"This is what it's like to be a professional baby namer"

·6-min read
Photo credit: Sosiukin - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sosiukin - Getty Images

As any new parent can attest, it's not always easy choosing a name for your baby. Maybe you're looking for a royal-inspired moniker, but your partner prefers something more unique, or something that's modern and popular today? Perhaps you simply can't land on a name that just feels right? Both of these dilemmas (and more) are all in day's work for Taylor A Humphrey, founder of What's In A Baby Name, who has the super unique job of being a professional baby namer, alongside her work as a birth doula and reiki practitioner.

Naturally, as big fans of baby names and their meanings ourselves, we asked Taylor for her best advice on how to pick the perfect name for your child, and how she helps couples who can't agree on what their baby ought to be called...

How did you become a professional baby namer?

Taylor explains that she initially set up her 'What's in a Baby Name' account over seven years ago, as a personal project and a way of sharing her love of names with the world, never imagining her passion could become her work.

"When I was first learning to read, I'd insist that my mom skip the children's room in the library and take me directly to the baby name books," she recalls. "I've been reading baby name encyclopaedias since I was about 7 years old, and I've developed a core philosophy around naming. My doula work has also taught me how to hold space for the enormous life transition of becoming a parent, and reiki allows me to offer my clients a spiritually-attuned service."

Whilst there aren't any qualifications you can work towards to 'qualify' as a pro baby namer, Taylor cites Malcolm Gladwell's (author of The Tipping Point) ethos that "10,000 hours of practice can make you a genius in your given field". She adds that she believes there are many "of us who've educated ourselves through the researching of etymology, numerology, and cultural significance of names".

What is your baby naming process like?

"Understanding a family's lifestyle, aspirations, and values is of core importance to offering great suggestions," Taylor shares. "Sometimes I joke about having an algorithmic knowledge of names, and while I absolutely love doing the creative and thoughtful work [that goes into] creating bespoke name lists for my clients, my services are also about the support I offer to parents as they experience pregnancy, and through the baby-naming process."

Taylor's packages aren't cheap either – they currently start at $1,500 (£1,194) and go up to $30,000 (£23,890), depending on the scope of work required. "For $1,500, I'll work with parents to find name inspiration in unexpected places," she says. "This includes an in-depth questionnaire which doubles as a brainstorming activity, a bespoke baby name list full of great choices that are hand-picked for their baby, as well as a 1:1 phone consultation and a final revision to the name list."

Her $10,000 package offers more of a branding approach and was created with celebrities, influencers and high profile people in mind (e.g. those wanting to find baby names that enhance their overall brand, as well as artists and musicians who are renaming themselves or choosing a stage name).

Taylor also suggests asking your baby directly if you're struggling to find the perfect name. "Say the names [you're considering] aloud and see how the baby reacts. If the baby is still in utero, are they kicking? Are they moving around? If the baby has been born and no name has been chosen, are they alert when you read the names out to them? Are they smiling, antsy or upset?"

The pro namer also advises her clients to call upon lost loved ones and to look for signs in nature, such as rainbows and butterflies – "look for the signs and synchronicities" – and says sometimes it can take months to land on the right choice.

"I've worked with many clients who struggle with anxiety, which can make the process of baby naming a really challenging one," Taylor notes. "I had one mom who was trying to find the perfect name for her 3-month-old daughter. At the time, she was referring to her as 'Baby' but after working together for a few months, having phone calls, creating bespoke baby name lists, and doing reiki sessions, name games, and fun exercises, she ultimately chose the name Ivy.

"It felt really gratifying to offer support and to bear witness to this amazing mother overcoming the blockages that she'd been facing, and choose such a great name for her daughter."

What should you do if you and your partner can't agree on a baby name?

It's a process, says Taylor, but there is a way to compromise. "Preferences (such as longer names, or family names) are great in that they guide us towards a deeper understanding of our personal aesthetic and point of view, but they can't be central to the process of baby naming. Instead of using preferences as the end-zone, let's think of them more as guideposts," she recommends.

"For example, let's say your preference is to use a family name, and you'd love to honour your beloved grandma, who was called Ethel Parks. Your partner's preference is to use a really modern name, and they can't imagine naming your daughter Ethel, so you might jointly consider using grandmother's first initial, or maiden name instead," she continues. In this instance, Taylor says she'd suggest taking inspiration from the 'E' in Ethel and looking for a more contemporary moniker such as Everly, Eliana, or Eliza.

"Or you could use grandma's last name - Parks - as inspiration, maybe in the form of Parker," Taylor adds. "Surnames-as-first-names is a great way to put a modern spin on an honorary name and is a solid example of how to get creative when you and your partner have a difference of preference."

Preferences allow for creativity within the bounds of our own imaginations, she tells parents, alongside reminding them not to be so focused that they lose sight of what truly matters: having a happy, healthy, well-named baby.

What makes a ‘good’ baby name?

"I truly believe that names are not objectively good or bad," Taylor stresses. "What makes a good name is the resonance between the sound of that name, and the spirit of the person who bears it.

As for her own favourites? Taylor says she's currently gravitating towards longer names with a plethora of nickname options. "Like Josephine (Jo, JoJo, Joey, Josie, Feeny), Magnolia (Maggie, Mags, Noli, Nola, Lia), Sebastian (Seb, Sebby, Bash, Ian), or Theodore (Ted, Teddy, Theo)."

Find more baby-naming inspiration here:

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