The Importance of a Name...

My baby's name is???

Embarrassing initials, off-putting meanings, over-popularity… when it comes to naming your baby, the potential pitfalls are plentiful. And while we don't want to make this daunting task any harder than it has to be, it's better to discover trip-ups now than after the birth certificate is signed.

1. The nickname trap You've probably already checked out how your baby's proposed first name flows with the last name. But remember to check out how any potential nicknames sound with the last name as well. "Our favorite name was Benjamin, but the short form, Ben, combined with our last name, Ito, sounds like Benito. Not so good," says dad-to-be. Of course, you don't have to let this pitfall stop you, especially if you're in the no-nickname camp. Just go into it with your eyes open. While the names Theodore Stead and Charles Puck are respectable and dignified, Ted Stead and Chuck Puck are, well, considerably less so.

2. Embarrassing initials Alison Sarah Smith is a perfectly lovely name until you notice the initials. So is Samuel Andrew Davis. Whether you want to let initials stop you from using a name is, of course, your choice – but by checking them out first, you'll avoid any rude awakenings later. "I felt that I had a good solid name until I realized that the initials spelled I.L.L.," says one BabyCenter mom-to-be. "Back to the drawing board." And don't overlook monograms, in which the last initial is flanked by the first and middle initials. "I wasn't thinking of monograms when I named my little girl," says one mom. "Sorry to say, her monogram is LSD. She's 11 now and all of her friends have monogrammed everything, but I can't bring myself to put LSD on her book bag or sweatshirt."

3. A lifetime of corrections "Sigh. I guess it's time for me to face it. My daughter, Isla (pronounced 'eye-la'), is going to be forever correcting the spelling and pronunciation of her name and cursing us for having to do so," says my neighbour Andrea. Actually, whether or not this is a true naming pitfall is up for debate. Many of the most beautiful names lend themselves to mispronunciation. But if you're leaning toward a name that's not so common, you may want to share the name in advance. If several people pronounce it a different way than you prefer, think about whether you or your child will find it a nuisance to correct people. If that doesn't seem like a bother, go for it! If it does, it's time to consider some less-tricky names.

4. Over-popularity Wondering just how popular your first choice is? Thanks to the Internet, the answer is at your fingertips. We suggest you plug name choices into a search engine - you may change your mind as a result of what you find – over-popularity can be a common reasons for the switch. You'll see the name's rank now and how it's fared over the past decade – plus get suggestions for similar names if you want to find a twist that's more unique. "Our first choice turned out to be the number one name in the most recent census," says one mom. Another explains, "I didn't want names in or near the top ten, so we crossed off the names on our list that we discovered were super popular."

5. Problematic name pairings If your unborn baby has an older sibling or two, try this exercise – say your baby's potential name together with your other children's names, as in, "Mark and Sandy, time for bed!" If the combination has a nice ring to it, great. If not, well… it's something to think about. You'll be saying their names together a lot. "I made the mistake of naming my daughter Ella," says one mom. "On its own, it's a beautiful name. However, her older brother's name is Sam. When you say their names together, Sam and Ella, it sounds like a food-borne illness. 'Salmonella, lunch is ready!'" Oops.

Even if you keep all these factors in mind, no name is pitfall-proof. On the tongues of inventive grade-schoolers, Elizabeth easily becomes "Dizzy Lizzie," Hannah turns into "Hannah Banana," and Josh morphs into "Squash." What's important is that you and your partner love the name! Here is a place to start Babynames.com