Ayurveda is a 5000 year old system of total holistic healthcare. It was developed in India and has a specialized approach to postpartum care for mothers and babies. Ayurveda is based on keeping the body’s life forces in balance through food and age-old protocols. According to ayurveda, good health at any stage of life depends of the balance of the three life forces or doshas - Vata, Pitta and Kapha. This balance is unique to each person.
1. Food for new moms
Often, mothers who have recently delivered may have problems with anxiety, emotional insecurity, dryness, sleep, gas, and constipation. All of these are caused by an imbalance of the Vata dosha.
Ayurvedic physicians treat this imbalance through food, rest, massages and herbal preparations. To bring the new mother’s Vata dosha back into balance, Ayurveda focuses on foods that are warm, fresh, and oily. Also, foods that have sweet, sour and salty tastes are recommended. The term ‘sweet’ in Ayurveda doesn’t refer to refined sugar, but to foods like yams, honey, rice and fresh fruits. Foods that are cold, like ice water, are believed to be hard to digest. Warm water or water at room temperature is supposed to be better. Similarly, raw vegetables, ice cream, salads, heavy meats, and food taken straight out the refrigerator should all be avoided, as they are believed to draw water from the body and can cause problems like gas and constipation. A new mother should eat foods that supports digestion, restoration and lactation.
Dried fruits and nuts are great when they are soaked overnight, as this 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.
2. Massage benefits for both moms and babies
Ayurveda places a lot of importance on warm oil massages called abhyanga, and they are especially designed for new mothers. This is not a deep tissue massage, but rather a very relaxing, soothing and repetitive 90-minute massage that can be done at home too. Ayurveda suggests that this be done daily and for days when the full massage is not possible, a cut down version is recommended. Abhyanga helps the body move stored up wastes out of the tissues and muscles, which is especially important for new moms as they are not as active as they usually are. It also promotes relaxation and lactation.
Babies should also be given an oil massage for about 15 minutes in a nice warm setup. Most moms give this massage to their babies after they bathe them. Infant massages help to create a bond with the parents and is great for gassy, fussy, anxious, constipated, and restless babies.
3. Belly wrapping
Belly wrapping is a traditional ayurvedic technique that is believed to help the body fill in the empty spaces and restore the organs and muscles to their appropriate places. Here, a long piece of fine cotton cloth is wrapped snugly (not tightly) in a specific manner around the abdomen area. After labor, immediately wrapping the belly is supposed to help in removal of any leftover chord parts and avoids the vata to sneak into the empty space, which is susceptible to all kinds of vata dosha. Wrapping the belling also brings back the shape of woman’s belly without much worry about saggy skin.
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