Why having a baby is like upgrading the operating system for your brain

I've never thought of "Baby Brain" as being more of rewiring rather than a system failure. 

I got this guest post from Julia and I think she makes some really great comparisons here between your life post-baby and updating your computer operating system.  I may have also yelled OH THANK GOD out loud at my computer while reading it. See, there’s a reason I’m now a common idiot – it’s just Baby Brain. (That lasts for up to 15 years after you’ve given birth, right??)

– Amy 

If you are pregnant you have surely been made acutely aware that your brain is turning to mush. Not only are your friends letting you know that you can’t be trusted with numbers, you are also experiencing first hand the impact of Baby Brain.

Maybe you got to the shops and forgot what you needed to buy.  Maybe you tried writing a list on the back of your hand but couldn’t remember where you put your pen. Maybe you lost your car keys, or worse, your car.

Many mothers feel like they’ve had a lobotomy when they have their baby. Some even joke that they created their baby’s brain by donation of their own.

Baby Brain is real. Your brain can actually SHRINK as much as 7% when you have a baby (true fact!) Although some days it feels more like 27% to me.

So, what is it? Baby Brain is when your brain is flooded with a hormone called oxytocin. There are other factors involved, including more hormones and the obvious sleep deprivation, but oxytocin is the most interesting part of the equation.

Oxytocin is the love hormone, and is responsible for sleeping, relaxing and breastfeeding. It’s responsible for so many aspects of enjoying motherhood. Oxytocin is that sweet, gooey, mushy feeling of falling of love. It’s gazing into your baby’s eyes and completely forgetting that the rest of the world exists. It’s crying when the news comes on.

Before you write yourself off as an airhead and resign yourself to a life of 1950’s housewife martyrdom I’ve got some good news for you.

A friend of mine who is studying law (and also happens to have two children) just got 78% in an assignment. That’s a distinction! Then couldn’t find where she had parked the car…

Yes, your brain is changing, but it comes with many benefits. She got 78%!

Craig Kinsley of the University of Richmond put mother rats through a maze and they performed better than…. um…. virgin rats. You get what I mean. The mother rats are more brave, responded better to stress and are more efficient. And the effects last for a lifetime.

Research shows that a mother who has high levels of oxytocin has lower blood pressure, better digestion and nutritional uptake, and feels more relaxed.

Benefits of Baby Brain also include getting better at multitasking, making decisions under pressure and experiencing less fear.

Think of it like upgrading the operating system of your computer. It can take awhile to find your way around but it’s worth the steep learning curve. Your brain plasticity increases whilst your brain is busy rewiring for your new responsibilities.

Before you upgrade your operating system, it’s always sensible to prepare your computer, same with your brain! Here’s how.

Clear up existing problems

Having a baby will put the magnifying glass on your life and small glitches now can cause big crashes later. If anything is bothering you (like your mother in law) make a plan!

Run basic maintenance routines

It’s a good idea to check all your systems are working. Test your online shopping and set up direct debit for your bills.


Finally, the most important thing you can do before upgrading is to back up your life. Figure out who is going to feed the cat and put out the bins when you are distracted by your little bundle of trouble.


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  • I felt the impact of Prego Brain during my first pregnancy (used my turn signal incorrectly?!) but am currently 8 months along with my second. Since I’ve already had my cognitive "upgrade," do I not get another one? I was hoping I’d get some cool super-power by now…

  • Thank you for the post! I am 8 months pregnant and work in a male-dominated industry that requires tremendous drive and focus – which I don’t have in loads today! I have been worried that my work ethic has taken such a dive. This article explains not only why I may feel this way but also reassures me that I’ll figure out how to continue with my new, more relaxed brain in the future! I’m good with that and my job will probably benefit as well. It will just take some getting used to I guess. In the meantime, has anyone seen my keys?

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