Giving birth is a labor of love that significantly shifts the internal physiology. Ayurveda, India’s traditional system of holistic healing, recognizes the need for mother’s replenishment and re-balancing following such a tremendous task and embarking on the new role as a mother. By approaching postpartum as a ritual to restore mother, Ayurveda sets the foundation for baby’s nourishment and the new role as family.
From the Ayurvedic lens, the act of giving birth severely disrupts Vata dosha. The qualities of Vata (how our senses experience this energy) are cold, rough, dry, subtle, mobile, and light. The loss of fluids, fatigue and sleep disruption, and empty space where baby lived for 9 months all lend to the increase in Vata. Therefore, in Ayurveda, using the principle “like increases like and opposites balance,” we use foods and treatments that are warm, mushy, oily, heavy, smooth, and grounding for 42 days post-delivery. From the comfort of your own kitchen and a little bit of planning, you can apply simple Ayurvedic practices to support postpartum recovery.
Simple, easy-to-digest food for the first four days.
Delivery takes a huge toll on the digestive fire. Therefore, foods that are simple, soft, smooth, and warm will get mother the nutrients she needs without overloading digestion. My go-to recipe for postpartum mamas is a sweet congee or rice porridge (recipe below). White basmati rice cooked long and slow with warming spices is easy to digest, and the sweet taste is just what the body needs after cleansing and flushing out the uterus. However, due to the inherent astringency, and therefore drying aspect of most vegetables, it is best to limit their intake the first few days.
Ghee Over Everything
Remember the qualities we need to balance Vata? Well, ghee is the wonder medicine that delivers on all qualities: warm, smooth, dense, oily, and heavy. Ghee is a healthy source of fat, helps stoke the digestive fire, heal the intestines, and grounds the nervous system. It is traditionally recommended to have ample amounts of ghee with meals throughout the 6 weeks of postpartum. If you have had a cesarean, it is best to wait until the incision tissue has healed, as too much oiliness can inhibit adherence and regeneration. Consult your physician about fat intake postpartum if you have had a cesarean, have liver or gallbladder issues, or any health concerns around digesting fats.
Seeds for lactation
Once your milk comes, the body’s focused on building and maintaining this supply. A wonder spice for cultivating lactation is Fenugreek. Most beneficial during the first two weeks, Fenugreek helps build milk supply and supports healthy lactation. Try one teaspoon of each fennel and fenugreek seeds steeped in 4 cups boiling water for 10 minutes.
Ayurveda Kitchen’s First Four Days Sweet Congee
This recipe makes enough for mother for 4 days and can be prepared when labor starts. You may add more water throughout the cooking process to achieve the consistency of your liking.
- 1 cup white basmati rice
- 7 cups water
- ½ cup turbinado sugar (or other natural sugar such as coconut)
- ¼ cup of ghee
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- ¾ tsp Cardamom powder
- ½ tsp Turmeric
- ¼ tsp clove powder
- 1/8 tsp black pepper or pippali (long pepper)
- 8 Dates chopped
- Ghee for garnish
- Rinse your rice several times in cool water until water runs clear.
- Add all ingredients to a four-quart saucepan or dutch oven and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for 1-3 hrs. Time depends on consistency – you want a gelatinous porridge and for the rice to break down. Add more water if necessary and stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Serve warm and add ghee as garnish.