1. Feelings of disorientation and mental sluggishness reported by some mothers of newborn babies. 2. Total involvement in the care of a newborn baby, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Also: milk-brain.
"Milk brain." It's a casual, common slur. Even women use it to describe how disorganized they feel in the first frantic days after giving birth. Yet milk brain is just a temporary effect, brought on by sleep deprivation, plus the need to learn (or relearn) the details of child care.
The lasting effect of being a mother, neuroscientists are finding, is the exact opposite of milk brain.
William Illsey Atkinson, "Giving birth to supermom," The Globe and Mail, February 18, 2006
In Kentucky for a Grail meeting, I was far from home but not alone. Too young to be left behind with my husband and our two older children, five-month-old Seamus weighed heavy in my arms. We had spent an uncomfortable night in a new bed and an exhausting day in meetings. Sheer doggedness was the only thing keeping me awake. Wits scattered by what a friend only half jokingly refers to as "milk-brain," I was familiar with this effort to remain watchful.
Deirdre Cornell, "A mother's divine office," America, October 21, 2002
Most of my customers are new mothers with what one of them calls "milk brain." They are totally involved with the baby thing.
Murray Carpenter, "'You should want to change diapers'," Maine Times, July 3, 1997
Here's an earlier citation that offers a slightly different take on this phrase:
The close reexperiencing of childhood's passions and miseries, the identification with powerlessness, the apprehension of the uses of power, flow inevitably from a close relationship with a son or daughter. Perhaps most shaking, the instinct to protect becomes overwhelming. A writer's sympathies, like forced blooms, enlarge in the hothouse of an infant's need. The ability to look at social reality with an unflinching mother's eye, while at the same time guarding a helpless life, gives the best of women's work a savage coherence. ...
Sigrid Undset's extraordinary Kristin Lavransdatter, a woman whose life is shaped by powerful acts of love, commits sins unthinkable for her time and yet manages to protect her children. "Milk brain," a friend calls these maternal deep affections that prime the intellect. Milk wisdom. Milk visions. I exist, I simply breathe.
Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay's Dance: A Birth Year, Harpercollins, April 1, 1995