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Does baby brain exist?

What is baby brain? Is it a debilitating condition that turns your brain to mush or is it an excuse for when you’re not on par?

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I can’t deny I’ve had my share of baby brain moments. Such as when I put a whole toilet roll in with the washing the week after baby was born and when I dented my brand new car by literally driving into a parked van. There has definitely been a post-baby change to my brain where at times I wonder what has happened to my mental state of mind. I actually hope baby brain is real because it’s nice to have something to blame – I’m not actually going mad, allegedly.

The good news is that as my baby has got a bit older, my moments of baby brain-ness have reduced. This increase in mental strength has got me thinking and I’ve developed a theory on baby brain…

I don’t believe that mums’ brains are being turned to mush. I think that mums’ brains are being filled with so much more information and are being used so much more, we’re actually displacing our old knowledge. A theory I’m calling BBD – baby brain displacement.

Learning how to look after a baby takes a lot of time, concentration and (without realising it) brain capacity. Your senses are heightened and you not only need to look after yourself but need to become automatically atuned to looking after another human being. We’ve all heard of a mother’s instinct. I think that this is something that your brain actually builds and develops. In the same way that your body is tired while you’re pregnant because it’s supporting another life, your brain is bound to become fatigued when it’s learning to do the exact same thing once baby is born.

Think about how much more you do when you’re a mum:

– Even when you’re asleep your mind is on alert for baby. In the early days, even the semi-silent sound of baby wriggling and opening their mouth can be enough to stir you from slumber. If that’s not instinct, what is?

– Your day takes meticulous planning. You have a 10am music class followed by a play date. You’re up at 7am (if you’re lucky) so surely you can get out in three hours? Routine: Up, nappy, bottle, breakfast, wash, dress, nappy, desperately try to help baby fall asleep so they’ve napped and are not therefore grumpy making any outing pointless, get yourself washed, dressed, sterilise bottles, pack changing bag with nappies, spare clothes, bottles, milk, muslins, wipes, clean dummies (once hunted for), toys and books to entertain, lunch (once you’ve figured where you’ll be and will they heat it). Then another bottle, set up the pram, leave the house, return immediately for a dirty nappy requiring a full change of clothes. Leave again – this time needing to run because you’re so late…already thinking about the next feed and nap.
Think we just rolled out of bed and leisurely rocked up drinking tea and eating cake? No, this was a military operation.

– When you’re doing something seemingly simple such as walking down the street, you’re not only concentrating on the task in hand but are on high alert for any hazard and foreseeing any potential danger or accident; there’s a pot hole at five paces, dog poo at eight paces, pebbles to be picked up at 16 paces, steps to mount at 20 paces, is that the sound of a car? Will that patch of gravel trip baby over? Is baby about to make a run for it? Will not crossing the road to pet a doggie make them roll on the floor in a tantrum rage? Do I bash the car that’s parked on the pavement with the wheels of the buggy? Wait, it’s tea time in 10 minutes and we’re 15 minutes away from home! And all this while singing wheels on the bus on a continuous loop.

– Then there are the endless to-do lists which circulate in your head and the panic of when you’ll get stuff done. If baby naps for only 40 minutes, can I wash and sterilise the bottles, clean up after breakfast, boil the kettle for tea, shower, change, make the bed, do the washing, pack the car ready to go out…oh and catch up on precious sleep? Not really. No wonder the tea never gets drunk hot!

– And don’t forget you’re doing all of this while being physically tortured by sleep deprivation. Fuelled by (cold) caffeine and as much cake as you can lay your hands on, you have to perform like a super hero when you’re so tired you could sleep standing up.

So the next time you try to put yourself down by worrying about having baby brain, think about the amazing feats you perform every single day in caring for, nuturing, feeding and entertaining your baby. All this with no experience, training, guidance or sleep. If you do have a “baby brain” moment, it’s not that you’re losing your mind. That piece of information has just been justifiably displaced.

What do you think of this theory? Leave a comment below or say hello on Facebook or Twitter.

Like this blog post? Read these:
Post baby: why I changed
Things parents do they’re not proud of

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Things parents do that we’re not proud of

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As new parents, there are things that we have to do – whether out of necessity or under duress – which we’re not proud of. Things which we promise not to tell anyone because we’re worried we’ll be judged and others will think we’re a bad parent. Luckily, when you eventually have a mums’ night out with a couple of glasses (bottles) of wine, the confessions start pouring out and you realise you’re not alone.

