We’ve all heard the expression “mommy brain,” which moms jokingly use to describe the sleep-deprived fog that can result from having children. The truth is that, while becoming a mother really does change a woman’s brain in fascinating ways, having a “mommy brain” is actually a great thing!
New research suggests that breastfeeding mothers and their babies are attuned to each other on a biological level through a mysterious process of two-way chemical imprinting. But, what exactly is going on inside a new mother’s brain? Let’s explore this fascinating topic together. Here are some of the powerful – and positive – changes that may occur in your brain while breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding Mothers Become “One” with the Baby
According to a San Francisco University study cited in this article, breastfeeding mothers and their babies synchronize chemically. This is also known as “limbic regulation,” where the baby’s feeding affects and informs the mother’s milk production.
Do you ever feel a craving to be near your baby? When you’re away from your baby all day due to work or appointments, do you feel a sense of longing? Do you ever feel a mother’s “sixth sense,” where you somehow know that your baby needs you, even before the child cries out for your attention? There is nothing magical going on here. All of these feelings are related to the hormonal changes that happen in your brain as a result of being a new mother.
Breastfeeding Mothers Feel Calmer
Being a parent can be a source of stress and anxiety for many women – but one natural antidote is breastfeeding. Studies have suggested that lactation gives mothers helpful hormonal releases of oxytocin, which helps them relax and reduces “fight or flight” hormones. Instead of feeling panicked in times of stress, breastfeeding moms are more likely to feel “calm and connected.”
In this way, breastfeeding creates a virtuous circle. The more often and the longer a woman breastfeeds, the more likely she is to feel a sense of calm, peace and connection with her baby. Apparently this is nature’s way for babies to “trick us” (with hormones) into wanting to breastfeed them and bond with them. Pretty sneaky, eh?
New Moms’ Brains May Even Get Bigger
New mothers are often hard on themselves. Many even feel frustrated about how tired they are and the impact that this has on their work and other commitments. The truth is that a new mothers’ brain (whether or not she is breastfeeding) may be growing more powerfully than they realise.
According to a research study cited in this article from a doctor of psychology, new mothers may actually experience a “small but significant” increase in the grey matter volume of their brains, especially in the areas of the brain that are linked to motivation and behaviour.
So, take heart, moms! Even if you feel a bit foggy and disorganised at times, the truth is, you’re probably doing much better than you give yourself credit for. Your brain and body are adapting to support you as a mother and to help you make healthy decisions for your baby.
What is the most fascinating thing to you about how our bodies and brains adapt to having a new child? What other breastfeeding topics would you like us to cover? Please add your thoughts and questions in the comments section below or join the conversation on the Medela Canada Facebook page.