The relationship between a mother and baby is the most precious human bond, no questions about it.
As you are preparing for the arrival of your precious baby, setting up the nursery, buying clothes, and packing for the delivery at your hospital or your midwife, you already know that the birth of the baby will be the most challenging and rewarding day of your life.
Ayurveda, the ancient wisdom of longevity, as practiced in South Asia for thousands of years, has many supportive and empowering guidelines to ease your way, prepare you to develop trust in yourself and your body, and establish a bond that will endure for lifetimes.
I grew up in a traditional family watching my mother, aunts, and grandparents care for our pregnant family members.
In this blog, I will be sharing guidance from my experience as an Ayurveda lifestyle consultant and as a woman who experienced these supportive practices.
Even though there are many unknowns in childbirth and caring for a newborn is immensely challenging, irrespective of whether you are embarking on this journey by yourself or with a partner and community, you will find many tools and tips here that will ease your heart and bring more joy into your life.
Mother Baby Bonding During Pregnancy
The sweet, loving, unconditional care that a mother offers her baby during the first 1000 days of the baby’s life, will set her up for success as a well-adjusted human of great intelligence, who trusts in herself and others, has enhanced immunity and the ability to manage stress in wholesome ways.
A baby who is deprived of the nourishing attachment from her mother or primary caregiver may grow up to face personality disorders, dysfunctional attachment with others, propensity for addictions, and a reduced lifespan due to chronic health conditions.
Ayurveda is the art and science of aligning and tuning ourselves with our body, and the body’s wisdom.
Pregnancy, postpartum, and delivery are times when the body takes over and ignoring or going against the body’s cues, has damaging effects on both the mother, baby, and the family.
Mommy To Be, Take Plenty of Rest
Pregnancy, delivery and postpartum can be overwhelming for a modern woman who is used to being in control of her body. When Mother Nature takes over, it is usually an adjustment to trust Her and surrender.
During this important phase many of the ways our body functions can be counter-intuitive. This is a challenge especially for women who hold high-powered roles and are used to flexing their life and bodies to their demanding schedules.
One of the first advice from Ayurveda is to exercise in moderation and to get plenty of rest before the delivery and postpartum.
With the increase in the baby’s size, breathing is constricted and the stomach is usually pushed up discharging small amounts of reflux, a very uncomfortable situation. Also during the last few weeks, feet can get swollen from the impaired circulation.
Trust that your body is doing all it can and has its priorities straight.
Allow the body to rest by eating small, fresh, vegetable-based meals made of whole grains, greens, lentils, and soaked and slow-cooked beans.
Sip on soothing herbal teas made of cumin, coriander, fennel, or blackseed to improve your digestion.
These last few weeks are not time to take on challenging projects at work, move homes or embark on ambitious goals, as stress has a powerful negative effect on our immunity and can lead to life-threatening conditions like pre-eclampsia due to high blood pressure.
Buy yourself a comfortable pregnancy pillow and get as many naps in as possible. You cannot overdo resting as you get closer to your delivery date.
Here is a list of Yoga meditation music for you to relax and go to sleep.
Ayurveda Rituals for Mother, Baby & Daddy
During pregnancy, Ayurveda advises that the mother and father create healthy bonding rituals with their own highest self as spiritual individuals and together as a conscious couple.
If you are setting out on your own, you can absolutely give the baby the same benefit of a lifetime of connection to the Spirit by finding time for these rituals either by yourself or with a trusted friend.
Your own personal sadhana practice can be setting up an altar and clearing up space to meditate. Setting the time to walk by the beach or in a garden, to visit places your heart feels happy in.
You may safely do gentle yoga or stretch. You may continue to jog or walk briskly as long as you are not uncomfortable.
This is a good time to keep aside power workouts and come back to them 4-6 months after the baby is born. The body requires every ounce of its energy reserves to prepare for the delivery and get the baby in your hands, safely.
Together with your partner or a trusted family member, set time to speak with the baby in the womb.
