE: A name is one of the first gifts a parent gives to their child. They're the first symbols of our identity and one of the first things we lead with when we meet someone new. As a parent myself, I know that the baby-naming struggle is real. I mean, the possibilities seem endless. How do you even begin to choose?

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

MADELYNE: My name is Madelyne (ph).

ELOISE: Eloise (ph).

CECILY: Cecily (ph).

DANYA: My name is Danya.

MARLAYNA: My name is Marlayna (ph).

LIGAYA: Good job.

LAURA WATTENBERG: So much of preparing for a baby is about anxieties. You're worried about money, about health, about safety. Names should be your chance to just sit back and dream.

OPONG: That's Laura Wattenberg. She's the author of "The Baby Name Wizard" books and the creator of namerology.com. She says today's baby-naming culture is more about standing out instead of fitting in.

WATTENBERG: And this is creating an enormous amount of pressure and a kind of decision paralysis for today's parents.

OPONG: And a lot of that paralysis comes from a familiar fear - popularity. There are many families who avoid popular names at all costs.

WATTENBERG: The most common opinion you can have is to not like things that are common. So first thing to remember is that popular just means well-liked. That's not so scary. No child's life was ruined by having a popular name.

OPONG: So let's start there - by removing the pressure. Whether it's a popular name or a unique name, in the environment we're in right now, they're all created equal. Now you just have to pick a name. But how do you move forward? Let's turn to Sherri Suzanne, who's seen it all.

SHERRI SUZANNE: I've actually had parents reach out to me in a taxi on the way to a hospital.

OPONG: Suzanne is a New York-based professional baby names consultant who's been doing this work for over two decades. Here's what she recommends to parents in the baby-naming process.

SUZANNE: Start paying attention in stores. Start paying attention on television. Listen to, perhaps, colleagues talk about their children. And pay attention to the type of name style that seems pleasing.

OPONG: Then Suzanne suggests setting your parameters, identifying what you want your circle of influence to be. For example, you may need to consider not only you and your partner's personal preferences but also those of valued family members and even cultural traditions. Another parameter to consider are names that are totally off the table.

SUZANNE: Usually what they're doing is they're saying, these are the names of my best friend's children, these are the names of my nieces and nephews, but a lot of times are saying, this is his ex-girlfriend.

OPONG: Yup.

SUZANNE: This is my ex-boyfriend. So absolutely. Absolutely.

OPONG: And then finally, this one's from me. Leave room for chance. You don't have to name your baby right away. You can wait until you see that beautiful little being in front of you cooing and stretching. You can decide at that moment, based on your short list, what feels right. For NPR News, I'm Diana Opong.

PFEIFFER: Life Kit has lots of resources for parents. There are episodes about teaching kids to deal with anxiety and scary stuff in the news and much more. You can find those at npr.org/lifekit.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.