A glossary of motherhood

When raising a newborn your vocabulary changes. Words that you thought you understood take on new and different meanings.

As promised, this is the third instalment on how you change and forget normal social etiquette when you have a baby and I’ve compiled a glossary of some of the top, most used words and phrases that are now part of my standard daily lexicon.

Boob – a multi-faceted organ used by a baby as a feeding funnel, scratch pad and pillow.

Breastfeeding Counsellor
– a woman who watches you breastfeeding, points out what you are doing wrong and gives you homework to improve on your technique. Will often casually comment on your boobs as though she is talking about your shoes. 

Breast pads
– circular sanitary towels worn inside the bra to prevent milk leaking onto your bra. As useful as a chocolate fireguard if you have a fast let down.

– when you check the baby is still breathing every 20 minutes. Ideally you see the chest go up and down and that’s sufficient. Sometimes you have to put your ear close to their mouth to hear the breaths. Other times they hold their breath and lie unbelievably still and you end up having to prod them just to make sure. Not ideal as it can result in waking the baby, which you want to avoid because then you will be awake the whole night. 

– a replacement for breast pads to help prevent engorgement. Needs changing regularly to avoid user smelling like an elderly care home.

– a pointless line used to assess your baby’s weight gain against other babies. Used to scaremonger but actually means fuck all in terms of your child’s health. 

Cluster feeding
– when your baby turns into a greedy bastard who won’t get off the boob for five hours straight. There’s some bullshit about it being so they can prepare to sleep through the night but my baby only started to sleep better when he stopped cluster feeding so I think this is just a myth to give Mums false hope and get them through the cluster feeding.

Colic – a medical term for ‘we don’t know what the hell is wrong with this baby‘. Usually occurs in the evening so is probably just the baby saying he is fed up of being picked up, talked to in a high pitched voice and generally can’t stand to look at you anymore that day. Some people think it’s stomach problems (see wind and reflux). It manifests as relentless crying to the point that you need to scream into a pillow.

Drunk – where your baby drinks so much milk they look and act drunk, can’t open their eyes and half of their face droops.

Early Teething – where, not content with having reflux and colic, your baby starts getting teething pains earlier than five months. I didn’t even know this a thing until my baby started at 12 weeks and a friend’s started at eight weeks. This is the parent equivalent to someone knocking your glass of wine over just after last orders has finished. 

Feeding flash – when you’re trying to be discrete when breastfeeding in public but the baby flaps his arms around and your boob accidentally falls out of your scarf. There’s usually a man child from Costa Coffee just tootling on past you at the time or a teenage girl who blushes in horror.

– the soft patch on the front of the baby’s head. Some midwives might shit you up by telling you your baby is ill or dehydrated because it’s a bit sunken. It may turn out to be nothing but you will spend the rest of your baby’s early days checking it every day out of total paranoia.

– of the wee variety and usually occurs in baby boys when air gets to the baby’s under nappy area. Nearly always occurs when you have either run out of clean clothes or vests, are in public toilets, are in a rush or you have a nice outfit on. Often splashes up walls, across carpets and down changing tables, occasionally over the baby’s own face too. Even if you hold the nappy over for a while to try to prevent it, they will wait like a tiger stalking its prey and catch you when you least expect it. Strangely, it makes no noise whatsoever so you will sometimes think you’ve got away with it only to then find a soaked through vest.

Growth spurt – a term to describe a week where your baby turns into a demon that feeds incessantly and angrily, screams until he is bright red and flits between not sleeping at all to sleeping so much that you consider taking him to the doctors. Usually after the week he will be several centimetres longer and chubbier and none of his clothes will fit.

Health visitor
– a woman that comes to your house to spy on you and check you are following some rule book that you were never given to read. Tells you off if you don’t play the game and give her the answers she wants to hear.

Hitting the bottle
– when you can’t breast feed anymore you give the baby the bottle. 

– I’d never used this word before I had a baby except to maybe say ‘put the latch on the gate.’ This is a technical breast feeding term used to describe how the baby attaches to your tit…because nature couldn’t just make it simple and let the baby just suck on the nipple. It’s part of the science of breastfeeding that I never really quite mastered.

– oh the leaking. Can be used to refer to leaky breasts or nappies (of both the number one and number two varieties).