This is called garbha sambhashana or speaking to the baby in the womb. The caregivers speak out affirmations as they feel inspired gently holding the womb for as long as they wish, telling the baby she is loved, she is invited and welcomed. Positive attributes are offered to the baby. Here is an example:
Baby, we love you
Baby, your mother loves you
Baby, your father loves you
Baby, you are beautiful
Baby, you are compassionate
Baby, you have a loving heart
Baby, you will be a great wise woman
Baby, you will have a strong heart
Baby, you will dance with life
Baby, you will bring joy wherever you go, etc. etc.
Close the meditation with OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, and silence or any positive words that you naturally feel like speaking.
Know that the baby is hearing you and is feeling great joy in your love. Don’t you already feel this ?
Ayurveda Relaxation for Expecting New Mom
Families from South Asia that practice Ayurveda have special rituals for the mommy to be that help her relax and rejuvenate. My mother would say that with each passing pregnancy, a woman becomes more beautiful.
She is so well-loved and cared for that she has surplus beauty, health, and Ojas, the quality of vibrant health, in spite of the demands of the pregnancy on her body and mind.
In Kerala, women are oiled and bathed in special ways with herbal oils and water boiled with leaves of the jackfruit, neem, etc before they are given a breakfast of nourishing steamed plantain, whole mung stir fry, fermented steamed rice dumplings and vegetable stews.
Many ancient cultures practice such bathing rituals.
Perhaps you come from such a tradition, you may choose what works best for you or create a new set of rituals for yourself.
You may either order your favorite Ayurvedic massage oils or use organic sesame if its the winter or Coconut oil in the summers. Make sure you massage your nipples and your perineal region with plenty of oils.
If you have herbs growing in your garden make a bouquet of them and drop them in a hot water bath, allowing the goodness to seep into the hot bath. Once the bath cools down, soak yourself in lavender, rosemary, or any other herbs and aromatics that are easily found in your region.
Please do not use aromatherapy or essential oils as your body is in a state of heightened alertness and may react to concentrates.
A good rule of thumb is ‘If you cannot eat it, do not put it on your skin’.
As you get closer to your delivery massage your nipples with warmed ghee and help unclog any pores. Usually, the glands become active with secretions and may get infected if not periodically cleaned.
Also, soak a small cotton facial wipe pad in sterile ghee and leave it on your perineal region for an hour. This will improve skin elasticity and strength. During your delivery, if you are planning a natural one, your perineum needs to be at its best strength and elasticity to withstand the stress of childbirth.
Baby and Mom Post Natal Care
During delivery, the body’s Vata or Air element that is responsible for downward movement, called Apana Vayu, dominates and helps with the contractions.
Once the baby is out with a final push, a void is created and the downward pull of the prana Vayu of the heart and lungs, Samana Vayu of the digestive fire, Udana Vayu of the sense organs in the head and Vyana keeping all the body together, also reverberate in the opposite direction, creating ripples of outward and inward pull of the Vata element in the body and from outside the body.
This has an extreme destabilizing effect on the sense organs, the mind, the heart and breathing.
Disturbance of the mind, the emotions and fear is a common occurrence among new mothers who do not adequately rest.
Higher incidence of schizophrenia and postpartum depression in women who are unsupported or who get back to high powered jobs as normal is being observed in the most developed countries of the world.
The effect of pushing and if the birth was at a hospital, any residual meds in your body may give you rashes, broken blood capillaries in the skin, eyes and painful ulcers on the tongue. This could be a sign of lower immunity in the mucosal lining.
To prevent all these challenging scenarios, please take complete bed rest the first week after child birth. Forget the circadian rhythm for now, align yourself to the baby’s sleep cycle, this is not the time to train the baby.
Let your body hug the baby, skin to skin as you nurse and nap together. If you are nervous about rolling over the baby, keep the baby in the crib but after you have held her for as long as you have been satisfied.
If you are challenged in establishing a breastfeeding schedule, sleeping together and waking together, being skin to skin will help establish a healthy feeding schedule.
Mother and Baby Diet After Delivery
The first week after delivery should be easy, lightly salted gruels and porridges made of soaked red rice, brown rice or millet, fresh whole fruit and steamed or stir fried veggies.
To calm down Vata and to strengthen Kapha, take at least a teaspoon of Organic ghee with every meal. If you have poor digestion, bite on a thin slice of fresh ginger. If you find it too sharp, you can chew on Sushi ginger pickle.
