How I Named My Baby: Sparrow Elizabeth
Shannon and Tyler Cotton, a dance studio owner and professional strongman, live in northern New Jersey with their daughter Sparrow Elizabeth.
Sparrow was born on January 5, 2022. Here, we chat with Shannon about how she and Tyler named their baby girl.
Tell me Sparrow’s name story!
I’ve always loved the name Sparrow. I’ve had a baby name list since I was 14 and added Sparrow when I heard the word and thought it would make a beautiful and unique name.
My favorite combo was Sparrow Emery, but it didn’t sit well with Tyler because it sounded like two unusual names. We needed to go more traditional. My aunt Katie, who passed away from cancer, had the middle name Elizabeth. When I said “Sparrow Elizabeth”, Tyler thought it was really beautiful.
I was initially trying to avoid the middle name Elizabeth because in Pirates of the Caribbean, the main characters are Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan. But no one has ever made that connection.
Mavi Wynn was our other combo, and it was difficult to decide between the two. We went to an ultrasound and when I saw the photos, it looked like there was a little bird shape in the amniotic fluid. The name Sparrow was in there with her!
Why was it important for you to choose a unique name?
I grew up a competitive dancer, and you read the programs with everyone’s names. You start to realize that having a distinctive name matters. When someone wins a competition, their name is called, and they go up on stage.
Once I became a dance teacher, I absolutely could not give my child the name of a past student. For the longest time I liked the name Clara and hadn’t ever taught one. But when I got pregnant, I had a student named Clara! It’s still a middle name contender.
I check the Social Security database and if a name is in the Top 1000, I’ll only use it as a middle name. It’s easier to stand out, be confident, and walk into a room if you know that you’re one of a kind. I care a lot about the humans that I’m bringing into the world, so I think if it takes a little extra effort to find a more unique name, I’m giving them a head start.
How did people respond when they learned her name?
My Nana is in her eighties, and she didn’t even make a face when I told her we were going to use Sparrow. She was very accepting!
Tyler’s family is very religious and have more traditional names. Sparrow is very bohemian compared to the rest of the family’s’ names, so I was worried they wouldn’t like it. But his family accepted the name right away. There’s actually a beautiful hymn called “His Eyes on the Sparrow” so his sister made us a nice watercolor keepsake of it.
What names did you like when you were younger?
When I was super young, I was really into the names Nicolette and Giovanna. They feel very Italian to me!
Breslin was one of the first names I remember putting on a list. I still love it, but after having a baby I have to consider if it goes with Sparrow. It’s more than just a list now! You go from having a dream list to a realistic list.
How do you feel about your own name, and how did that influence your choice?
There was one other Shannon in my class when I got to middle school and another Shannon in my dance studio when I was 14. I really didn’t like it — I wanted to be the only one! But overall, my experience was good.
My middle name is Marie, which also shaped me as a namer. Everyone had it growing up. I always wished I had a cooler middle name. Come on, Mom!
It’s my mom and Nana’s middle name, but I wouldn’t pass it down. The closest I’d do is Marlana or Marlena.
Did you think about boy names?
My husband wanted to know the gender very badly, and we found out we were having a girl around 14 weeks. But I had my boy names picked out before that! Ryerson has always been on the list. Egan is newer to the list. Tyler liked Trace, but I don’t love names that can also be verbs. They’re tricky with our last name, Cotton.
Honestly, I might have used Sparrow for a boy.
What are the trendy names in your social circle?
Olivia and Jameson. Tyler’s best friend has a son named Jameson. It’s definitely on the rise!
There’s a Lily in every activity we do. We know two girls named Meadow. There are two Seraphinas in one of Sparrow’s classes. Years ago, you never would have heard Seraphina — I love that our generation is really stepping it up with names. Everyone is trying to be unique now.
As a dance instructor, the name that I teach the most is hands-down Ava. Sometimes Ava-Leigh and Ava-Lynn.
How would you describe your personal style outside of baby names?
My parents are both musicians and I’m a dance teacher. I’m creative!
I like minimalist and natural, neutral colors. Sparrow’s stuff is Montessori-inspired. My style right now is whatever is best for her. We have Command Hooks at baby height with her toys so she can play independently.
When buying stuff for myself, I think “does Sparrow own this color?” and I get clothes that match. I have a sickness with her baby clothes — I can’t control myself! A lot of her stuff is from Australia — their baby clothes are unreal. Pro tip: seasonally you can buy everything on clearance.
Another thing about having good clothes for your baby is that you keep them longer. Sustainability wise, it’s better. If she’s wearing a nice knit sweater, I’ll make sure to put her bib on and then wash it right away when she gets food on it. If she got banana all over something I didn’t care about, I’d probably just throw it away.
How does Sparrow’s name fit into your overall style?
Perfectly! Shannon and Sparrow both start with an S, have seven letters, and the second-to-last letter is an O. She has double R and I have double N. Aesthetically, it makes me super happy.
I don’t want to overdo it with bird stuff. I’ve never bought any clothes with a sparrow on it. I don’t want her to be a cartoon character. But Tyler got a really cool Sparrow tattoo on his forearm.
Did you pass down anything special to Sparrow?
She has my lovey from when I was a baby, a bunny. It’s blue and yellow checkered satin — a total ‘90s toy. We do call her Bunny as a nickname — another animal name!
We think her favorite animal is a bunny — she was gifted a $5 bunny toy from Target by my sister for Easter and it became the Numero Uno over here. It has a crinkly ear and some tags on it — we call it Bun Bun.
Sparrow has one of my windbreakers — a Yankees red, white, and blue jacket from when I was two years old. My aunt who Sparrow shares a middle name with was the biggest Yankees fan and took all of my baby photos when I was younger. We have a photo that she took where me and my sister are wearing diapers and these windbreakers. At some point, I’m going to recreate the photo with Sparrow.
What are the cool things for parents and kids to do in your city?
Lots of activities! We take a music class, swim class, Gymboree and the Little Gym — that’s her favorite by far. Sparrow can hang on the bar for 20 seconds by herself. She has such great core strength.
The bonus is you get car naps — they fall asleep on the way there and back.
Shannon's (and Sparrow's) Favorite Things
Sparrow loved these bottles right away.
Snuggle Me Organic Lounger
Total fan favorite! It's so soft and portable.
This was my favorite gift!
Munchkin Warm Glow Wipe Warmer
I feel better knowing that I’m not using a freezing cold wipe.
Hanging laundry hamper
It unzips on the bottom so you can hold it over the washing machine and drop the clothes in.
Pampers Cruisers 360
Anyone who has trouble with diaper changes because their baby is a lunatic should try the Pampers Crusiers. I’ve done a diaper change outside of the Little Gym with one hand — pulled all of her clothes off slipped the diaper on and put her clothes on again.
Little Stocking Co. socks
Every pair of tights and socks she owns are from here. It’s such an easy way to turn an outfit cute!
Saylor Layne turbans
I love a mom-run business. These are great and actually fit her head!
This Scandinavian shelf is the main piece of our playroom. It’s beautiful and it saves space.
Thank you so much, Shannon!