Guest Blogger Melissa Ortiz @themamacitalife
DISCLAIMER: this post shaped out to be longer than I expected and yet I feel like I barely scratched the surface in the ever-changing world of child-rearing/parenting. So if it looks long to you, feel free to skip to the terms you’re interested in, or review this in parts, at your leisure.
I’ll be the first to admit - I don’t remember life before baby. Of course I remember everything that happened; the memories, special occasions, milestones. I remember all of that. But becoming a mother really made me forget what it was like to not know the aisles of Buy Buy Baby by heart, or what it was like to not instinctively pull my pj’s open and shove my boob into a baby’s mouth while only half awake. Don’t get me wrong, I know who I was then, I know who I am now, I’ve in no way lost sight of my identity. But its hard to remember a time when all of these “mommy” things didn’t come as second nature. It’s 100% ingrained in me now.
Which makes it easy to miss the fact that this isn’t the case for everyone! Not everyone understands my lingo or why I do what I do when I do it how I do it. While reviewing my last article, A Monster Named Mastitis, my editor in chief (aka my husband) pointed out that a term that seems so common place to me (let-down) may not be part of everyone’s vocabulary and that was enough to inspire me to compile a list of other terms and their meanings in hopes of converting everyone to speaking Mama-nese. Kidding. Ok maybe only a little. But seriously, I hope this helps some of you to understand the mamas (and mamas-to-be) in your lives with a little more clarity when you find yourself in a classic situation of them going on and on about something called “nipple confusion” and how that’s a “real thing”.
If you hear a parent say:
“Baby-wearing” - they are referring to the practice of holding a child in a carrier or sling that is worn on the body of the parent. This is believed to be beneficial for bonding and emotional development in the child. And no, not all slings/carriers are made the same. But that’s a topic for another day!
“Boppy” - they are talking about a cushion with an indent in the middle used for baby to rest and for supporting mom’s tired arms during breastfeeding
“Colic” - they mean that their baby cries a lot and is inconsolable; this can last hours at a time and for the first few months of life (sometimes longer). No one is sure the exact cause, but it can sometimes be linked to allergies, digestive issues, food intolerances, over/under feeding, stress/anxiety, gas and other factors.
“Colostrum” - they might also refer to it as “liquid-gold”; this is what a mother expresses from her breasts in the first few days after childbirth. Instead of the white milky goodness babies will usually feed on, colostrum is yellow-tinged and thick, and is JAM PACKED with nutrients to give baby an amazing head start on life.
“Co-sleeping” - you might judge them. Kidding. But sometimes parents who co-sleep do face a good amount of scrutiny and side-eye glances from others. Co-sleeping refers to the practice of sharing a bed or room with your child in an effort to promote bonding, feelings of security for baby and ease during breastfeeding (particularly in the newborn days and through mama’s recovery from childbirth). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the safest practice for co-sleeping is to share a room without sharing a bed. But I ain’t judging y’all. We co-slept WITH bed-sharing because we felt that’s what worked for us. And we were totally okay with curbing all the judgmental comments/looks/opinions we received. For me, this one’s all about what works for you.
“Doula/Midwife” - they are referring to the trained professionals (usually a woman) who assist expectant parents during childbirth; sometimes they are involved in prenatal care, either exclusively or in supplement to an OBGYN, and sometimes they are also involved in postpartum care. Doulas and midwives are not the same but carry out similar and often overlapping duties. This can vary depending on the provider.
“Epidural” - it is usually because they are adamantly against taking it or are sure there is no way they’d make it through child labor without it. Either way, no matter why they mention it, be supportive! An epidural is a local anesthetic used to help alleviate the pains of labor contractions during active labor. It is administered through a needle that is injected into the mother’s “epidural space”, which as I understand (and confirmed by WebMD) is located right outside of the membrane that protects your spinal cord.
“Fontanelles” (sometimes fontanel) - these are also sometimes called “soft-spots”, which are located on the baby’s head: one on top and one in the back. These spots are soft because there is no bone underneath them. Pediatricians check them periodically during baby’s first few months and during bouts of illness to make sure there are no signs of other issues (a sunken, or caved in fontanelle can be a sign of dehydration, while a bulging or protruding one that does not go down can be a sign of an infection, swelling in the brain and other serious conditions). The fontanelle on the back of the baby’s head usually closes (and therefore hardens) by 2 months old, and the one up top takes a little longer but should also be closed by the time your little one reaches 18 months of age.
“Lanugo” - its just a fancy word for baby hair! Particularly the hair that you see on the baby’s body. Think of it as their “peach-fuzz”. I hoped Jax would keep his ear fuzz and shoulder fuzz a little longer, but lanugo falls off eventually. Most babies actually lose it before birth, but some carry it with them earth-side and eventually shed it.
“Latch” - you’ll probably recognize this word, but as a term for new parents embarking on the breastfeeding journey, it is used to refer to the baby’s ability to attach to the breast. That sounded weird. Basically it’s the hold of the baby’s mouth on the breast. Seems simple enough but if your baby is unable to latch deeply and correctly, it actually leads to complications in breastfeeding that could require medical intervention, consultations with lactation professionals, and a whole lot of stress for new parents. Proper latching is essential to the success of mother and baby in breastfeeding and is the first step on the journey so it gets a lot of attention in those first days after birth.