Let down
– a term used to describe how your milk falls out of your boob. People will describe theirs as either fast or slow.

Nappy rash – redness on the baby’s bum caused by wet nappies. If spotted by a midwife or health visitor you will be quizzed about whether you have seen it and what you are doing about it. Interestingly (sorry that should have said fucking typically) it flares up when your baby starts to teethe (of course it bloody does, because the sore gums are just not enough for the poor things to cope with).

Poopy pants – one of the politically correct ways to describe the fact that your child stinks of poo (other terms also frequently used include smelly bottom and stinky bum). Most often used as a question (“are you a poopy pants?” “Do you have a smelly bottom?”) with repetition.

Pram rage
– where you “accidentally” run over someone’s foot or bag in retaliation for their dickheadishness and rudeness (never happened of course…)

Projectile – where bodily fluids seem to fly through the air in slow motion. Not just the baby’s if you have a fast let down.

Pump – not a fart and not a plimsole but a method of extracting milk from your boob that doesn’t involve the baby. The Medela is the Daddy of all pumps but some Mums (the hardcore) may prefer either a manual pump or to hand express.

Reflux – God’s way of telling you that you did something bad in a past life. It’s essentially heartburn and sick that makes your baby scream in agony but in a cruel twist of fate half of the doctors out there have decided to form a little club to belittle new Mums and pretend it doesn’t hurt babies and is just part of what a baby does. Leaves Mums feeling that their instinct is all wrong and with a baby that screams in pain all day long until they go to another doctor who isn’t in the club. Mum is then made to try a range of crap (ahem cheap) options and she and the baby go through weeks of hell before finally being given something that actually works. 

Repetition – nothing can be said to your baby without repeating it five times (if you don’t repeat everything you say five times you are definitely not doing it right). You can vary the exact wording and ad lib (the odd ‘hey‘ or ‘what do you think‘ or ‘oh yes it is‘ in between what you’ve said is fine) but you will repeat the same thing again and again.

– the holy grail of motherhood. Everyone wants one, some say they have one, others are mystified by it. We are obsessed with getting routines and when we get them we are scared to leave the house for fear of breaking them and the baby turning on us. The most crucial routine is the bedtime one and we will probably spend the rest of our lives trying to crack it, sighing relief on the nights it works and we get some sleep and lamenting and analysing what went wrong on the nights it doesn’t. When it works we say we have one, but the truth is we’re just winging it.

Shit everywhere
– you know the phrase ‘there’s shit everywhere‘. Mothers mean it literally.

– can’t quite remember what this means. I think it’s a little piece of heaven. It’s interrupted and only happens in short blocks of time, often while sitting up, but when it does happen it’s pretty special. Eight hours is the holy grail but doesn’t happen to anyone. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t even happen to those liars who claim their babies sleep through (when do you check the breatheometer if you sleep through too?)

Sleep suit / baby grow / romper – onesies for babies that are done up with press studs and can often contain both hands and feet. Presumably the inventor of the onesie saw these and thought “they look comfortable as hell, I want a piece of that action“.

– a never-ending task of cleaning everything the baby comes into contact with. You’re totally on board with it until you realise your 12 week old has a) done a fountain all over his own face or b) is frantically sucking on his hands (because of early teething) just after he’s batted a dirty nappy with one of them and mopped up his own reflux with the other.

Thunderbolt – a baby poo that is so violent and loud you think your house shook. Typically the poo will leak through multiple layers of clothing.

– the PC term for weeing.

– an item of clothing that, aside from keeping the baby warmer, is there to try to prevent shit (physical) from escaping onto the top layer of clothing. Pretty fruitless if you have a baby that does multiple thunderbolts. 

– the main talking point of mother and baby groups and apparently the best way to measure how well your baby is doing. Interestingly it’s the one time you want your baby to be putting on a lot of weight, but not too much or you might get told off by the health visitor for adding to the obesity epidemic.

– the second main topic of conversation around mothers. Getting wind out of babies is a science in its own right, and every Mum has a new technique to share from standard sit and pats and cycling of legs to awkward slut drops with the baby and spider fingers up the back.

Witching hour
– called ‘hour’ presumably by some doctor that had never experienced it, but in reality is the whole evening (every evening) where your baby cries for no reason except to drive you crazy. It’s a baby conspiracy.


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