What is Mommy Brain & How To Manage Postpartum Brain Fog
Do you lose your coffee cup five times a day? Drive to the store and can’t remember what you’re there to buy? Forget your dog’s name? Find the orange juice in the pantry? Your cell phone in the fridge? Spend 10 minutes looking for your glasses… that are perched on your head?
If so, you probably have a case of “mommy brain”—and although the trope of the over-tired, absentminded mom has been joked about for years, a growing body of research shows that “mom brain” isn’t a joke at all, but is a very real cognitive change experienced by most postpartum women.
What is Mommy Brain?
Mommy brain, momnesia, and baby brain all refer to the same thing: the memory loss and brain fog that a large majority of women experience when they become moms. Similar to pregnancy brain—the fuzzy brain and trouble focusing and remembering that starts in the first trimester and ends with birth—it’s a phenomenon that can be frustrating and overwhelming, just when you’re trying to adjust to life as a new mom.
If you find yourself plagued by haziness and memory loss, don’t panic. Postpartum brain fog a very normal experience and you are certainly not alone in feeling this way.
The Scientific Proof of Mom Brain
The sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn contributes to “mom brain”, but it’s not the only cause. Researchers have found that the hormonal changes of pregnancy and the stress of caring for a baby is also associated with postpartum memory loss and the ability to think clearly.
But there’s also a growing body of evidence that pregnancy actually reshapes the brain, causing a loss of grey matter in the hippocampus, the area of your brain that’s responsible for memory and new learning. Couple this with sleepless nights and the overwhelming changes that come with a new baby and it’s no wonder new moms often feel like their brain isn’t firing on all four cylinders.
Is Mom Brain Real? Yes! And Here’s How It Actually Helps
Before you start panicking about your “mommy brain”, consider this: the same research that found the loss of grey matter also attributes these changes to increased bonding between moms and their babies. As grey matter shrinks, there’s growth in other regions of the brain—the amygdala, hypothalamus, substantia nigra and prefrontal cortex—that increase the positive feelings you have about your baby and help you make decisions and manage emotions.
How Long Does Pregnancy Brain Last?
While a study in Nature Neuroscience found that changes in brain structure can last for up to two years, intense feelings of postpartum memory loss usually start to lift a few months after giving birth. And becoming a mom doesn’t seem to affect long-term cognitive function: a Purdue University study revealed that attentiveness in moms is equal—and in some cases better—when compared to non-moms, and that while moms’ executive control response may be slower, it’s more accurate than that of non-mothers. The human brain is amazingly adaptable, and as you settle into a groove with your baby your postpartum brain fog will diminish and your brain will adjust to the new demands of your new role as a mom.
Coping with Mom Brain
You can’t prevent “mommy brain”—but you can manage it so it has less of an impact on your life.
Try these five strategies to overcome your feelings of brain fog postpartum:
- Practice self-compassion. A little self-care goes a long way in minimizing the stress of “mom brain.” Cut yourself a break, go easy on yourself when you’re forgetful, and remember that this feeling won’t last forever.
- Make lists. Jot down important tasks that you don't want to forget. You can even set a timer on your smart phone to remind you of all the things you need to get done.
- Socialize with other mothers. There really is strength in numbers! Surrounding yourself with other new moms who are going through the same feelings of postpartum memory loss and fogginess might make you feel better about your own situation—and you might even get a few tips and strategies from them on how to cope.
- Make sleep a priority. You can’t stop the physical changes that are occurring in your brain but you can boost cognition and memory by getting as much rest as you can. Try to get some shut eye when your baby is sleeping, ask for help when you need it, and lean into gear like the MamaRoo Sleep® Bassinet that has natural movements and soothing sounds to calm your baby and help them sleep longer—so you can catch up on your rest, too. Find more tips on how to get more sleep here.
- Focus on the big picture. Make this your mantra: “Mom brain won’t last forever.” Though this phase may seem overwhelming, you’ll quickly gain your footing as a new parent and “mommy brain” will be over in the blink of an eye.
There is an End in Sight to Mommy Brain
While postpartum brain fog might feel like a challenge, remember that it’s a temporary change that nearly all moms experience—and that the changes in your brain can actually be beneficial to your relationship with your baby. If you’re struggling, use our tips to get through mom brain and before you know it, the fog will lift and you’ll start to feel more like yourself every day.