Debunking ‘Mommy Brain’ By Ilisa Norman

Debunking Mommy Brain

You forget just one thing… and then all of the sudden someone says you have ‘mommy brain.’ 🤦‍♀️😂

So What Is ‘Mommy Brain’? 

The phrase ‘mommy brain’, sometimes called ‘baby brain’ or ‘momnesia’, refers to the idea that motherhood causes forgetfulness or a lack of attention. Lucky for us, new studies have looked into this popularized phenomenon and discovered that ‘mommy brain’ serves more as a modern-day myth than a scientific fact. Thank goodness! 

Who Started This Rumor? 

The idea of ‘mommy brain’ came from previous studies that gave attention and memory tests to mothers very early postpartum. Shortly after pregnancy, mothers still have a mix of hormones and sleep deprivation that greatly influences their cognitive abilities. Popular ‘what to expect when you’re expecting’ sites furthered the ‘mommy brain’ myth and even claimed forgetfulness helps mothers become better parents. Not sure how that would work. Hmm…🤔

What Does the Research Say Now? 

Miller’s study at Purdue University focused on mothers at least a year postpartum to learn more about the long-term effects of maternity. They gave both mothers and non-mothers different memory and attention tasks to compare their results and see if there truly exists a difference. Their results offer a great sigh of relief for mothers who believed the ‘mommy brain’ narrative. 

Here’s what we actually know about ‘mommy brain’ now: 

  1. Most of the time, mothers are just as attentive as non-mothers.
    • The researchers found that mothers and non-mothers have similar alerting and orienting attention. When you notice that your baby needs to be changed, that’s alerting attention. Orienting attention refers to when you notice that your baby needs to be changed, and then you notice that your toddler threw a toy across the room. Switching from what your baby did, to what your toddler did, to what your spouse did, to what your dog did— all comes down to orienting attention.  
  1. Sometimes, mothers are even more attentive. 
    • Mothers demonstrated better executive control attention. Deciding which problem to address first— when it seems like everyone needs something from you all of the time— now, that’s your strong executive control attention. This heightened attention in mothers comes from having to take care of both yourself and your children, which increases the amount of information and stimuli we need to process.
  1. Women judge their own attentiveness pretty well. 
    • Additionally, they found that women’s perception of their attention abilities often matches their actual capabilities. If you think you’re not as attentive at a certain moment, then you’re probably right. Mothers often feel mentally distracted or forgetful when they feel overworked, stressed, or unsupported. Parenting is difficult enough without life’s other stressors. 

Turns out, ‘mommy brain’ does not exist, AND motherhood has a positive impact on our attention. Score! 

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