IN CULTURES AROUND THE WORLD THERE ARE WELL ELABORATED TRADITIONS OF POSTPARTUM CARE THAT ARE BELIEVED TO SPEED THE MOTHER’S RECOVERY, INCREASE HER VITALITY, AND SUPPORT HER ABILITY TOCARE FOR AND BOND WITH HER NEWBORN.
In China, for example, there is a traditonal practice called Sitting Moon — 30-40 days during which the new mother rests, eats restorative foods, and relaxes with her newborn in-between the many times—day and night—they are awake and breastfeeding.
In the U.S. the subject of postpartum care is too often the last subject addressed on the family’s long to-do list — if it is at all. Since the mother’s care for herself affects how well she can care for her new angel, it is wise to consider what can be done to support the mother in this delicate and profound postpartum time.Whether or not we want or are able to experience traditional postpartum support and practices, what can we new mothers in the United States do to quickly, easily, and naturally support our healing, growth and bonding with our babies?
A great start is with this list!
These tips derive primarily from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. They are easy, inexpensive (or free), and natural. There are centuries of research and empirical evidence for the efficacy of these tips—but because this is a quick & easy article with quick & easy tips, we’ll just list the ideas, with sources of more information for those interested.
1. PROTECT YOUR NIPPLES
Our nipples are extremely sensitive. Though they were designed perfectly for the job, they are unaccustomed to the experience of breastfeeding every two hours ’round the clock! While adjusting in the first few days or weeks, many women experience nipple soreness, cracking, and even infections. These can be painful and interfere with breastfeeding.
No worries! Often, if we are proactive, we can minimize or even avoid the soreness and problems in the early days of breastfeeding.
Rubbing organic coconut or olive oil on our nipples before and/or after every time we breastfeed can help prevent drying and cracking—the problems that cause pain and lead to infections.
I discussed the subject with dr. Jessica Chen, renowned TCM fertility specialist and author of Sitting Moon: A Guide To Natural Rejuvenation After Pregnancy. She offered these details: “One of the most natural ways of protecting the nipple is using organic olive oil. In TCM, we use the herb lithospermum root and soak that in organic olive oil and use that to protect and prevent the nipple from drying and cracking.”
2. AVOID COLD FOODS
Once again, there are rich traditions around the world of postpartum diets that support the mother’s rejuvenation and lactation. If we don’t have the time or desire to learn about and prepare such foods, there are at least a few ideas we can take easily from these traditions. One is to avoid cold, iced, and frozen foods and beverages. No sodas, no ice cream, not even ice water. If you care to read more it is a fascinating subject.This is one of the easiest and healthiest things you can do postpartum to support your rejuvenation, because it is so important to.
3. KEEP WARM
To bundle up and stay warm may be an instinctual response for many women, but after the hard work (and great joy!) of labor, others may feel a cool shower and the A/C set on 65 are just what the doctor ordered. According to precepts of TCM and Ayurveda, that’s just what the doctor says we should avoid for at least several weeks—if not months—postpartum.Avoid wind, cold air, cold food, and even cool showers. Warm is the ideal temperature in all cases.
4. A SUPER SUPPLEMENT: “WARMING” TEA
With the importance of keeping warm, “warming teas” such as ginger tea and cinnamon tea are not only beneficial, they are soothing and tasty. Simply boil a few fresh ginger slices in water (or a few cinnamon sticks) for 10-15 minutes, strain and enjoy. (The flavor and effect increases the longer you boil. No need to make it too strong.)
5. YONI BLISS WITH SITZ
Just as with our nipples, our yonis were designed perfectly for the work they do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel the effects of childbirth! Even in the smoothest of childbirth experiences, swelling and micro tears and slight burning sensation when urinating are to be expected.
Sitz baths to the rescue! You only have to urinate one time postpartum without your sitz peri-bottle to recognize the benefits.There are many recipes for sitz baths, and they can be modified and adjusted. You can find recipes in books and online, or ideally inquire with a natural childbirth practitioner. Essentially, they are a blend of plants and flowers (there are western and eastern blends) that you brew into a “tea.” You then sit in a bath with your sitz brew (there are special tubs that fit on the toilet for this purpose) or spray the sitz brew from a peri-bottle as you urinate.
6. PRACTICE ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING
This is as easy and free as it gets—air—but it’s likely something many of us haven’t heard of. I asked TCM and Ayurveda specialist Dr. Claudia Welch, author of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, for a super easy, super effective postpartum tip.
Here’s what she had to share:
“One of the most powerful therapies I know to balance emotions and hormones is 15 minutes a day of alternate nostril breathing. In tantra, the channel associated with the left nostril, relates to nourishment and the right nostril with motivation. These are opposite forces in the body and balancing them helps balance sex and stress hormones—a useful goal in the postpartum days. This can be done while mama is nursing baby and can even be done with-out the aid of the fingers, by simply visualizing the flow of prana.
7. KISS YOUR BABY ALL DAY AND NIGHT
In most instances, a mother wouldn’t need to read this advice. She can’t help but kiss and cuddle her baby 24/7! However, it’s interesting to discover just how powerful a kiss can be. In addition to the joy we feel and share with a kiss, there are significant, health benefits. Kissing our babies is a part of a bio-feedback loop between mother and baby. The mother’s body detects from a kiss on the baby’s skin the microbes to which the baby has been exposed and then produces the anti-bodies the baby will need. These are delivered through her breast milk.
A healing kiss—yet another miracle of Mother Nature!
The subject of natural postpartum care is as extensive, fascinating, and beneficial as the topics of natural pregnancy and childbirth. Though it’s not always discussed this way, the postpartum period can be a magical, restorative, wonderful time of your life! It is my hope these quick and easy tips encourage you to discover more on the subject and that they support you in experiencing post-partum bliss!