How to nourish the mother after giving birth with Ayurveda
The first 42 days or first 6 weeks after giving birth is what we call the childbed period. It’s a period of time unlike any other. After all those months of carrying your baby in your womb it’s now time to get to know each other in the outside world. There are no words for this.
Yet it’s also a time of recovery. Even if giving birth went smoothly your body is depleted. It has given away all its strength. Because of this Ayurveda recommends the mother to receive restoring care for the first 42 days after giving birth. This is quite the opposite of what we do nowadays. In our modern society we are asked to move quickly back to our responsibilities other than being a mom. As a consequence mothers do not get the change to fully recover and can even end up in a postnatal depression.
In addition, we need to give our babies the time to literally land on Earth. They are still so vulnerable and getting exposed to too much impressions will over stimulate their senses. Honoring this space for your baby is therefore another reason to not jump back into your previous life directly.
Ayurveda recommends the mother to receive restoring care for the first 42 days after giving birth
In Ayurveda we believe that Vata Dosha – which is the manager of Ether and Air – has gone sky high after giving birth. This sounds very logical if you think that there is such an empty cold space left in the centre of your body where once your baby was comfortably laying. This may even feel as if you are leaving all the doors and windows of the house wide open in order for those drying and physically and mentally disturbing (Vata Dosha) winds to come in.
The qualities of Vata Dosha which are: dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile & clear need to be balanced by bringing in the opposite qualities. Heavy foods, enough warming drinks, heavy blankets, hot water jars and lots of oil are therefore highly recommended in this period.
Below you will find some lifestyle and nutrition recommendations to let yourself be nourished in this period. With a big disclaimer that it are all suggestions. Besides staying home to cocoon there are no strict rules. This is your period in which everything you desire at that moment is what you deserve. Everybody should carry and support you. You can say “no” or “yes”, are allowed to be unpredictable and feel absolutely safe to cry as much as you want. Even if there is “reason” for it.
You are allowed to be unpredictable and feel absolutely safe to cry as much as you want
Childbed period nutrition
As mentioned above Vata Dosha is dominant in the period after giving birth. This is for every woman. Even if your birth constitution differs. Therefore Vata balancing nutrition guidelines are recommended.
For this we need to invite everything that is creamy (almond milk / cow’s milk) or comes from the ground (root vegetables) is into our diet. Natural sweet foods (like dates, basmati rice and oats) are also a wise choice. Focus on eating warm foods and warm drinks and avoid raw foods and caffeine (coffee, black tea, white tea and green tea).
Here are some nourishing and grounding food choices:
Fruits: dates, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, grapefruit, mango, banana, peach
Avoid dried fruits (figs and raisins), melons, cranberries and raw apples.
Vegetables: beets, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, avocado, cooked onions, green beans
Avoid: cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts.
Grains: oats, brown rice, basmati rice, good quality wheat and couscous.
Avoid: granola, barley & corn.
Nuts: almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashew & sesame seeds.
Dairy: full fat organic cow milk, butter, cottage cheese, ghee & organic butter milk.
One of the best meals you can eat during your childbed period (even in summertime) are soups. Best to eat nourishing warming soups made out of root veggies (like pumpkin, carrots and/or beets). See the Vata balancing food list for more ingredients and make sure you avoid lentil soups since this will increase the wind in you. Besides the nourishing qualities it’s one of the most convenient dishes to prepare. You (or ask the maternity nurse) can make it whenever you have time and eat from it the whole day. Another practical tip: when friends or family come over, ask them to bring you soup instead of the usual newborn baby presents.
Ask your family and friends to bring you soup instead of the usual newborn baby presents
It’s important to drink enough fluids after giving birth. Not only to stay hydrated and support lactation, but also to rejuvenate and ground. Here are some Ayurvedic elixirs:
Dashamoola tea: nourishes and tones muscle tissue and supports digestion. Make tea from one tbs. Dashamoola and three cups of water. Once the tea has cooled down a little bit you can add some honey.
Fresh ginger tea: to bring in warmth and aid digestion.
CCF-tea: mix ⅓ cumin seeds, ⅓ coriander seeds and ⅓ fennel seeds together in a jar. Take a tbs. of this mixture and and cook it together to make a tea out of it.
Fennel tea: to support lactation.
Nettle tea: to cleanse the kidneys.
Date-milk: mix one cup of full fat cows milk or fresh almond milk with 1 date, saffron, cinnamon and cardamom powder in a blender and warm it up. This elixir supports both sleep and lactation.
Take as much rest as possible. This doesn’t mean that you need to sleep the whole day. Lying in bed with your baby with the lights dimmed is already helpful. Keep activity at minimum.
Hold your space
Your bedroom is your sacred space for the coming weeks. Invite freshness. Ask your partner or maternity nurse to change and wash the blankets daily. Bring in flowers, wear fresh clothes and put some drops of your favorite essential oil in a vaporizer.
When family or friends come for a visit you keep the door closed. It is up to you to decide when they come in. Your maternity nurse or partner will be your guard. Most people will be very excited and high in energy to meet you and your baby. Therefore it’s best to give them the opportunity to arrive and calm down first before they enter the room. Keep visits at minimum and no longer than 20 minutes so you don’t overstimulated both you and your baby.
Inform your family and friends
In our modern society it is not that common to have a childbed period that focuses on the mother. Instead, we are used to focus on what other people want. How many of your friends do you remember already serving coffee and “beschuit met muisjes” to relatives right after giving birth? We are expected to bounce back immediately instead of recovering and readjusting in our own pace.
Therefore it is good to inform family and friends about your wishes upfront. There is no way that you can deal with their disappointment or have the courage to say “no” in this sacred time.
It is very important to give your body all the time it needs to restore. If you start exercising too early you can create irreversible damage.
We are expected to bounce back immediately instead of recovering and readjusting in our own pace
Keep yourself warm
It’s very important to stay warm after giving birth. Your can bring in warmth by wearing warm wool cloths (or maybe wool-silk in summertime), eating nourishing warm foods and drinking warming teas. Besides, it’s very good to cover yourself with heavy blankets and keep your lower back and belly warm with a hot water jar.
Chamomile oil wrap
Basically the inside of your belly rearranged completely. After giving birth your body will start working to put everything back in place. It is very well know that chamomile oil aids in the lubrication of this process. When using a warm chamomile oil wrap you are naturally infusing your body with chamomile while the wrap gives a relaxing effect.
Sesame oil klysma
A sesame oil klysma after giving birth is very good to nourish the empty cold space left in the centre of your body where once your baby was comfortably laying.
Postpartum belly binding helps both your physical and emotional body to heal after giving birth. It supports your abdominal muscles and spine. This helps your body to rest while you keep a good position. Which is for example very handy when breastfeeding. Furthermore it gives you the feeling of being held and supported.
Give yourself a daily grounding self oil massage (Abhyanga). Preferably with warm sesame oil with some essential lavender oil drops in it.
If friends or family ask you if you need anything or want to give you a present postnatal massages are always a good idea. Check out this website the best postnatal treatments by Mirjam.
Please remember that it’s all just a suggestion. Those things really worked out well for me, but we are all so different so feel for yourself which things resonate for you and which not.
Want to learn more about pre- and postnatal care? Come to the Ayurveda for Mommies (to be) Workshop. You can find upcoming dates and locations here.