“Let-down” - this refers to the reflex which signals to your milk ducts that they should release milk. Usually the first minute or so after your baby latches on, they are not getting any milk from your breast (unless you’ve already stimulated your breast before latching). Their suckling causes nerves in the breast to send signals to your milk ducts that there’s a tiny human in need of milk on the other end. The moment of let-down sometimes causes a tingling or warm sensation in the breast of the mother, though sometimes nothing happens at all until you can hear your baby happily swallowing the milky goodness. This reflex also varies from woman to woman - for some it takes a bit longer for let-down to take place, while others have a more sensitive reflex that is activated easily.
“Mastitis” - oh c’mon you know this one! Or you do if you read my recent post A Monster Named Mastitis. Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue that can lead to infection, surgical intervention and death (in extreme cases) if left untreated. It is caused by a blockage or clog in the milk ducts and leads to flu-like symptoms which require antibiotics to clear. Read more in my previous blog post!
“Meconium” - they are using the medical (and less graphic) term for the dark green/black, tarry substance that babies expel as their first bowel movement. It is made up of all the ickies that baby soaks up during their time inside the womb (mucus, amniotic fluid, bile). While meconium is known as baby’s first poop after birth, in some cases baby can’t hold it and end up releasing it while still in utero which could become dangerous if they breathe it in (this is known as meconium-aspiration).
“Mommy Brain” - i don’t know whether or not people truly believe me when I say I still have mommy brain 20 months into motherhood, but I still try. Mostly because I feel like it continues to apply (newborns are easy y’all, and its true what they say: toddlers are little savages). Although I haven’t come across any conclusive evidence of it being a “real thing”, experts are saying this thing called neuroplasticity could be the culprit. According to an article in the NYTimes, neuroplasticity is “the process in which the brain changes throughout life by reorganizing connections in response to the stimulation of new experiences and neurogenesis, the process of growth that allows for new learning”; and this article says that there’s a study out there that says it can continue even two whole years after pregnancy. BOOYAH. Personally I think it’s a mix of hormone shifts, sleep deprivation and all the warm and fuzzies that knock the other memories right out of ya in those early stages of raising a new human.
“Mucus Plug” - oh great another gross one. Okay. The mucus plug is kind of self-explanatory: it is a thick blockage of mucus that seals the cervix shut during pregnancy, keeping the uterus (and therefore baby) safe from bacteria and other potential external harms. Moms loose this plug as their body prepares to go into labor.
“Nipple Confusion” - is the term used to describe the difficulty that some babies experience in adapting well to switching between the breast nipple during nursing, and a bottle nipple during bottle feeds.
“Nosefrida” - if you’re in our house we just call it the nose-sucker. This little contraption is a lifesaver and a highly recommended must-have for baby care. It is made up of a tube that tapers off on one end into a cone shape with a whole that fits right on baby’s nostril. The opposite end is screwed into a cap which is attached to a thinner tube which parents use to create a suction to get mucus out of baby’s nose!
“PPD” - this is an acronym for a condition known as Postpartum Depression which is a mood disorder that affects moms after they’ve given birth. It is exactly what it sounds like: a depression that occurs postpartum, or after childbirth.
“SIDS and SUID” - Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a type of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death; these terms refer to the sudden and unexpected death of a child under the age of 1 for a reason that is unknown prior to investigation. What this means is that children who die of a diagnosed illness or condition before the age of 1 are not considered to have died from SIDS; instead this category includes children whose death was sudden, unexpected, and for which the cause was unknown prior to being investigated further. It is common for SUID to occur while the child sleeps or is in their designated sleep area.
“Tongue-tie” - if you lift your tongue, you know we all have a bit of connective tissue underneath. But for some babies, the connective tissue is so tight that it restricts the baby’s ability to move their tongue freely, thus making breastfeeding especially challenging. Tongue-ties can also impair a baby’s ability to take a bottle or pacifier, all of which require free range of movement in the tongue. If you suspect your child has a tongue-tie, it is recommended that you find your local IBCLC (hey, another term you might hear around new parents! This stands for International Board Certified Lactation Consultant!). Your IBCLC can evaluate your baby and determine if there is in fact an impairment of mobility in the tongue. If so, they will recommend you to a physician who can diagnose and release the tongue-tie.
I hope that this short list will help you to better understand the parenting lingo that gets thrown around in those first months after a baby enters the lives of the friends/family you thought were normal and cool before they had said baby. Or maybe you’re the parent - new, expecting, or repeat - and you just haven’t gotten the hang of some of these terms yet. That’s fine too! Remember that as always I am no expert, and a lot of the knowledge I share has come from my own independent research and experience. For more in depth information on some of these topics, please feel free to visit the resources listed at the end of this article. Not every topic will be covered in the resources I attach, and that is because a lot of what I know just lives in my brain from previous readings and late-night research.
What other terms/concepts about babies and parenting are you still in the dark with? Send them my way - drop a comment below, DM me on Instagram, or shoot me an email with your thoughts, questions and any other topics you’d like me to cover. One of my favorite concepts in parenting is “It takes a village” and this here baby of mine (the blog) requires the same spirit of collaboration to thrive. So don’t be shy! I love hearing from you all, always.