Who Decides a Baby’s Name?

Choosing a name for your child is a very important decision. Of course you are choosing something that will be with them for their entire life and you just have to do it right. You are choosing what will be the first thing others know about them often. You are actually choosing part of their identity. It is a huge decision that shouldn’t be made so lightly. But, that being said, it needs to be made. And, perhaps more importantly, stuck to.

In developed countries, the expecting couples will have agreed on the name(s) they want to call their child once they know the sex and once the baby is born, the baby is named with the concluded name. That is not the same in Africa, especially in Nigeria. There are so many factors that come to play when it comes to naming a child. To start with, it is a norm to name your baby a week after birth (7 days). For some tribe, there will be christening celebration on the day the baby gets a name, before that day, they simply call the baby “baby” and they call the new mom “mummy baby”. That’s because her baby is yet to get a name until the christening day when the Pastor’s from the church or Alfa from the mosque they worship come to carried out the function.

In some other tribe, the baby does not get a name as well until the seventh day after birth and their won’t be any other celebration to follow until the baby is three months old and he/she is taken to the church to be dedicated to God, that is when they will have a party for the birth of the baby.

On the question of who has the right to name the baby? It should not go without asking on who names the baby considering the baby to be born or already born has parents. But that is not the case in some Nigeria family tradition. For some, it is the grandparents that have the right to name the baby while in some, they leave the honor to the new parents and they can then give the baby whatever subsequent names they want to add to the names of the baby.

They call on the grandparents from both families to get the names they want to add to what the mother and father have come to a conclusion on. That is why most Nigerian kids have a long list of names, names will be so much that the child might never even know of. Another thing is that, whatever name the grandparents give to the baby, they call the baby by that name despite the general name everyone knows of.

There have been several cases of conflicts on whose right is it name the baby. For some, it is a tradition for a child be named by his/her grandparents. This most time does not go well with the new mom considering that she was the one that carried the child for 9 months and they are the parents. There have been cases of grandparents naming a child a name the mother of the child does not like or approve of but she just has to accept because it is probably a tradition. And there’s also the conflict of English name and native name for the baby. There is the native name which has to align with the tribe of the parents’ and the English names which are the either from the Bible or a Western name.

In all, naming a baby is mostly by understanding, it requires understanding from both expecting/newborn parents’ to come to a conclusion on the names they want to give to their child and which out of the names will the child be addressed as. That does not mean they can’t collect names from the uncles, aunties, grandparents or godparents but what that means is that those people will be addressing the child with those names when they come in contact with the child which is not an everyday thing.


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