‘Mummy brain' sounds like a patronising term coined by a twentieth century misogynist, and the feminists amongst us want to shout from the rooftops that “Mummy brain is a myth – I may be a mother but I am also a fully functioning member of society!” Except we can't, because by the time we get to the rooftop, we can't remember why we went up there in the first place. This is new mother brain.
Unfortunately, new mother brain exists, and a quick poll at your local baby group will prove this. You lose your mobile phone, and instead of taking minutes to find, it can take hours. You discover your car keys in a kitchen drawer, hours after you needed them. You walk into a room, only to forget what you went in for. And, most annoyingly, you seem to have lost words. Either you're slower finding particular words, or you can't find them at all. And they're not complicated technical terms; they're everyday words like (and these are all real examples from my personal experience) campsite, rabbit food and graph.
What Causes New Mother Brain?
Two thirds of women report suffering from some degree of memory loss or confusion during pregnancy or following the birth of their child. The existence of mummy brain is often debated in scientific circles. Some studies have found evidence of memory loss in pregnant women and new mothers, and other studies have failed to find any such thing.
Since scientists can't agree on whether mummy brain exists, it comes as no surprise that they haven't found a cause either. It is often assumed that it is the hormonal changes women undergo that causes memory loss and confusion. Other people believe that sleep deprivation is to blame, which would be a viable explanation of confusion in pregnant women and new mothers. Some people think it is merely the distraction of pregnancy, an impending birth or the new baby, that makes women more likely to forget other things. The women are so focused on motherhood, that other previously important information is de-prioritised, making the women seem forgetful.
The science community may be at odds over the existence of new mother brain, but your mamma friends are sure to have plenty of anecdotal evidence to back it up as a theory.
If you're suffering with a case of new mother brain, there are things you can do to try and make it more manageable. Firstly, you need to admit you have mummy brain. I know, I know, you don't want to, but as soon as you admit it, you can start putting things in place to prevent it. Start writing everything down. Appointments and other important dates should go straight in your diary, and get into the habit of checking it regularly to make sure you haven't forgotten anything. There's no shame in to do lists, so start keeping one. You can use your phone as your diary and to do list, although be warned this will be problematic when you lose your phone!
If you forget a word, don't panic. As soon as you start feeling stressed about it, the word disappears even further into the dark recesses of your mind. Stay calm and either the word will come back to you, or someone else will remind you of it. Don't be embarrassed about your memory loss, most new mums experience it. Laugh it off and don't let it upset you.
Mummy brain can make the thought of returning to work even more daunting for new mums. The thought of having to leave your baby can be scary enough, without also worrying about struggling to find words in an important client meeting. Worry not, though, as soon as you're back behind your desk (ie, away from the smelly nappies, the incessant nursery rhymes and the ever growing pile of dirty laundry), you'll find yourself back in work mode. Away from the multitasking of motherhood, you'll be able to concentrate on your work tasks and you'll soon find yourself back into the swing of working.
Mummy Brain – Self Help
BellyBelly Naturopath, Nicole Tracy from Nurtured by Nature says that new mothers shouldn’t be so hard on themselves, as breastfeeding hormones are designed to keep you in a ‘gooshy love bubble’ and away from work. It makes so much sense, Mother Nature has it all figured out! But it's not always helpful for busy mammas. Nicole suggests making sure you take fish oils which are great for your brain (and baby’s) and there are also herbs you can take for memory, concentration and focus. See your naturopath for more information.
Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water every day too – your brain needs water to function at its best, let alone produce breastmilk for your baby. Memory can suffer when you’re dehydrated, because every cell in your body needs water, including your brain cells. Bear in mind that caffeine is a diuretic, so any tea, coffee, cola or other caffeinated beverage you may be consuming will make you go backwards in your water consumption levels. Check out Easy Water Solutions and speak to Jody about getting a quality water filter, so the water you drink tastes better (in turn, you'll drink more) and hydrates you better.
Coconut oil is also wonderful for your brain (studies have found promising results for Alzheimer’s sufferers) and has many other health benefits, so if you can swap out your cooking oils for coconut oil or use it in other meals, it just might help too. You can buy coconut oil here – just make sure you choose organic, extra virgin coconut oil which has all the good stuff!