The first six weeks after childbirth is a period of deep rejuvenation if supported properly. Dr Rafeena K. explains how new mothers can take care during this tender time.
According to Ayurveda there is a unique 42-day period following childbirth that requires special care for mother and baby. During this time a new mother is as delicate as her baby in body, mind and emotions. If there was a caesarean section or other complications during the birth a further 10 days is required for recovery.
Mum taking care of herself is paramount in taking care of her baby: if she is sick or hurt, baby is distressed; if she goes without, baby goes without. This period of deep rejuvenation needs to be properly supported by family and community, otherwise, the cost could not only be postnatal depression and colic, but many other common physiological issues. Comfort, bonding, lactation, happiness and health are all greatly affected by how you take care during this time.
After giving birth, women are prone to vata imbalance due to the contractions and blood loss. Balancing this vata can help to improve mothers’ health – baby’s as well if the mother is breast feeding – and it will help to prevent postnatal stress or depression. Massage with warm Ayurvedic herbal oil, and a bath after one hour, will help a lot to balance vata after delivery. In case of the new born baby, massage with warm herbal oil daily to boost metabolism and improve growth, development and immunity.
Consider the following guidance from the ancient science of Ayurveda, and make an appointment with one of our experienced Ayurvedic doctors for an individual consultation.
During the first six weeks of motherhood there are qualities that are helpful and there are qualities to avoid. Think about your diet, activities and environment with these qualities in mind. For example, a rushed or irritated atmosphere in cooking, serving and eating will have a weakening effect on digestion.
Qualities to embrace: warm, slow, soft, stable/steady, quiet, simple, oily, moisture, heavy, repetition, mothering, nourishing, rich.
Qualities to avoid: cold, noise, quick, hard, change, movement, empty, rough, subtle, dry, light.
Recommended Ayurvedic herbs
There are Ayurvedic herbs that are excellent for supporting physical and emotional wellbeing that can be safely taken by a breastfeeding mother. In fact, several of these herbs help support breastmilk production and quality. In addition, some herbs are nourishing, while others support the nervous system.
After giving birth, a mother’s digestive system is very fragile and her dietary needs are substantial. Her choice of food and how well she digests it will aid or prevent colic and depression, and define the quality of her recovery, strength, comfort and natural expression of mothering.
A mother’s diet will affect the quality of breastmilk and appropriate nourishment minimises problems in babies such as cramping and gas pains caused by dry or hard to digest foods that mum eats. When choosing foods, think fresh, warm, nourishing, oily, soupy, moist, creamy and digestible.
Proteins: warm boiled milk; milk puddings without egg; split lentils soaked overnight made into thin soup; almond/nut milk; nuts/seeds soaked for 24 hours; yoghurt or buttermilk mixed 50:50 with water and seasoned with preferred spices; ricotta, cottage cheese and other unfermented cheeses. Non-vegetarians can have chicken or fish soups after about four weeks
Carbohydrates: basmati rice cooked with an extra 1/2-1 cup water per cup of rice; unleavened wheat such as couscous, pasta, chapattis; grains such as oats, quinoa and amaranth. Favour less-refined sugars such as honey, sucanat and turbinado, and iron-rich sweeteners such as dates, raisins, molasses and dark Indian Jaggery.
Vegetables: artichoke; asparagus, avocado; beetroot; carrot; fresh dill and fennel; okra, pumpkin; sweet potato. After the first three weeks introduce: zucchini, squash, green beans, broccoli, peeled eggplant, spinach or chard (cooked with plenty of oil, seasoning, salt, and lime/lemon juice). Cook all vegetables (except avocado) until tender, season well and enjoy with the better oils such as ghee, sesame, sunflower, walnut, avocado, almond or butter.
Fats: Use healthy fats and oils (ghee, butter, flaxseed, sesame, sunflower, coconut and olive oil) more abundantly than normal. Fats are building blocks for hormones and are important support and components of the cell membrane. Research shows that low blood lipids are associated with depression and low hormone levels. Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3, 6 and 9) are vital to the body, mind and nervous system – if we get short of these we tend to suffer from anxiety, restlessness and depression. Also, low breastmilk production and swelling has been linked to low levels of Essential Fatty Acids.
Fruits: Iron-rich fruits (soaked or stewed dried fruits such as figs, dates, raisins, prunes); un-chilled and freshly-squeezed sweet fruit juice. Always enjoy fruits on their own, as most fruit ferments in the gut if taken with other foods.
Foods to avoid
Caffeine: coffee; black tea; green tea; chocolate.
Cold food and drink: ice-cream; salads; ice water. We can cool hot-blooded or hot-flushing mothers with fennel, coriander, cumin, a little mint and chamomile in boiling water as a tea.
Dried foods/foods with a drying effect: dried fruits; chips; crackers; toast; beans; millet; buckwheat; white potatoes.
Heavy foods: red meat; fermented cheese; cold foods; homogenised, pasteurised and/or non-organic milk, sour cream or yoghurt; eggs; fried foods (sauteed is fine).
Sharp pungent foods: cayenne pepper; chilli; jalapeno; garlic (dry, raw or undercooked).
Fermented foods and drinks: alcohol; soy sauce; vinegar; pickles; tempeh; miso; hard cheeses; mushrooms; leftover foods.
Rough foods: salad and other raw foods; onion; radish; cabbage; cauliflower; brussel sprouts.
Taking milk with sour/salt/astringent taste: e.g. with eggs, cultured dairy, all meats, vegetables and most fruits. Milk is most digestible when boiled (the boiling simplifies the protein molecules). Milk can be taken with unsalted grains, puddings, sweet tastes such as dates and dried figs (these act differently from other fruits). Enjoy warm milk with honey and spices such as ginger, cardamom, clove, and saffron.
Hydrogenated oils: most cooking vegetable oils with trans-fatty acids.
Cooking with honey: this has been shown to create toxic build-up over time in the body. Raw or warm honey is fine.
Leavenings: yeast; baking powder; baking soda.
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