Nurturing new moms and babies is such a joy! I put together this postpartum basket for a new mama recently, and I had a lot of requests for the recipes. Here are a few of them. All of them are based off the teaching of the late Ysha Oakes, whom I studied with, and who was passionate about preserving the teachings of Ayurvedic postpartum practices. Osha liked to emphasize the idea, that if we take care of mothers for 40 days, they will have 40 years of good health.
Around the world, postpartum practices vary, but at their core they retain the belief that postpartum women, after the expansive state of pregnancy, and the great opening of childbirth, are believed to be in a state of cold and vulnerable to “wind” entering. Cold and wind are traditionally believed to herald illness.
Tema of La Matriz Birth, taught a group of us the Mexican traditional practices around postpartum. This is how she describes it:
Mother Warming, often called Roasting, is an old practice intended to bring back warmth into the birthing mother’s body and more specifically into the womb. I practice the Mexican way of Mother Warming, which has a high emphasis on re-introducing warmth back into the body and sealing the body so as not to allow coldness to enter. Traditionally, mothers are told not to walk on the cold floor, to cover their heads and keep their chest and backs covered. Only drinks and food that are warm in nature are allowed to be consumed. This is believed to restore the mother quickly, enhance baby bonding, breast milk production, prevention of womb ailments and prevention of arthritis in old age. This is practiced immediately after birth and continued through forty days postpartum. Unfortunately without the help and support of our family and community, these practices are often very difficult to carry out.
When I work with Malaysian mothers, they have the same beliefs. In fact, the postpartum period is so revered in Malaysia, that each neighborhood has a woman who comes to new mothers to help her heal and recover. Guess what she focuses on? Warming herbs, teas, baths, and massage with warm stones!
The Malaysian post natal traditions consists of six practices. Tuku, Mengurut badan, Barut, Salai, Air akar kayu, and Pantang makan dan minim. They are performed daily for 40-48 hrs post delivery, usually in their own home. This has changed over the years, traditionally, new mothers and babies were cared for in their mother’s home.
Beyond these practices, the mother is encouraged to breastfeed until the child is at least two years old and to avoid household chores for 40-48hrs after delivery. The core belief in the Malaysian culture is that good blood circulation is essential to optimal health. These practices will help the woman achieve optimal circulation and thought to help ease childbirth in the future.
These six practices, are warm stone massage, herbal oil massage, hot teas, laying over a pallet with charcoal steaming from beneath, wrapping the belly, and avoiding certain foods thought to bring cold into the body.
This was my belly wrap, when I was seven days postpartum with my daughter. I’m glad to see that many American hospitals are catching onto the idea of belly wrapping after birth. It helps mothers to restore their core, can help decrease uterine bleeding, and help to provide a sense of support after everything has been so stretched out! In the basket I provided a belly warming oil to be applied before the wrap. My version consists of olive oil infused with warming black pepper and ginger essential oils. The oil has the added benefit of stimulating digestion.
- 4 ounces of olive, sesame, almond, or coconut oil
- 20 drops each ginger and black pepper essential oil.
- Combine above ingredients in 4 ounce glass bottle. Shake to combine.
- Apply before wrapping the belly or on its own for a warming effect. Be sure to clean hands thoroughly before breast feeding.
When putting together this basket, I used the Ayurvedic recipes commonly used in India to help mothers milk come in, and to gently restore digestive fires. They all rely on warming herbs, warmth, and massage to help bring the postpartum mother into balance. First I made Rich Restorative Almond Milk.
- 16 - 24 raw almonds
- 2-3 pitted dates
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 1/2 c fresh raw cow's milk, or (less rejuvenative) goat's milk
- 2 c pure warm water
- 1 T ghee
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 t ground cardamom
- 4-6 threads saffron (optional but beneficial, not just exotic sounding)
- 1 TBSP jaggery or to taste
- Soak almonds (and any dates and/or fennel seeds) in some warm not hot
- water overnight.
- In the morning, pour off the water and drain.
- Poor some additional boiling water over the nuts and when just cooled enough to handle, slip off the skins.
- In a small heavy bottomed saucepan, gently warm milk until bubbles form on the surface.
- Pour the milk in the blender with the almonds and the second cup of water and remaining ingredients except any honey.
- Blend until smooth.
- Serve warm.
A staple of Ysha’s postpartum care is her Sweetwater Lactation Tea. Make it up and keep in a thermos nearby. It is soothing, helps increase breast milk, and can help with colicky babies. It’s also hydrating.
- 2 quarts water
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel and fenugreek seeds
- Boil fennel and fenugreek seeds in 2 quarts of water for 10 minutes.
- Pour into thermos and keep near mother so she can sip throughout the day.
If you’re hungry for more postpartum practices, check out this article, entitled “Mother Roasting“, where I show you another version of a postpartum basket, and more ways to warm and care for yourself (or others) postpartum, and what I did for my own postpartum care.