Imagine this: After months of deliberation during your pregnancy, you and your partner finally settle on the perfect baby name. Thrilled, you share your choice with a few close relatives. Two weeks later, your cousin gives birth – and uses that exact name for her baby.
Did this happen to you? If so, you're not alone. According to BabyCenter's Baby Name Survey, one in five moms-to-be ends up considering a different baby name because someone "stole" the one she originally planned to use. Why does this happen, and what can you do about it?
It's a coincidence
Sometimes it's just bad luck – especially with the more popular names. The our site Baby Names Survey found that many stolen names are among the top 10 most popular baby names. That means lots of other parents out there are considering the same names – so someone you know could easily pick the one you did.
"I wanted to name my boy Brayden," says one mom. "My sister-in-law was pregnant at the same time, and she announced that was the name she'd chosen. I hadn't even told her! I got shafted because she found out the gender first."
What to do
Frustrating as it is, this situation is no one's fault. Chalk it up to synchronicity and figure out how to move forward.
One option is to use the name anyway – 14 percent of the our site parents in our survey did. "A close co-worker had a girl and chose the name I was strongly considering," says one expecting mom. "I may still use it."
Another option is to go with a name that sounds similar or use a different spelling of the same name. See our list of alternatives to popular names or use the advanced search feature in our Baby Names Finder. It lets you search for names that start or end with the same letter combination as the name you love. You may be surprised at how many options there are.
You can always go back to the drawing board and choose a completely different name. This may be a good idea if you want to avoid name confusion among little ones who'll be seeing a lot of each other.
Need ideas? Our baby name inspiration lists can get the creative juices flowing.
It's an accidental robbery
"A friend stole two of the names I'd picked – and then claimed they were her own idea in the first place!" one exasperated mom complains. Although maddening, psychologist and relationship expert Dale Atkins says this behavior can be completely unconscious.
"Expectant parents hear names all over the place," says Atkins. "It's impossible to remember where they get every single idea from, and they may truly think they came up with it themselves – or at least heard it somewhere that has nothing to do with you."
What to do
If a frank conversation reveals that the person has no idea she "took" your name, you don't have much choice but to accept it. After all, she really might have heard the name elsewhere – there's no way to know for sure!
You can still use the name, or you can look for alternatives. Whatever you decide, remember that if you don't want it to happen again, mum is definitely the word this time around.
"I won't tell anyone what name I'm planning to use," says one mom. "We want to name my son after my dad, but my sister is due with a boy right around the same time and might use the name herself. If she takes it, I can't accuse her of stealing because I haven't told her about it. And I didn't try to call dibs on the name because I think whichever of us gives birth first should have first pick."
It's a total fraud
Then again, stealing a baby name can be intentional – and dysfunctional. "Sometimes people do it because they're jockeying for position within the family, like when expectant moms compete to honor a loved one's memory," says psychologist Atkins.
Other times people steal a name simply because they like it and want to use it, even though they realize you'd prefer that they didn't. "This happened in my family," one mom says. "One sister-in-law said she loved a name and soon after another sister-in-law named her kid that. There was definitely drama!"
What to do
Consider the relationship. Is this an acquaintance or a friend you won't see very often? If that's the case, you could just use the name anyway and let the offense go. After all, even though many parents want unique names, it's pretty difficult never to come across a duplicate.
Then there are relationships in which stealing a baby name is completely unacceptable – within your immediate family or a tight-knit group of friends. In these situations, it can be helpful to talk about it.
"Sit down with the other person and explain that her choice was hurtful to you because you had your heart set on the name and trusted her with that information," suggests psychologist Atkins. "Tell her that you'll work to get beyond it, but that you also feel she should know it's been a difficult thing for you." Clearing the air can ease the tension.
Inevitably, you may lose trust in that person. "Working toward forgiveness will help you maintain the relationship, but it doesn't mean you have to forget," Atkins explains. "Her behavior gives you an indication about who she is, and next time you'll be more reserved when it comes to sharing information with her."
Focus your energies now on deciding what you want to name your child – whether that means sticking with your original choice, finding a similar-sounding alternative, or choosing a completely different name. And take comfort in knowing that most parents end up very happy with the name they choose.
Where to go next:
- Baby name inspiration lists
- Baby Names Finder
- Awesome alternatives to popular names