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Have you fallen victim to the “mommy brain” dilemma? The time when you walk into a room and you don’t know why you’re there? Or you called a child and immediately forgot why you wanted them? Or how about, just forgetting their names altogether? Okay, maybe not the last one but it could happen! Well, that phenomenon, “mommy brain” isn’t too far from the truth according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. It suggests that maternal brains around the world actually adapt so that you, mom, will quickly respond to a baby’s cry. Your brain’s response is actually different than that of a woman’s brain who does not have children.
So, what exactly is your mommy brain doing besides forgetting what day it is? Well, according to this new study, it’s not about forgetfulness, but rather your response to your (or even someone else’s) baby’s cry. The most common response to a baby’s distressful cry is picking them up, holding them, and talking to them. Your crying baby just triggered your brain to move and prepare to talk, even before you had clearly processed what was happening and what you needed to do.
“We have done studies that show that within 100 milliseconds of the onset of an infant cry, women show a motor-evoked response associated with arm movement,” says Dr. Marc Bornstein
To further explain what exactly is happening in the mommy’s brain in relation to a baby’s cry, MRI scans of their brains showed heightened activity in the regions activating caregiving, movement, and speech.
They also found that while some mothers were being scanned and heard their own baby’s cry, it activated the same regions tied to the intentions of moving, grasping, and speaking. This is the beginning process of auditory stimulation and caregiving.
What’s fascinating about these brain changes is that they were detectable within three months of the mother giving birth. This suggests that during the process of pregnancy and birth, the brain adapted to the new life outside the mother’s womb and triggered a protective mechanism over their most vulnerable human offspring.
Mommy Brain Beyond Infant Years
Need a brain-dump? Actually, yes, you do! According to the University of Toronto in Canada it is beneficial for moms to be forgetful. It is actually a safety mechanism to make sure unnecessary information is purged so that you can focus on protecting your child and surviving. It may sound primal, however, forgetting irrelevant details allows you to focus on every-day decision making.
Even though it feels like your brain is mush and you probably feel worthless because you are forgetting the simple things in your everyday routine, remember this, it is a necessity. You do not have to remember every little detail because quite frankly, those non-essential moments are not needed to make you a great mom.
Do Less With Mommy Brain
Parenting suggests that you do less. It is time to live in the moment instead of thinking ahead and behind. Are your thoughts swelling with your pending to-do list or are you taking the moment to smell your baby’s head?
By focusing on what matters most (no multi-tasking), you will have less to remember which will, in turn, give you less anxiety about forgetting things. By doing less you will have to remember less. So if you are a mother of multiple children, try to schedule any appointments all on the same day, put them all into the same sport that can be grouped by ages on the same day, and watch how your mommy brain tunes into what matters most.
Mommy Brain Before Motherhood
What if you are not a mother yet? Is this your fate to come? There are variations in the brain according to Mind Body Green, that determine how a woman transitions seamlessly into motherhood and those who may have a difficult time with it. You may find that some moms-to-be have a minimal response within their maternal brain circuits. This may cause fluctuations with their emotions, feelings about whether or not she is capable enough to be a mother, and whether or not a woman has the ability to bond with her child.
There are so many extenuating circumstances like the woman’s environment, emotional support, hormone levels, and more that influence how her brain will be wired into the new role of mother. So take the steps necessary to take care of you in order to make your transition into motherhood a happy and healthy one.
Next time you or someone you know claims to be suffering from “mommy brain”… yes, yes you are, Momma, and thank goodness for it!
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