Birth is the labour of unconditional love. It is a transformative experience for both mother and baby. It is a time when mum has to go deep into her instincts and bring her baby into the world. It is the experience of a Goddess warrior.
After birth, the mother is in a very vulnerable state. Mum’s psycho-physiological state is as delicate as her newborn’s. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is explained that after childbirth the mother's physiology is going through a natural reset process to embody her ideal health for the years to come. It is a time when she needs proper support for her healing and rejuvenation to take place.
Ayurveda is an ancient, holistic practise that has existed for more than 5,000 years. It is known as the sister practise to yoga. Yoga is the path towards self-realisation and ayurveda is the path of health and well-being. Together, these practises can bring so much love and harmony into one's life.
According to the ayurvedic medical texts by the sage Shushrut, women are in an exceptional window for the first 42 days after childbirth (extended by ten days to 14 days if there was surgery).
This window, also called the ‘Sacred Window,’ is a time where the mother's nervous system is like a flower; very delicate and sensitive to the environment. The sacred window is the time for the newborn mother to be nourished and nurtured so she can offer the most exceptional ability to love and serve her baby. It is a time for extended bonding with the baby and deep rest and rejuvenation.
Why 40 days?
"The first 40 days will impact the next 40 years to come"
Ayurveda explains that it takes around 40 days for the essence of food to become Ojas (the juncture between consciousness and matter which is enlivening and regenerative), and for all of the seven tissues to be rebuilt properly (plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow, and reproductive).
After childbirth, this is the time for the mother to rebuild her tissues and establish health and well-being for the 40 years to come.
What is mum’s Dharma?
Dharma is one’s purpose in this life; one’s mission.
The dharma of the mother is to go through labour to bring her baby into this world. After labour, it is mum’s dharma to nourish, protect, and love her baby. So in ayurveda, there is this special window to nurture mum so she can be there for her baby and serve them in abundance of love.
What is happening during the ‘Sacred Window?’
During this time, mum's digestive fire is very depleted, creating difficulty in digesting food, life, and emotions. During and after childbirth, mum's body is experiencing different sensations such as pain, inflammation, and abdominal space. From the ayurvedic perspective, these all increase the ether and air elements within the body and mind, which can lead to mum feeling unsupported, bloated, empty, anxious, and with loss of appetite.
What is happening with the hormones during this time?
Right after birth, mum is filled with oxytocin and her heart with love. She is naturally radiating a divine glow. But around the third day postpartum, when the hormones drop and the milk comes, mum can start to feel overwhelmed, tired, and anxious. During this time, proper postpartum care is essential for the mother to have appropriate support and loving care.
What are some of the practices to nourish mum?
- Abhyanga: warm oil massage over the body
- Belly binding
- Ayurvedic herbs to enhance the healing process
- Warm and nourishing foods
- Warm showers
- Sitz bath
- And much love and care
What is the benefit of Abhyanga and belly binding?
Oiling the body in Ayurveda is called snehan. In Sanskrit, the word snehan means oil as well as love. It is the practice of loving our bodies and falling back in love with the God of our hearts.
"This is a clear message of love, honor, and appreciation for your body" - Myrica Morningstar
After childbirth, vata dosha (ether and air elements) is aggravated, and it needs genuine care and attention for the mama to have balanced health and to be able to recover and cultivate her strength. The oil recommended for the mother is black sesame or bala thailam (medicated oil) to help the nourishing, cleansing, and healing process.
Belly binding is an ancient practice for postpartum mothers. It gives the newborn mother a feeling of groundedness and helps the organs come back into their proper place. Ideally, belly binding is practiced from the first day of delivery. For caesarean birth it is essential to wait so that the scar heals appropriately (4 to 5 weeks).
What is the postpartum diet?
Ayurveda has specific guidelines on mothers' postnatal diets. The food for the first three days should be peya (soupy rice) with panchakola (medicated) ghee and plenty of iron-rich sugar, low salt, and digestive spices. This food will allow mum's digestive fire to rest and reset. It will also give mum time to digest everything that happened and for her heart to fully connect with her baby.
Ayurveda recommends slowly increasing the thickness of the food and gradually adding some cooked veggies, as well as some legumes like mung beans or red lentils.
Ayurveda also recommends that the newborn mother must have warm spiced milk at night, which will help with the quality and quantity of breastmilk.
For more information on Ayurvedic postpartum recipes check out “Healing recipes to Nourish the Newborn Mother” at www.soma-shakti.com.au.
Mama’s spice milk recipe:
Bring milk to a boil three times if you have the time with spices (cardamom, clove, black pepper, saffron, black cardamom and fennel; limit cinnamon until mother’s bleeding is under control), iron-rich sugar and a teaspoon of ghee (you can use oat milk instead of cow's milk).
Food is one of the essential factors for mum to heal appropriately and for her milk supply to be consistent. A proper diet will also protect mothers from anxiety or postnatal depression. Currently, one in every seven women who give birth in Australia experiences postnatal depression. This a significant number of newborn mothers having difficulty in connecting with their babies and with themselves.
A newborn mother needs to have proper support around her. I truly believe that planning a postpartum program is as important as a birth plan. If you are a pregnant mama, take your time to connect with different doulas and find the right postnatal care for you.
Daniela Escobar is a dedicated and devoted practitioner of ayurvedic medicine and a yoga educator. She specialises in women's Health and postpartum care. She offers her services in Bondi - Sydney, and online.
For more information visit her website.
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