Congratulations! As a brand new Mom, you are someone special. You and your baby deserve VIP treatment – and you can be sure of it with Ayurveda. This 5000 year old system of total holistic healthcare developed in India, has a specialized approach for the postpartum care for mothers and their babies, based on keeping the body’s life forces in balance through food and age-old protocols. According to Ayurveda good health at any stage in life depends of the unique balance specific to each individual, of the three life forces or doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Very often, a mother who has recently delivered, has problems with anxiety, emotional insecurity, dryness, sleep, gas, and constipation- all caused by an imbalance of the Vata dosha. Ayurvedic physicians treat this imbalance through food, rest, massages and herbal preparations. My grandmother, who hails from Kerala, a beautiful little state in South India famed for its legendary families of traditional Ayurvedic physicians, followed an Ayurvedic regime throughout and after her pregnancies. She always claims that the period after the delivery of each child- and she had seven with enviable ease- was the time she enjoyed most, as she was pampered like never before!
Food for the New Mother
To bring the new mother’s Vata dosha back into balance, Ayurveda focuses on foods that are warm, fresh, and oily- and have sweet, sour and salty tastes. The term ‘sweet’ does not refer to refined sugar but to foods like yams, honey, rice and fresh fruits. Food that is cold, like ice water, is hard to digest. Warm water or water at room temperature is better. Similarly, raw vegetables, ice cream, salads, heavy meats, and food taken straight out the refrigerator should all be avoided, as they draw water from the body and can cause gas and constipation. Contrary to popular belief, even salads can cause gas!
A new mother should eat foods that support digestion, restoration and lactation. Dried fruits and nuts are great if they are soaked overnight- the soaking of nuts releases the enzyme inhibitors in them. Almonds should have the skin removed and taste better if peeled and toasted in the oven until golden in color. Proteins that are helpful include mung beans, red lentils, nuts, poultry, and fish. Poultry and fish are best cooked with extra water to avoid taking moisture out of the body during digestion. Vegetables such as beets, carrots, asparagus, green beans, squashes, and greens, should be well cooked. Other beneficial foods include ghee, olive oil, sesame oil, yogurt, soups, and stews.
Ayurveda places great importance on warm oil massages- termed abhyanga- especially designed for new mothers. This is not a deep tissue massage but a very relaxing soothing repetitive 90-minute protocol that can be done at home. Ideally, it should be done daily. For days when a full massage is not possible, a simpler version is recommended. Abhyanga helps the body to move stored up wastes out of the tissues and muscles which is very important during the time when the mother is not as active as she usually is. It also promotes relaxation and generous lactation. Babies should also be given an oil massage for about 15 minutes in a nice warm environment. Infant massage helps to create bonding with the parents and is great for gassy, fussy, anxious, constipated, and restless babies.
To help a mother get her tummy back into shape Ayurveda has a special belly wrapping technique with a long piece of fine cotton cloth that is wrapped snugly but not tightly in a specific manner around the abdomen. It is believed that the technique helps to restore the organs and muscles back to their original positions. So if you are expecting your baby shortly you might want to consider consulting an Ayurvedic physician for post partum care – it has worked wonderfully for generations of women in India, for thousands of years.