You just found your phone is in the fridge and your shirt is on inside out. When you talk to friends or family you forget to finish your sentence or the point you were trying to make. 

 

If you’ve found yourself in a similar kind of muddle, chances are you are the parent of a young baby. 

Sometimes it can feel that every part of your brain is just a little bit disjointed.

 

Unless bub is crying, that is. In those moments, you’re superhuman.

 

The rest of the time it seems like whoever made up the baby brain thing really did you a disservice by not warning you that it’s actually REAL.

 

As frustrating as it might be, there are some very good reasons why your cognitive functioning appears to have taken long service leave without approval. When we give birth, our brain goes through a series of changes that helps enhance our capacity to parent.

Bear with me while I give you a crash course in brain science. There are a few structures in the brain that are most active when it comes to pregnancy and birth and parenting thereafter:

 

  1. the limbic system, which is located deep in the middle of the brain and responsible for activating your fight/flight/freeze response if a (real or imagined) threat is detected;
  2. the left prefrontal cortex, located behind your forehead just above your left eye, which is responsible for the ‘smart’ functions that your brain offers, including problem-solving, planning, logical and rational thinking, decision-making, and ensuring our behaviour is socially appropriate; and,
  3. the right brain, which is associated with all the touchy feely stuff we experience.

Pregnancy and birth see changes occur in our brains which enhance the activity in the right side of the brain, helping us become ‘smarter’ at behaviours that support bonding with our baby including reacting to cries of distress, cuddling and nurturing, and acts of connection.

 

This super-charged bonding capacity influences the left prefrontal cortex to pipe down. It doesn’t quite go offline altogether, but right-brain-bonding-things take precedence over smarty-pants-problem-solving-things.

 

And to go with this, your baby-bonding super-self might also be a little edgy, because, you know… #safety and #responsibility for someone’s LIFE. No biggie, right? Except it is a biggie for your limbic system who is absolutely ready to go with every neural alarm available at the first sign (or catastrophic mental imagining) that bub might be at risk of any form of harm. 

 

If only the newborn love bubble could be gentle and worry-free. Alas, your brain is primed to make sure that you connect with your little one and keep them safe. So, if you’ve been a little OTT on doing parenting ‘right’, or turned into a control freak-zilla, please know that it’s your brain’s fault! 

While we can’t turn these systems off, and we don’t want to because it’s for a purpose, please remember that you will adjust. Your left prefrontal cortex will return to having a say, and you will settle into your parenting position minus the jumpiness.