Does ‘mummy brain’ really exist?
A survey conducted by the New York
University medical centre has found many new parents can find
themselves sleep deprived, shell shocked and in a 'zombie-like'
state that can make it difficult to concentrate; this exhausted
state has been nicknamed 'mummy brain'.
54% of adults with new babies said
that sleep deprivation makes it difficult to function according to
the new 'Snooze or Lose' survey, with 84% saying it is a huge
relief when your baby starts sleeping through the night.
Dr Anne Mooney, who conducted the
survey at New York medical centre, says that 'mummy brain' comes
down to lack of sleep. "It could be lack of focus or attention,
changing mood, irritability or even just the ability to find that
word on the tip of your tongue. There are many different ways that
sleep deprivation manifests and it takes a lot of time for new
parents to catch up on the loss of sleep and get continuous sleep,
not just fragmented slumber."
New parents can find that they lose a significant
amount of sleep and therefore are carrying around 'sleep debt'. Dr
Mooney advises making sleep a priority by napping when the baby
naps or, if possible, take a night off by enlisting a family
member. "Sleep debt can be repaid it just takes dedication and time
getting the sleep you need."
This advice may seem impossible when
you have a baby waking up throughout the night but Dr Alanna
Levine, a professional paediatrician, has some tips to help get a
baby or toddler to sleep soundly through the night.
Newborns should sleep 9-12 hours,
Establish a sleep routine: Make sure you have a calm,
soothing place for your child to go to sleep and keep to a regular
Look for your baby's sleepiness
cues: When your baby starts to rub his eyes and yawn, capitalise on
that opportunity, Levine said. Don't try to keep the baby up when
you see those signs.
Put your baby to bed while she is
awake: This could be the hardest thing for new parents, Levine
said. Rock your baby, sing to them and soothe them. "If you can get
into the habit of putting your baby down awake, then when your baby
wakes up in the middle of the night, he or she can get back to
sleep again," Levine noted.
Toddlers should sleep 12-14 hours,
Consistency is key: "You need to
reinforce a routine " Levine said. "So if your child wakes up in
the middle of the night, you can't bring your child into your bed
once and not expect them to demand the same treatment every
Provide positive reinforcement: Even
negative attention is attention, so even though you may be tempted
to get up to tell your child off or try to settle them in the
night, that's still giving attention, Levine said. "I'd much rather
you made a sticker chart and give a reward in the morning for a
full night's sleep in bed," she noted.
Do you have 'mummy brain' and are
finding it hard to function with your new baby? For helpful tips
from our sleep expert Dr Nerina visit her Sleep Toolkit. Or if you have a specific
sleep question you would like to ask Dr Nerina, submit your
question on our Ask
Our Expert page for a personal