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"Baaa-beee Shark! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo, Baby Shark! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo, Baby Shark! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo, Baby SHARK!..." Just when you got that song out of your head, something triggers it again, and, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo… Baby Shark comes floating right back.

It follows you everywhere—to the store, to the bathroom, to bed. When you wake up in the morning, it doesn't take much to trigger its return—especially if you're still tired. And no matter how hard you try to unhear it, it just won't spare you another verse.

All of this happens for a reason—we are wired to learn by repetition throughout our life.

It may make some of these refrains a bit sweeter to know that the part of the brain that helps your baby learn to talk is the same part at work when you get a song stuck in your head. Called the Language Acquisition Device (LAD), it is the theoretical section of the brain thought to account for children's instinctive ability to acquire and produce language. As adults, we retain these LADs to enable us to learn things like a musical instrument or a second language.

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In the LAD part of the brain, input, or what is heard, is processed through vocalization and repetition, which turns it into output, or the process that lays down neural networks and commits information to memory. This is why as parents we naturally reinforce the sounds our baby makes with intonation (melody), exaggeration, and repetition, "often reacting to early vocalizations as if they were intended to communicate something, responding in ways that are thought to promote communicative development," according to Snow and Ferguson.

When you get a song stuck in your head, it's called Involuntary Musical Imagery (INMI). Just like when your baby sings and makes sounds and you echo them and add words to activate their LAD, INMI is your own LAD being stimulated, producing the output necessary to process information and store it as a memory as if you were learning something new like a second language, or in this case, the song repeating in your head.

Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo.

Humans are the only species to have language and sing.

There is anthropological evidence that homo sapiens sang (non-linguistic vocalizations) before speaking, according to anthropologist Frank B. Livingstone in Current Anthropology. The evolutionary basis for how we are wired to acquire language can explain why both unique capabilities work in concert when it comes to the LAD.

Neurologists have discovered that music is processed in the same area of the brain as language. Based on this, researchers "have hypothesized that by engaging and stimulating the LAD, a song may act as an activator or strategy in the development of language," from infancy to adulthood. And in learning language, infant vocalizations resemble singing more than speech. So when we naturally adjust the way we speak and sing to infants and small children we are actually teaching them to speak.

In a study out of Western Washington University, it was found that if a song continued to play in someone's head immediately after listening to it, that song was likely to return as an intrusive song within the next 24 hours. Hello, Baby Shark.

Additionally, it was discovered that intrusive songs return during times of low cognitive activities that require less problem solving, thinking and reasoning (when the output can more likely be processed), like folding laundry or spacing out when you are overtired.

Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo.

It was found that the opposite can happen, too. Overloading our brains with challenging activities, like grocery shopping with toddlers or actively trying to block a song out of your head, can increase the frequency of that intrusive song as well. This can be explained by the Ironic Process Theory, where attempts to suppress a thought actually can cause an increase in the frequency of that thought.

Consciously attempting not to think about something is a mental control strategy known as thought suppression. This strategy can be successful under certain conditions, but it often promotes an increase in the accessibility of the thought to our consciousness. In other words, this theory suggests that if you consciously try not to think about Baby Shark, by thinking about it, an unconscious, automatic search for the song ironically results in a failure to not not think about it, producing the very state of mind you least desire.

This happens especially during times of stress, distraction, time urgency, or other mental load (...um, parenting). And this can be extrapolated to other parts of your life, not just Baby Shark.

Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo.

So, basically, your attempts to gain mental control may actually create the unwanted mental state you were trying to avoid. (Fun fact: this happens more to women than men.)

Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

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Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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