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Parenting on Fumes: ‘Mom Brain’ Is Real, Make It Fabulous

By Sara Butler

The Truth of Mom Brain

If you have kids, chances are that, at some point, you’ve trudged to the coffee maker in the early morning hours and made a pot, only to discover that you neglected to put any coffee in the machine. Or you’ve opened up your kitchen cabinet to be greeted not by the mixer you’re looking for, but a now-warm half gallon of milk. It’s “mom brain” and it’s … what was I saying?

Mom Brain: What Is It?

In a nutshell, mom brain is a term used to describe the brain fog and forgetfulness that often accompanies the birth of a child. You may have heard it called baby brain, mommy brain, or even my personal favorite, momnesia. And if you have kids, you know exactly what it is whether you have a word for it or not because, chances are, it’s caused you to struggle to recall your own child’s name at some point. It really makes you feel like mother of the year material.

OK, But Is Mom Brain Real?

Mom brain is real. Really real. Scientists have found that the brain of a mom is different in many ways, and not all are related to forgetfulness. Although the brain is an amazing organ that can adapt to many different things, it adapts when people have babies, too.

Researchers have found that after giving birth, the grey matter in the brain increases in some parts of the brain. These new neurons are meant to help your brain take a crash course in caring for a new little one and are quite helpful. For example, there is growth in the amygdala region of your brain and the prefrontal cortex, which researchers believe helps establish positive feelings about your baby and helps you to make decisions for them on a daily basis.

It's not these changes that cause mom brain, though. Mom brain is not your brain slipping or losing the ability to handle information, it’s simply a shift of focus centered around your baby. Your brain is simply putting more energy into keeping this new little person alive than remembering where you put your smartphone. And sleep deprivation doesn’t help matters, either.

How Long Will Mom Brain Last?

The changes that cause forgetfulness and fogginess in your brain that occur when you have a baby don’t have an exact timeline. In general, people seem to emerge from the mom brain fog a few months after they deliver their baby. Luckily, the neuroplasticity of your brain will mean that you will adjust to this new state of being and once again remember how many days it’s been since you last showered.

Can You Do Anything About It?

If you’re in the midst of mom brain, congratulations on having enough focus to make it this far! While you can’t rid yourself of the brain changes you will go through, it’s a good thing to remember that the adaptations your brain has undergone are good.

If you’re struggling with forgetfulness or brain fog, then you can manage it. Try these strategies:

  • Be nice to yourself - Your life has changed a lot in the past few months, so remember to be kind to yourself when you experience a memory lapse. Being critical of yourself will only make your stress worse and may serve to only make your brain fog worse.
  • Write it down - A great way to not forget important things is to write them down. Become a list person and keep a running tab on all the things that pop into your head so you can remember them later. Like your brain, you can adapt!
  • Talk it out - Other moms are probably going through the same things you are, so reach out to mom support groups. You can find them online and in your community.
  • Try to sleep - I know, you’re laughing at this one. But a good night’s sleep helps to support healthy cognition and memory, so try to get as much sleep as you possibly can.
  • See the chiropractor - One of the best things you can do is make sure your body is working at its very best. It’s been through a lot carrying and giving birth to a new baby, so make sure to see the chiropractor to ensure you’re free of dysfunctions that can impede the function of your central nervous system.

Mom brain happens to a lot of people, so take it easy on yourself. Remember, these changes do make you a better mom and they won’t last forever. Take your brain fog in stride and, eventually, you can tell your child about that time you couldn’t find your keys only to discover they were in your hand the whole time -- and you’ll laugh about it.

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