Most adults, and kids for that matter, have heard of “mommy brain”, a common moniker for moms when things fall by the wayside.
I am sure many moms will raise their hand to have left without their kids’ shoes, leaving lunch on top of the car or any other variety of nutty things we seem to do.
This seemingly new behavior can feel frustrating especially when before kids we seemed to have it all together.
Case in point.
I was leaving one morning while trying to wrangle my two girls, under age 7. As we backed out of the garage, the refrigerator door was wide open. The same refrigerator door I had just used to pull out their lunches. I will blame the wrangling of kids for not even thinking of closing the refrigerator door.
Despite the feeling of helplessness in these lapses of thought, there is actually good news for us mommas. A growing amount of research on mommy brain has focused on the concepts of what is happening to one’s body and brain during and after pregnancy.
The early research is fascinating and sheds light on the ever-growing collection of forgetful mom memes. So, does mommy brain really exist?
While it does appear we are literally losing our minds (I kid, I kid), based on brain studies postpartum, the grey matter of the brain reduces in size in some areas. This process is called pruning and happens when our brain needs to focus on responsiveness and bonding with our new baby.
An alternative study evaluated whether attention and memory are measurably impacted in moms – is mommy brain a thing?
The study involved moms at one year post-delivery to see if they had a harder time staying focused. The results?
Mommy brain is just a cultural perception. In fact, moms were just as alert, able to move from one task to another, and most have slightly better attention than non-moms.
Now for a sigh of relief. Cultural perceptions can cause added stress and anxiety that are unnecessary. So instead, let us shout out to the masses that our brains are healthy, happy, and attentive.
Tips for Moms Juggling All Things
Becoming a parent creates a new dynamic, one that you cannot entirely prepare for before baby arrives. Mommy brain may feel real but take note that stress, among other things, plays a major role in one’s attention and focus.
These tips will guide you on the path of feeling refreshed and ready to take on whatever the day brings.
Getting enough sleep cannot be emphasized enough. Some mommas pride themselves on minimal sleep but it can create sustained health problems and is proven to be linked to mommy brain. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Check-in with your provider annually and share any concerns you may have over changing hormones.
Hormone regulation helps the body in so many ways, especially the love hormone, oxytocin, that creates the trusting maternal bond we develop postpartum.
Food is Gold
Skipping meals has an impact on whether you are able to focus and think clearly.
Always have snacks on hand and ensure you have a seat at the dinner table – avoid being on clean-up duty and eating just the leftovers. We love a weekly meal planner to help.
Ask for Help
Guilty! Oftentimes, moms take on the world but remember you do not have to. Find ways to ask for help whether it is having your partner/friend / family member/neighbor handle pick-up or drop-off a few times, splitting dinner duty, or take turns packing up the kids.
Whatever your support system looks like, do not be afraid to ask for help.
This is no easy feat if you are juggling your kid’s schedule and your own. Make a list, write out a calendar, and use a planner or any tool that works for you.
Writing down what needs to be accomplished can help you feel more organized and give you visibility to all the amazing things you are accomplishing. Remember, little wins count too – even if that means you “only” took out the trash.
Take Care Of Yourself, Momma
Above all, give yourself some grace. Research has proven that mommy brain is just a cultural perception.
Take this to your advantage and use the tips shared to create a healthier you. When your babies entered this life, you became their world and with that came a lot more responsibility.
Take time for yourself and know mommy brain is just another way of saying, “I need help!”
Research sources used in this article:
Hoekzema, E., Barba-Müller, E., Pozzobon, C. et al. Pregnancy leads to long-lasting changes in human brain structure. Nat Neurosci 20, 287–296 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.445
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