Meet the baby name consultants helping parents find the perfect moniker: 'Half of our job is couple's therapy'

·6-min read
Baby name consultants are helping parents pinpoint the perfect names for their offspring. (Getty Creative)
Baby name consultants are helping parents pinpoint the perfect names for their offspring. (Getty Creative)

When it comes to baby names, the sky's the limit. Nineteenth-century Texas governor Jim Hogg named his daughter Ima (but did not, contrary to urban legend, have a second child named Ura). Boxing great George Foreman named each of his five sons George Edward "so they would always have something in common"; he also has a Georgetta, one of seven daughters. Meanwhile, Elon Musk and Grimes's year-old son bears the mesmerizing moniker X Æ A-Xii, though his parents have given conflicting explainers on how the name is actually pronounced.

Given all these possibilities, it's perhaps understandable, then, that the baby-naming process can overwhelm many parents-to-be, driving them straight into the arms of specialized naming services or, in a pinch, TikTok. That's where you'll find Taylor Humphrey, a baby name consultant, doula and Reiki practitioner who uses the handle What'sInABabyNameDoula. Thanks to her videos offering hyper-specific suggestions submitted by stumped strangers — "boy names to go with Lydia," "Arabic baby boy names to go with the last name Irani," "sibling names for baby Abel" — Humphrey has commanded an audience of more than 32,000 followers weighing in on the finer points of Daphne, Deirdre and Dell.

Humphrey — who remembers going to the library as a child just to check out baby name books — tells Yahoo Life that she enjoys sharing her suggestions with a large audience, but clients who pay for her bespoke naming services can expect a more personalized moniker that's unique to them and their background.

"When I create video responses on TikTok, the names that I offer are never personalized to whomever is asking the question," she says. "How could they be? I don’t have enough information about them to offer customized recommendations. With the baby name consultations, instead of choosing five to 10 names that could satisfy a lot of people, I create a cohesive, bespoke baby-name list based on my clients’ specific personalities, values, motivations, aspirations, inspirations, etc. The lists are completely tailored to them and are attuned to who they sense their child will be."

Humphrey's website features a baby name quiz to get the ball rolling, though paying clients will submit a more detailed questionnaire to help inform her name research. She rattles off a list of factors that guide her picks: "popularity ranking, origin, meaning, numerology, personality traits, individualized insights into their questionnaire..."

And that list isn't set in stone. Humphrey — a former aspiring screenwriter who launched her naming account on Instagram in 2015 when she realized that "my desire to write was largely inspired by the names that I could choose for characters" — sees the naming process as a collaborative one. She'll go back and forth with clients to nix some options, and add more as she gains more insight into what the parents are looking for. She's also ready to help smooth over any disagreements that may arise if a couple don't see eye to eye over a name. "A common theme is 'my husband doesn’t like any of the names I like,'" she notes.

Helping couples find common ground over what to name their kid is crucial, agree Macaire Douglas and Cara Sullivan, moms who formed their Future Perfect naming service after bonding over their own kids' unique names in a neighborhood play group. (For the record, Sullivan is mom to daughters Reeve and Vaughn, while Douglas named her boys Eyan and Jude.) Like Humphrey, their custom consultations — which start at $100 and can be gifted at baby showers in lieu of, say, a cake made of diapers — involve detailed questionnaires, which they ask each parent to fill out separately.

"We like to joke that half of our job is couple’s therapy," Sullivan tells Yahoo Life. "Reaching a compromise is such a huge part of the naming process."

And while there's no shortage of baby name books, sites like Nameberry breaking down everything you could possibly need to know about anything from Aurora to Zephyr and the option of crowd-sourcing names from opinionated friends, relatives and perfect strangers online, Sullivan and Douglas say that those methods can be "impersonal."

"What makes us different is that we aren’t simply giving families lists of names that we like or lists of names that are popular," Douglas explains. "Our services are for parents who want their child’s name to have a meaning that really resonates with what they’re about; a name that aligns with their family brand, so to speak. The clients who approach us are taking a lot of things into consideration: culture, ancestry, religion, shared experiences, values, even the love story that brought them together."

She cites an example: "Recently, we helped a couple with a very specific request to choose a name that reflected their careers (visual artists), cultures (Pakistani and Icelandic) and religion (Muslim and Lutheran). In addition to all of that, they were looking for a two-syllable name with a one-syllable nickname, and the name had to start with an L to honor a relative who’d recently passed. ... Most of our clients’ needs are less specific than that, but none of them are what we’d describe as straightforward. That’s what books and blogs are for!"

And it's not just babies being named. For $75, Future Perfect will name the family pet, too — "because you can't give your kids badass names and call your dog Spot," according to the website. Humphrey's What's in a Baby Name service, meanwhile, also offers baby-name branding for celebrity and influencer parents — discretion guaranteed — "who need help defining their social media offerings and capitalizing on their brands." In other words, naming Junior "John Smith" probably won't cut it.

For most parents, however, the sweet spot is "uncommon but familiar," says Sullivan. "That means no top 100 and nothing even remotely trendy, but no made-up names or 'kreeaytiv' spellings." She and Douglas are also seeing continued interest in gender-neutral names, while Humphrey says nature-inspired monikers and double-barreled names are big right now.

Of course, what seems perfect one moment may eventually wear out its welcome. Parents may realize that suddenly every baby they know is named Oliver, or, like Amy Schumer, suddenly grasp that they've accidentally named their kid "Genital." Maybe everyone in the family just hates it. Douglas and Sullivan have yet to have a client experience "name remorse" off their own suggestions, but they were approached twice to help rename kids — one of whom was 6 years old.

As a doula who works with expectant mothers, Humphrey makes an effort to keep her baby-naming work separate.

"I’ve learned to ask, 'Would you like my personal or professional opinion?'" she says. "Unless specifically asked, I will only provide professional opinions now. And my professional opinion is that one, mamas always know best, and two, mamas don’t need any extra shaming or judgment."

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