Read an Excerpt
Choose a Name
By Laura Wattenberg
Laura Wattenberg is the developer of name analysis software and the author of The Baby Name Wizard.
So, have you settled on a name yet?”
As the clock winds down many parents find themselves surprisingly stumped, still searching for the perfect name to express their tastes—and satisfy the whole family. A name choice encompasses fashion and tradition, values, and dreams.
Whether you’ve talked yourself out of your favorite name or debated your partner to a standstill, try these strategies for getting past some common roadblocks:
our favorite name is too popular
You want a distinctive name for your daughter. She’s not going to be one of five Jennifers in her class. But now it turns out that Abigail, your cherished favorite, is a top-ten name!
Don’t toss aside that beloved name just yet. A popularity rank doesn’t tell the whole story. First off, there are no “Jennifers” in this new generation—no names you’ll find in every classroom. Parents are naming more creatively, so even the number-one name today is only a fraction as popular as the hot names of past generations.
A name’s impact also depends on the way it blends in with the sound of the times. April was a popular choice in the 1970s and 1980s—more popular than the name Kristin. But Kristin feels more common because it traveled in a pack of similar names (Krista-Kirsten-Kristi-Krystal). A name with a unique sound, like April, can stay fresh despite its popularity. If the name you love does travel with a pack (Jaden-Braeden-Hayden-Kaiden), don’t despair. Remember that “popular” simply means well liked, so people are likely to respond well to the name and to your child.
the two of us can’t agree
As the birth date looms closer, a name dispute can turn combustible. Ratchet down the hostilities by taking pen to paper. Go to separate rooms and each write down your six top choices. (No, writing Eleanor six times doesn’t count.) Then trade papers and each choose the two names you find least objectionable. That’s your short list.
Give a game effort to agree on one of the short-list names. If you can’t, use it as your reference point for finding a compromise. Break down what exactly appeals to you about each name. If he likes the gentle grace of Olivia and she likes the exotic uniqueness of Xanthia, look for a rare but delicate alternative (Lavinia, Raphaela).
nothing goes with our last name
A full name can be like a little line of poetry with rhyme and meter. You may choose a name you love, only to test it out with your surname and find it falls flat. (Middle names are no solution; they’ll quickly disappear from your daily usage, leaving the awkward combo to last a lifetime.) If your compositions aren’t working, try putting the names aside for a moment and focusing purely on sounds.
Cast about for some common word, no matter how silly, that sounds good with your last name. Try looking around your kitchen and saying the results out loud: “Grinder Anderson?” No thanks. “Banana Anderson”? Hardly. “Licorice Anderson?” Hmm . . . silly, but catchy. Now look for names with a sound pattern similar to Licorice (like Nicholas). At the very least you’ll consider some new possibilities—and lighten the mood.
i’m just overwhelmed
Okay, forget the checklists and popularity charts. Here’s a one-step plan to a name you can feel good about: imagine that it’s you starting out in life. Knowing everything you know about the world, what name would you want representing you? A name you would feel confident bearing is certain to make a fine welcome gift for your child.
Budget for a New Baby
By Liz Pulliam Weston
Liz Pulliam Weston is author of two books, including Your Credit Score: How to Fix, Improve, and Protect the 3-Digit Number That Shapes Your Financial Future. She is a personal finance columnist for MSN Money and author of the question-and-answer column Money Talk, which appears in newspapers throughout the country. She was formerly a personal finance writer for the Los Angeles Times.
The nesting instinct can cause expecting parents to embark on all kinds of expensive preparations. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself blowing thousands of dollars on furniture, clothing, equipment, and other purchases before the tot even arrives.
The key to surviving this period with your financial health intact is to have a plan and stick to it. Otherwise, the $4 billion baby products industry and your own oscillating emotions will lure you into overspending.
Here’s your plan of attack:
Factor in your fixed costs. Talk to your insurer or hospital about how much of the delivery costs you’ll be expected to shoulder. Find out how much it will cost to add your new child to your health insurance. Explore child-care options and costs if you’ll be returning to work. Adjust your budget to reflect these expenses. If you decide to stay home, you can determine how your forgone salary will impact your financial situation. You may discover that you aren’t missing out on as much income as you thought, once taxes, commuting costs, and child-care expenses are factored in.
Figure out what items you really need—and what you don’t. Talk to experienced parents, consult some guidebooks, and use the Internet to ompile your must-have list, along with the expected price of each item. Don’t assume that if a baby store stocks a product you have to have it; many parents discover the money they spent on a coordinated linen set or a deluxe wipes warmer would have been better invested in a college fund.
Accept donations. Your friends and family may start offering their hand-me-down baby gear as soon as you announce that you’re pregnant; take them up on their offers after making sure the stuff meets current safety standards. Go easy on buying clothes and stuffed animals. You’ll probably get plenty of both. Your loved ones will likely want to throw you a shower, and you can ask for whatever items haven’t already been donated.
Don’t disdain yard sales and consignment shops. You’ll find a wealth of gently used or even never-used items at a fraction of their retail prices. To sanitize plastic items, use a weak bleach solution or disposable cleaning wipes; clothing and most stuffed toys can be sent through the washing machine.