After a week, you may begin to eat heavier, more Kapha building, spicier Pitta building meals.
For about a month, eat home cooked, warm nourishing meals with grains, greens, fruit, beans and lots of veggies. Sip on warm herbal tea throughout and avoid cold salads, cold beverages and water.
You may eat dessert, but not ice creams as the chances of contamination through raw eggs is high.
Also hold off on Sushi for another month till you and the baby are completely out of the woods.
You family members should continue to support you by bringing you home cooked meals for as long as you can. If you do not have a supportive network
Nourishing Diet After Delivery : Regain Lost Strength
Here are two traditional recipes to build up lost strength during Postpartum.
Delicious Laddu from Gond or Edible Gum Acacia is made specially during winters.
Gum Laddu increases Pitta, heat regulation of the body, the combustive and digestive ability of the body and helps in the improving Kapha.
Eat 1-2 gumballs every morning for breakfast especially if your delivery was during winters. Avoid this recipe if you are in a hot climate.
GOND KE LADDU- SWEET GUM BALLS FOR POST NATAL CARE
1 Grated nutmeg
50 gm Roughly pounded Cardamom
50 gm Fennel seeds
50 gm Haleem / Garden Cress seeds
50 gm Poppy seeds
20 gm Fenugreek
125 gm Almonds
500 gms Ghee
500 gms Grated jaggery
500 gms Grated coconut, dry
500 Chopped dates, dry
125 gms Gum Acacia
Begin by roasting the grated coconut till light brownish shade.
Roast all the seeds and dates till dry, starting with the biggest pieces to smallest seeds.
Run in a blender till all the pieces are coarsely crushed.
Heat ghee and pop all the gum, a little at a time. The gum puffs up and becomes light brown and crunchy. Crush this with a rolling pin.
Add the ghee and jaggery together and heat on a medium flame till bubbly.
Add all the dry ingredients to the melted Jaggery and mix together to make small balls.
Cool and store in an airtight container.
The next recipe is that of a traditional broth made for recovering new moms in the South of India. This is a tasty, fulfilling soup that fills the whole home with its aroma.
MUTTON BONE SOUP KERALA STYLE
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 inch ginger
a bulb of garlic
Handful of curry leaves
1 tbsp whole coriander
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp black pepper
500 gm mutton bones
5 litres of water
Salt to taste
1 tbsp ghee
1 small onion, sliced
Coriander leaves for garnish
Heat coconut oil, add crushed cumin, coriander and fenugreek to the oil.
Add the shallots, ginger, and garlic, curry leaves to the lightly browned seeds and saute well.
Add the spices, meat and saute for a few more minutes.
Transfer to a slow cooker or add water and bring to a boil, skim any foam as it arises.
Heat ghee, fry onion slices till golden brown and crisp.
Garnish the soup crisp onions, coriander leaves and fresh curry leaves. Serve this for lunch. If it is winter time, prepare the soup with sesame oil.
For dinner eat a light nourishing gruel, lentil soup and steamed vegetables with spices like turmeric, coriander, cummin and if it is the winters, cardamom, cinnamon, black seed and carom. Sip on roasted fenugreek tea all day long.
Traditional Foods for Baby and Me: Yummy Mommy Milk
Ayurveda states that when the mother eats more bitter and astringent tastes, the milk becomes sweeter.
Traditionally fenugreek and sesame seed halwa called “Uluva lehyam” is made to be had from the day of delivery. You can google this term if you are interested in preparing this for a friend or family member, as it is a laborious process that involves several hours of constant stirring and is prepared by the family members.
Bitter greens like fenugreek are stir fried or added to lentil soups.
Bitter gourd is a staple as a side dish on a daily basis.
An alternative would be to roast some fenugreek and store it in a jar to be boiled with water as an herbal tea.
Add chard, cruciferous vegetables, kale, eggplant and other astringent vegetables to your daily diet to improve the taste of your milk for the baby.
Adding these vegetables and spices to your diet will help reduce colic and frequent waking up in the night.
