Especially after suffering from post-partum depression after my baby (currently 11 months) was born, I find it even harder to regain and restore my memory to what it was. My latest episode of mommy brain occurred when I was cleaning up my whole entire apartment before bed, and when I woke up was completely shocked and befuddled to see the house clean!
The shock is that I did not remember cleaning the house at all and had absolutely no recollection of it. I walked in just a few moments ago and still wonder how the house got so clean all of a sudden. This sounds like a petty issue, but the big issue would be if it was something that involved the safety of my child.
Just yesterday, I somehow completely forgot to strap my baby in the car seat, and as I was driving and looked through my rear view mirror, I saw her standing up in her car seat! The shock and horror of seeing her like that initially made me panic, but I did not react in that manner. I immediately pulled over and strapped her in. But those few seconds really got me worried.
How could I forget to strap my baby in when it is a daily routine and something I know better than to do. Am I negligent? Am I a bad parent? No, I don’t feel so, but do wish to know more about my actions, and how/why they occur. A lot of mothers, especially in the Western world suffer from the mommy brain and tend to forget a lot of things, including their babies in rare but often cases these days. These loving and well intended parents suffer this in many different ways, and how long it lasts depends on various reasons.
This forgetfulness may not seem like such a big deal, but recently has been seeming more and more dangerous, such as in unfortunate cases involving child negligence, and may even result in severe results to the child, such as death, as statistics have shown a number of 40 children dying in hot cars in 2013 and 2014 already. Research has been done, and it speculates that pregnancy hormones prime the brain to be open to reshaping when a newborn arrives.
During pregnancy and the post-partum period, women often feel their brains turning to “mush”. New moms report that they have trouble remembering things that they used to remember easily. It’s such a common phenomenon that women often call it “Mommy Brain.” Some research has even shown that women’s brains shrink slightly during pregnancy.
What causes mommy brain you ask?
A variety of things. The biggest one on the list is:
Insufficient shut-eye can cause many memory lapses. New information is solidified in the brain while we sleep, and not getting enough can greatly affect our ability to remember things. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine compared the response times and memorization skills of people who’d slept for four, six, or eight hours per night over a period of two weeks to those who stayed awake for three days. They found that the eight-hour sleepers did fine, but the four- and six-hour ones performed just as poorly as the folks who hadn’t gotten any shut-eye at all.
Your memory may be affected if you lack a huge supply in certain nutrients, such as folic acid, zinc, and vitamin B-12. Iron has the greatest impact on a mom’s memory and was something I greatly lacked while pregnant. Many pregnant women are iron-deficient. During pregnancy, not only does the baby’s growth sap your stores, but the increase in your blood volume dilutes them as well, and after the baby is born, you are so occupied caring for the little being that you desert you own diet.
Raising kids is very challenging, to say the least. There is a lot of stress that comes with being a new mommy or even a mom of more than one. Moms have to constantly worry about their babies needs and meeting them, as well as other house hold necessities and errands. They are under a lot of stress to keep everything together, and consequently, toxic stress levels may start causing major damage to our health, our mood, our productivity, our relationships, and ultimately our quality of life. This affects our memory a lot, and the key is to avoid stress as much as possible (easier said than done).
- Doing it all in one shot (multitasking)
As a new mom, I tried to multitask and do everything all at once in order to “save time”. I would put my baby in a sling, cook and do the dishes while on the phone trying to keep up with my friends and family. This method worked some days but resulted in poor performance overall, including my short-term memory loss. I would forget instantly the conversation I had just had, let alone remember the name of the person I had just spoken to because I am so busy and distracted with the million and one things I am trying to do all at once.
What can you do to reduce mommy brain effects?
Start with getting a lot more sleep
Whenever possible. Do not over work yourself with house chores, it’s better (and of greater importance) to be sleeping than doing housework. Sleep when the baby is sleeping (although, admittedly, I myself do not always do that). Whenever I do, I always awaken feeling more relaxed and energized. A 60- to 90-minute nap is enough to give your brain the boost it needs. If naps are out of the questions, try to get to bed an hour earlier on most nights so that you can get close to the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep.
Eat healthier and strive to boost your iron intake for higher energy levels
Eat more lean red meat, iron-fortified cereals, legumes (such as peas and beans), and nuts. Eating iron-rich foods can help boost your energy levels. To increase iron absorption, pair legumes with vitamin-C-rich foods, such as peppers. Save dairy foods for between-meal snacks as calcium inhibits absorption. My midwives recommended I take an over-the-counter multi-vitamin like Martena to meet my daily recommended iron needs.
Focus more on de-stressing
Easier said than done? I can certainly relate. Even though it might be difficult to find time to de-stress during our hectic daily routines, there are things that can enable you to relax. Think of what relaxes you; is it hearing your babies’s over played lullaby like me? Is it having a great work out (like my husband)? Is it after having a steeped tea? is it painting or making crafts? Is it taking a nice warm bubble bath? Whatever it may be, use it to help you relax. As impossible as it might seem for most moms, make time for mommy time, close your eyes and take deep breaths, learn to meditate even if its just for 10 minutes.
Limit the number of your to-do lists
Learn how to manage time and dont try to remember everything. Write down what you need to get done and cross it off the list once its done. Since technology is taking over the world, simply write it in your phone journal to have it portable with you wherever you go.
Start playing memory games
Sometimes doing puzzles or playing video games that help restore memory function could help fast track the process.
Although you may never completely eliminate mommy brain altogether, there are things you may try to speed up the process, which is clearly something I obviously need to start practicing on. The best thing to do is try to live in the moment and embrace the utter joy of being a mom.
A little note for mommies all around the world: no matter what your circumstances may be or what your situation is, do NOT kick yourself and feel like a bad parent because you forget almost everything including your’s baby’s name. It’s going to happen from time to time. Try and avoid situations that could affect your child’s safety at all costs. If a tragic accident does occur, it occurred for a reason, and only God knows what that reason is.
Comment below with more POSITIVE tips or share how YOU deal with the mommy brain. Please remember to share this article on Facebook and Twitter. But most importantly, remember to stay POSITIVE even during the most trying, frustrating and exhausting of times. Your babies are too precious to receive otherwise.