How to make the most of your mommy brain

Take Back Motherhood: If you lost interest in world affairs when your baby was born, don’t fret. Your brain hasn’t shrunk — it’s just otherwise occupied. New moms become super-attentive learning machines, says Ellison. Your baby is challenging your brain on every level, every minute of the day. You probably haven’t absorbed so much new information this quickly since you were a baby yourself, so give credit where credit is due.

Sleep: Sleep deprivation is inevitable, but no one should shoulder the burden single-handedly. In the first year of your baby’s life, his primary caregiver stands to lose 700 hours of sleep. Numerous studies have shown that lack of sleep can mess with brain function. In fact the brain’s frontal cortex, responsible for keeping you alert, innovative, and flexible, is the first to falter during extended sleep loss. So don’t surrender your Z’s without question. Instead, sit down with your partner and make a sleep plan. Then stick to it. For each of you to stay as rested as possible, Ellison suggests trading off in three-night shifts. If you’re breastfeeding, have your partner bring the baby to you, and pump milk ahead of time so he can bottle-feed the baby when it’s your night off.

Breastfeed: Oxytocin, a hormone released during childbirth and breastfeeding, promotes feelings of calm and cements the mother-child bond. And recent research suggests that this natural mellowing agent may boost your capacity for learning and memory. For a continuous supply of this hormone breastfeed your baby. Experiments show that nursing moms feel more relaxed physically and emotionally and are more sociable than mothers who don’t breastfeed.

Get social: Don’t let motherhood turn you into a lactating hermit. Being a new mother means you’re vulnerable in a whole new way and need people in a deeper sense than you ever have before, says Ellison. Seek out other mothers at the playground, the gym, even the grocery store. Other mothers empathize with what you’re going through like no one else. One large study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that belonging to a strong social network correlates with better mental functioning. Plus, social support helps ward off postpartum depression — a problem that affects 10 percent of new moms.

Don’t be a couch potato: Having a baby doesn’t mean you should trade your gym membership for Tivo. Unlike watching TV, exercise makes more blood flow to the brain and fights off the blues. Make exercise a priority rather than a luxury. Create a pact with your partner to support each other’s exercise habits by babysitting while the other goes for a walk or to a yoga class.

Eat your veggies: Your mother was pretty smart to give you this advice. Studies have found that antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can help prevent declines in brain function due to aging, and leafy green and cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, and spinach) are particularly helpful for older women’s memories.

Don’t neglect the other parts of your brain: Even though your brain is tuned to the mommy channel most of the day, don’t forget you also have a “me brain,” a “friend brain,” and a “spouse brain.” Take time to stay connected to yourself and the people who loved you before you became a mother. If you can afford a babysitter, don’t feel guilty about spending an hour at a coffee shop staring out the window instead of running errands at full speed or working. If a babysitter is out of the question, use nap time to squeeze in a phone call to a friend and give yourself five minutes to talk about children. Then deem kid-talk off-limits so you both can connect on a different level. The same goes for your spouse. When you finally eke out a few minutes alone, whether at night or (lucky you) on a date, allow yourselves 15 minutes to chat about kid stuff, then make the topic taboo so you can remember what it was that made you decide to have a child together in the first place.

Source from babycenter