Consider breastfeeding. The La Leche League estimates the average mother can save $2,000 in her child’s first year by breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not possible, you can reduce formula costs by using coupons, asking your pediatrician for samples, and seeing if you qualify for insurance coverage if your child requires a specialized formula because of allergies.
Diaper defensively. The average child will go through more than 5,000 diapers before potty training is complete, according to Ohio State University estimates. You can save hundreds of dollars by buying generic diapers, using coupons, and taking advantage of sales. Using cloth diapers can also save you money, although some of the savings will be offset by increased laundering costs.
Shop judiciously to fill in the gaps. Bring your list with you on any shopping trips and consider doing research in advance to make sure you’re getting the best prices. Don’t get ahead of yourself; buy only the items you’re sure you’ll use in the first few months after your baby arrives. The tricycle, the videos, and the basketball hoop can wait.
Pay cash. Don’t get in the habit of using credit cards to absorb the extra expenses of a baby or you may find yourself on the road to bankruptcy. Paying cash can provide you with the discipline to stay within your budget and avoid disastrous splurges.
Keep receipts. Maintain a separate folder just for baby-related receipts. You will likely end up raiding it to return unused items.
How about ongoing costs after the child is born? Those will depend on numerous factors, including your lifestyle and the type and amount of child care you might need. Most people should expect their living expenses to rise about 10 percent with every child added to the family. With careful planning you can keep those extra costs from busting your budget.
Design a Nursery
By Wendy Bellissimo
Wendy Bellissimo is president and chief designer for Wendy Bellissimo Media, Inc., and the author of Nesting: Lifestyle Inspirations for Your Growing Family. A favorite among celebrities, Bellissimo has designed nurseries for Kelly Ripa, Brooke Shields, and Denise Richards.
The ultimate baby room embodies a calming yet inspiring environment. Function and practicality are just as important as the look you are trying to create. Choose items that will grow with your child or that you will be able to use for your next baby. Some parents who think nothing of spending a small fortune on an outfit that their baby will wear only a few times, are hesitant to invest money in that child’s environment. Remember, however, that not only will smart items for your baby’s room be used every day for years to come, but that you are creating the backdrop for your child’s earliest memories.
Once you have your home organized, think about how the layout of the baby’s room will function best. Make sure there is ample storage space for clothing, toys, and books. Avoid basing the nursery decor on overstimulating items. Bright and giant designs on the walls or an abundance of bright flowers over every fabric can be overwhelming. Keep it simple.
create your magical nursery
Time for the fun stuff! After determining the layout of the room, you’re ready to start shopping for ideas.
1. Lead with the crib bedding. It’s best to choose your fabrics first. Your bedding collection will set the stage for the overall feel of the room, so be sure you love it! Build the room out from this focal point so that you are creating a coherent environment.
2. Furnish with nursery necessities. Furniture necessities include a crib; a changing table with two top drawers to store diapers, wipes, creams, and grooming supplies; and an enclosed bottom shelf area for toy and book storage that is easily accessible for floor-time play. An open-style changing table with shelves and storage baskets can also offer easy access to necessities. Choose furniture that fits with your bedding and accessories.
You will also need a glider with a side table and a child’s chair to create a special place of his own. (Once your little one starts crawling, you’ll be amazed at how proud he is to climb up in the chair.) Gliders function effortlessly and are much more comfortable than a traditional rocker. Whenever possible have all items slipcovered for easy machine-washing. And always select items that are appropriate for the scale of the room.
If you have the extra space, I highly recommend the addition of a twin bed for those nights when your little one is not feeling well and you need to sleep in the room. Think ahead about whether you'll need a trundle bed or even a bunk bed for future siblings if they will need to share the room. Doing this early on with our first baby’s room saved us once our fourth arrived.
3. Select window treatments. Choose something to complement your bedding choice. It’s also a good idea to use window coverings flexible enough to make babies accustomed to sleeping in the dark or the light. Roman or pleated shades are good options.
4. Consider lighting options. Overhead recessed lighting gives great coverage for playing and creating. Dimmers are also important for doing midnight diaper changes while keeping baby in sleep mode. Table lamps offer special warmth and add to the beauty of the room.
5. Install closet organizers. Having a clean and organized closet for your newborn will help you to keep your sanity after giving birth. You can install organizers yourself or hire a company that specializes in it. Allow for hanging areas, shelving, drawer space, and room for shoes.
6. Make good use of floor space. If you have wood floors, celebrate them. Not only are they beautiful, but later on it will be fun for kids to have the hard surface for cars and blocks while still having a soft play place on an area rug. When selecting an area rug, choose something that complements your décor and is soft, durable, and easy to clean. If wall-to-wall carpeting is your only option, choose a neutral color and add an area rug to pull the room together and make it cozy.
7. Select paint. Remember to think calming and soft—almost a whisper of color. And once all of the walls are painted, the color will appear a shade or two darker, so choose accordingly.
8. Make safety your first priority. Make sure all items hanging on walls, such as artwork and peg shelves, are safety hung. Secure the changing table to the wall and the changing pad to the changing table. Window treatment cords should be wound up high out of a baby’s or child’s reach.
From the Hardcover edition.