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Have you experienced 'Baby Brain'?

Updated: Sep 29, 2019

Have you experienced Baby Brain?

Almost all mothers experience something we call 'baby brain.' The most common symptom of 'baby brain' is brain fog and a sense of overall mental fatigue. Many attribute this symptom to the exhaustion that comes from being a new mom---however, there is a actually a scientific reason for this 'phenomenon.'

The Science behind it...

'Baby Brain' is meant to help create a secure emotional attachment between the mom and baby. The purpose of the hormonal and chemical reactions that come with 'Baby Brain' are intended to help build the mother's orbital-frontal cortex area (watch out, big words) --- which help deal with maternal stress associated with a newborn.

What is happening in Mom's brain?

During this period of time, the mother is predominantly in a 'right brain mode'. The right brain is known to be more creative, artistic, as well as more intuitive and thoughtful. This enhances a mother's ability to better respond, communicate, and form attachments with their baby(ies).

Because the mother's right brain is on such 'high alert,' the left brain seems to fall behind a bit. No need to fear--- this is TOTALLY normal. It is very common for a mother to lose track of facts, instructions, names, etc. in the first year of their child's life.

What is happening in the Baby's brain during the first year?

During this developmental time, the baby is heavily affected by stress and the hormone cortisol (basically the stress hormone). That being said, if a secure attachment is not formed between the mother (or caregiver) and the baby within the first year of life, the baby will have an overwhelming sense of stress when the caregiver is not present.

How can high cortisol levels affect infants?

We all know that too much stress is never good for our bodies--- and this is also true for infants. Extended periods of infant stress will cause higher levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in their brain, possibly leading to negative reactions and underdeveloped coping skills in regards to stress later in life.

To support this claim, studies have shown that orphaned infants adopted before 4 months regained normal stress response, while infants adopted after 4 months had higher cortisol levels that negatively affected their future brain development.

Why is this important?

We can ALL agree that we want the absolute best for our children---no matter the circumstances. Therefore, it is important to understand the issues that may arise with chronically high infant cortisol/stress levels. These include but are not limited to; insecurity in relationships, attachment issues, lack of confidence in others, and lack of emotional availability.

How to avoid high infant stress...

Mother's can avoid this unhealthy level of infant stress through skin to skin, playing with funny/creative facial expressions with your baby, breastfeeding, etc. It is also important to look at the infant as an individual who is forming their personality and sense of self. Through quality time, learn to understand your babies thoughts and emotions such as; hunger, joy, discomfort, nervousness, etc.

{In Conclusion} Back to the 'Baby Brain'

ANYWHO!---After that rant.... it is apparent that the mother's brain has some bigger fish to fry than remembering your great-grandma's fudgy brownie recipe postpartum. The mother's brain is laser focused on developing a strong relationship with their infant rather than literally anything else. So next time you or your friend have 'Baby Brain' --- express self love and appreciation for the amazing efforts of the reproductive efforts of the female body!

Thanks for reading and please pass on to others who may be interested in our post! Join us today to help you be the best mom!

Until next time!

Cassie and Mikayla

Mamas Maternal Health Dietitians/Lactation Counselors

Reference: UNICEF (2013) The evidence and rationale for the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative standards

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