Here are some of these confessions…

  • 1. We don’t shower. After four hours’ sleep, a shower would be lovely and refreshing. But babies don’t realise that. Sometimes they’ll sit in a chair in the bathroom while we sing and make faces. Of course this also involves a martial arts-style balancing act by standing one-legged on a soapy shower floor while the other foot is stretched out bouncing the chair constantly. This can sometimes buy us two whole minutes to wash – not that we can remember if we’ve already put shampoo in or we’re supposed to be washing it out.
    But as for changing,blow drying and make up, forget about it. And if they’re not feeling particularly patient, they’ll probably be insisting on being held as we’re trying to dress too. So if we look a wreck, just pretend we look good and buy us supplies of perfume, concealer and dry shampoo.
  • 2. We’ve picked crumbs out of our babies’ ears: Did you ever imagine that babies would want to eat ALL day!? Trapped on the sofa breastfeeding, there’s only so many consecutive hours long we can stare adoringly at our newborn without giving in to the hunger pains. Plus breastfeeding makes you ravenous. So when someone pities us enough to make us a sandwich, we eat it. At first we’re proud of our ability to multi-task, until we look down and see crumbs all over our beautiful little baby’s delicate skin. Quick, pick them off before anyone notices how gross we are.
  • 3. We catch poo. Maybe in the bath, maybe on the changing mat, maybe we’ve thrown our cupped hands under a little bare bottom as they’ve suddenly squat down on the cream carpet. The same applies for sick and snotty sneezes. We don’t enjoy it. In fact we don’t even consciously decide to do it. It’s a reflex. I’m so proud.
  • 4. We put on dirty clothes –  and pretend THAT stain literally just happened. There’s only so much washing we can do. And changing takes a lot of energy.
  • 5. We’ve had wee – or poo – on our face. We can’t explain. But it’s happened. Parenthood is a magical time.
  • 6. We eat 10 packets of hob nobs a week: Look, we’re tired, we’ve been up all night, it’s hard to make anything sensible while holding a wriggling baby and we’re drinking tea by the gallon to stay awake so it would be rude not to dunk a biscuit in it…and they taste like heaven so you can’t judge us. They are chocolate hob nobs of course, we’re not animals.
  • 7. We’ll do anything for sleep: We’ll spend a fortune on sleep books, blackout blinds, a variety of musical/projector mobiles, night lights, dummies, dummy buddies and we’ll do anything. Sing Twinkle Twinkle 2,000 times a night? Yes. Stealth crawl across the nursery floor on our belly so they can’t see us leave? Yes. Bring them into bed when they’re ill but then be too scared to sleep for fear of squashing them? Yes. Rub ourselves with our nighties from head to toe so it smells like mummy and put it in the cot? Yes. Fall asleep upright with our arms slumped in the cot? Yes.
  • 8.We clean clothes with wet wipes. And anything else for that matter.
  • 9. We suck snot. Seriously, this is a thing! We are disgusted at the prospect of this. But when baby can’t breathe (and therefore sleep) with a blocked nose, suddenly a snot sucker actually seems quite appealing.
  • 10. We’ve breastfed on the loo. Our pelvic floor isn’t what it used to be so we can’t hold it in for long anymore. We have to choose to either stop feeding our baby who has been going for hours and let them scream hysterically, or learn to feed and walk. Maybe it’s why women are able to multi-task…
  • 11. We don’t apologise for being late anymore. Because otherwise all we’d say is sorry. Even if we’re three hours late arriving for a play date, this is acceptable. It’s not as if we haven’t been trying to get out the house all day (see next point).
  • 12. It takes a minimum of two hours to leave the house. And this is if we rush. Babies are scientifically programmed to make it as difficult as possible to walk out of the front door. And it’s not easy to get out the back door either. Time to leave? Cue three consecutive dirty nappies, two changes of clothes, a rejected feed, an ‘actually I’ve changed my mind, I am hungry’ feed, a refusal to nap meaning I’m going to be really grumpy all day, an ‘actually I do want to nap but since you’re on a schedule, I’ll nap for twice as long as usual’, an aversion to getting in the buggy, having to stop every two minutes to console random crying, and all this on top of preparing feeds, preparing emergency feeds which we only need if we don’t have, packing changing bags, sterilising bottles and dummies and lugging the buggy in/out of the car. Tired yet?
  • 13. We intensely dislike THOSE mums: You know, the ones who saunter around in their skinny jeans a month after giving birth, who look refreshed and alive instead of barely functioning and disheveled, who keep talking about how their babies are already in a routine and sleeping through, whose angel babies rarely cry and look aghast (while drinking HOT tea) when yours screams in the John Lewis cafe. They make us sick. Although really we’re just jealous.
  • 14. We’ve hated our lives. This pains me more than anything to write. But every mum will have a moment where they are totally beaten by emotion, even if it’s just for half a second. Of course we are totally in love with our wonderful babies and wouldn’t change it for the world. But we’ve just been through hours – or days – of labour and that’s before actually giving birth. Then we’re sent home with a new person to look after and, even though every fibre in your body is desperate for sleep, we are screamed at every time we start to close our eyes. We worry we’re never going to sleep again. And all of this is on top of any complications we might have had during delivery, our physical and emotional state afterwards, learning to breastfeed (which is hard), or any illness or struggles the baby may have on top of a crazed concoction of hormones racing around our bodies. Did I also mention the lack of sleep? So there may be just that second where we are overcome by how difficult everything is and we just want our baby to stop crying, to sleep or to eat. Then if we do think it, we thrust immeasurable guilt and shame upon ourselves for even allowing that thought to cross our minds because we know how blessed we really are. But it’s okay, it’s only natural. Every mum has done it and the guilt just proves how much we don’t mean it. It’s only hard because we’re trying so hard to do a great job – and we are.