Mother and Baby Post Pregnancy Care
This is the most precious time for you and your baby, it’s okay to take this time and focus on just the two of you. Allow yourself to be cared for by your friends and family.
Emails, phone calls, and thank yous can wait, as you drink up your fill of these days when all is a blur.
Stay with the baby, enjoying the baby’s growth, bonding with the baby when she wakes and talking to the baby when she is alert.
The baby cannot see you very well but can smell you, recognizes your voice and lets you know if she needs something by crying for your love.
New Baby Care is New Mom Care
As soon as the baby is born, nursing the baby is the best thing you can do for your beauty, health and mental well being. As the baby suckles, our brain releases the hormones to assist with the involution of the organs that were impacted by pregnancy and childbirth, which is pretty much everything in our trunk.
Looking in the eyes while playing and breastfeeding, keeping the phone away as much as possible, breastfeeding on baby’s schedule, staying indoors for 14-40 days will ensure that you make a great start to your life long love for each other.
Loving Ayurveda Rituals to Protect & Heal Mom and Child
During these days of critical importance to your health and the foundation of your child’s life, Ayurveda has many rituals to help bring your body back to its formal shape.
Here are some rituals that will help bring peace, calm and a feeling of bliss to your body:
~ massaging with any edible oil like almond, sesame or coconut, before a bath, taking extra care to massage your nipples and belly.
~if you have access to an ayurvedic practitioner, and you have had an episiotomy, fumigating the vaginal region with fumes of Guggulu, Agaru, Kustha and ghee will help the wound heal faster and improve the immunity of the body cells in the perineal region.
~tying the belly with a cotton band or wrap if flabby and the mother has had a high BMI during pregnancy is advised. In the South of India, belly bands are not required if the mother is of normal weight and has a firm belly post delivery.
Does a baby recognize his mother?
Babies are completely in tune with their environment and their natural instincts for survival. As soon as they are born, they know they are on their mother’s body and root for the nipple looking for milk. They are able to smell the mother and stick their tongue out for the nipple as soon as they are close to it. They are also comforted by their mother’s presence and react by crying if the mother leaves.
Why do newborns need their mothers?
A newborn’s survival depends on the care the mother is the only person to give her, in the form of warmth, affection, and food, by breastfeeding. A baby knows when a mother lovingly coos at her and responds with joy and smiles.
What is a mother and baby unit like?
When the baby gurgles and smiles, she is creating a rush of endorphins and oxytocin in the mother’s body. This is a feedback loop that ensures the survival and the health of both individuals.
A mother who is unable to bond with the baby is unhealthy and requires care until she is back to becoming capable of loving and confidently caring for another who is completely dependent on her.
Bringing up a baby in isolation is a very painful experience for a woman and usually, she fails to adequately provide for herself and the baby. This leads to many poor health outcomes for society.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby?
Breastfeeding is nature’s way of tying the mother’s wellbeing with the baby’s wellbeing. When a mother cares for the baby, the mother’s body is rewarded with losing the fat deposits she collected over the pregnancy, shrinking the uterus, her internal organs returning to their formal capacity, and her figure returning to its previous shapely form as the disturbed Vatas are restored. Breastfeeding while looking at the baby in the baby’s eyes can create a feeling of being washed in champagne bubbles, at least that is how I experienced it. This is the action of oxytocin. I was in love with my baby and every time I gazed in her eyes, it felt to me like she knew me for lifetimes.
Many of the health issues that plague our societies can be nipped in the bud if the bond between mother and child is supported and nurtured by the immediate and extended family.
If the mother is well supported during this most important phase in her life, she is able to create a strong healthy society for humanity to benefit from.
The high cost of healthcare and the many stress-related illnesses can be minimized if our mothers were empowered to love and care for their babies with time, education, a network, and societal support.
Ayurveda offers us many guidelines and the ingredients required are easily available on any grocery aisle. Once these practices become second nature, we see the results in happier babies, healthier, more beautiful and grounded mothers, and a society that is compassionate and caring towards its most helpless citizens, its children, and its animals.
If you found this useful, share this with a friend who is expecting.
Tell me how your journey is progressing. Feel free to leave me a comment or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to create an Ayurveda Ritual plan for you.