A Baby Glossary of Terms for Clueless Dads

Whenever you find yourself working in a new industry or taking on a new role, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the new lingo and jargon. Everyone around you seems to know what they’re talking about, but you’re completely lost. Such is the case when you become a new mom or dad, except it seems that new moms tackle this extensive lexicon more readily. Fret not, my brothers in spit-up-soaked arms. I’m here to help.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post outlining some of the most common mommy jargon acronyms that you may find as you make your way around the “parenting” sites and forums. I was completely and utterly lost among all the EBF SAHMs who were talking about how their LOs were struggling with CIO. But now that’s all clear.

Stumbling into a baby store as an expectant or first-time parent can be remarkably overwhelming. There’s so much stuff and it can be hard to know what’s what. What’s the difference between a convertible car seat and a travel system anyway?

While the baby glossary below certainly isn’t exhaustive — it couldn’t possibly be utterly comprehensive as new products and terms come up all the time — it will give you a good place to start before you blindly meander through those aisles with your eyes wide open.

  • Baby Carrier: A contraption that holds your baby in place safely on your chest (or back). Think of it sort of like an open backpack with holes for baby’s limbs. Popular brands include Ergobaby and Baby Bjorn.
  • Baby Sling: Similar in function to a baby carrier, a baby sling is a piece of cloth that supports your baby on your body. It’s more like a wrap.
  • Bassinet: Different from a crib, a bassinet is much smaller, oftentimes comes with a hood, and is only useful for the first few months. Handy for allowing baby to sleep in the same room as parents without co-sleeping.
  • Binky: An alternative term for the same thing as a pacifier, dummy or nuk. Technically, binky is a trademark of Playtex but is used more generally (like “Kleenex” or “Q-Tip”).
  • Bumbo: A brand name of baby seat that you put on the floor. Popular for reasons I do not comprehend.
  • Bouncer: Not to be confused with the guy that kicks you out of a club, a bouncer is a baby seat usually with a flexible frame so baby can “bounce” in it by leaning back and forth.
  • Convertible Car Seat: A car seat that converts from rear-facing to forward-facing to accommodate children from newborn to about 50 pounds (depending on the model). Different from an infant car seat, which is only rear-facing and holds baby in more of an incline.
  • Exersaucer: An activity table with a rotating seat in the center for the baby.
  • Hooded Towel: A bath towel for baby where one of the corners has an extra triangle of material to form a “hood” to be placed over the baby’s wet head.
  • Layette: Sometimes used interchangeably with bodysuit or onesie, though they may be technically different from one another. Usually has crotch snaps. May or may not include the “pants” portion. Can come in short sleeve or long sleeve.
  • Lovey: A security blanket for baby (think Linus from Peanuts). May or may not have a stuffed animal head at the top.
  • Muslin: A lightweight cotton material used for everything from crib sheets to burp cloths, receiving blankets to clothing.
  • Playmat/Play Gym: A soft mat placed on the ground with a number of activities on it. The play “gym” usually has a vertical element to it, like an arch or tent-like portion.
  • Playard/Playpen: A portable enclosure, usually with mesh walls, to hold a baby or toddler. Terms are used interchangeably and vary by region.
  • Pram: What Brits, Aussies and some other people call strollers. The terms “buggy” and “push-chair” are sometimes used too.
  • Receiving Blanket: A soft, lightweight blanket used to wrap up an infant and for all sorts of other related purposes. Usually made of muslin, cotton flannel or fleece.
  • Sophie: A remarkably popular giraffe-shaped teething toy for reasons that continue to escape me.
  • Swaddle: Wrapping up the baby tightly in a blanket such that only his or her head is visible above the blanket’s edge. Useful for newborns (provides a sense of security and comfort, like being back in mother’s womb), not recommended after a couple months.
  • Travel System: A combination wherein the car seat can be removed from the car seat base and placed into the stroller or stroller frame. The infant car seat usually has a handle for ease of transport.

Are there any baby product terms that confuse you? For experienced parents, were there any terms that once confused you that have since become a part of your everyday vernacular?