In India, it’s called the Sacred Window.
Everything that is done during this window has a direct effect on the core health of the mother and her family.
In the West, the months postpartum have been neglected.
Women have been left alone, in their homes, to fend for themselves while learning how to be a mother, relearn what the role of a wife means, and tend the home…
All while her body is at its MOST vulnerable state, post birth.
I wish that every new mama had the opportunity to experience the following rituals post-birth:
REST: In every traditional culture around the world new mothers are expected and encouraged to rest deeply for a period of twenty to sixty days following birth. In India, they say that the new mother should stay “in, on or around the bed” for 40 days. During this time she is either resting, sleeping or feeding her baby. This sustained period of rest allows her body time to heal from the exertions of her pregnancy and birth and reduces her stress levels as she is abdicated from all household duties such as housework, cleaning and cooking. Her baby is with her or being cared for by her family members while she sleeps. Stimulation is kept as low as possible with screens, bright lights and even reading kept to a minimum.
WARMTH: A new mother is encouraged to keep warm and to avoid getting chilled. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the acupuncturist may perform a ‘Mother Roasting’ where her abdomen is warmed with a Moxa stick before being bound tightly. In Thailand and Indonesian warm herbal compresses are used to re-energize the abdominal area which is seen as weak and depleted. In every culture, she is advised to avoid cold and/or raw foods and instead given warming, cooked food.
NOURISHMENT: In both the Chinese Medicine system and Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) a new mothers digestive system is understood to be weak and depleted after pregnancy and birth. All of the digestive ‘fire’ (known as Agni) is reduced which leaves her prone to conditions such as indigestion, constipation and gas, as well as low energy. In order to warm up and stimulate the digestion, as well as give her the energy to make nutritious breast milk for her baby, it is important to feed the new mother foods that are well cooked, easy to digest ,and delicious. These range from delicately spiced dhals and rice puddings in India to bone broths, chicken soup and herbal teas in China. The similarity is that the mother is not expected to cook for herself, the food is prepared and served to her with love and care.
MASSAGE & BODYWORK: In countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia the new mother will receive a massage every day for 40 days! These treatments are designed to soothe and relax her postpartum body, help her recover from her birth, and ease her baby care aches and pains. Following the massage, her belly is covered with a paste made from spices and herbs to warm and energize her and then tightly bound. This ‘belly binding’, which is a common theme in postpartum care, has the effect of bringing together her abdominal muscles, supporting her lower back, and encouraging the correct placement of internal organs.
RITUAL, ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, AND CELEBRATION: “Three months after the birth of her child, the Chagga woman’s head is shaved and crowned with a beaded tiara, she is robed in an ancient skin garment worked with beads, a staff such as the elders carry is put in her hand, and she emerges from her hut for her first public appearance with her baby. Proceeding slowly towards the market, they are greeted with songs such as are sung to warriors returning from battle. She and her baby have survived the weeks of danger. The child is no longer vulnerable, but a baby who has learned what love means, has smiled its first smiles, and is now ready to learn about the bright, loud world outside (Dunham, 1992; p. 148).” This differentiation of a woman’s journey from ‘maiden’ to ‘mother’ is a common theme throughout the world and gives a new mother the chance to be honoured for her important contribution, not only to her child but also to the community as a whole.
We hired an Ayurvedic postpartum doula to support us during the fourth trimester, and her instruction for food during this time was that “all meals for the new mother to be as fresh as possible (no freezer meals), cooked and easy to digest. Nothing RAW, ICED or PRE PACKAGED should be given to the new mother. Remember, her body is healing and needs to replenish from creating a human AND then make the perfect food (breastmilk) to grow the baby here on earth. She needs as much fresh, nourishing food as possible.”
The goal of postpartum meal preparation is to prepare fresh, organic, whole ingredients with spices and digestive enhancing high quality fats so that the mother can replenish her body, mind, and spirit from the act of CREATING A HUMAN!
Holy hungry! Breastfeeding makes me next level HUNGRY! I recently read that the energy expenditure of the body to produce breast milk is equivalent to walking 7 miles every day! No wonder I’m constantlyyyyy hungry.
But, given that I have a tiny human whose needs are first and foremost these days, I’ve found that easy to grab food is a must. Nothing too complicated (especially during the day), but it has to be nutrient-dense and able to sustain me for long periods of time.
Our Ayurvedic postpartum doula planned many of our meals as follows:
WEEK ONE: The focus is on sweet (not necessarily sugar sweet), mushy, and blended foods, especially the first three days. Think spiced porridge, blended soups, oatmeal, puddings, etc. Mama’s digestion will likely be slow and she may think she is not hungry; she should eat regular meals anyway. Salt is best avoided the first three days as to assist the body in releasing all of the excess fluids from pregnancy and birth.
WEEK TWO: Digestion should be increasing, meaning that mama will likely have more hunger. This is a good thing! Continue with the blended soups, oatmeal, etc and add in some more whole vegetables, grains and easy to digest protein such as red lentils or split mung beans. Remember to always use digestive spices as the recipes call for as this will assist the assimilation of nutrients from the food she is eating.
WEEK THREE and BEYOND: Continue with cooked foods made fresh with plenty of nutrient dense ingredients.
I tried my best to stick to this way of eating as I appreciate and understand the importance of eating warming, cooked, nourishing, nutrient-dense foods during this sacred window time when digestion is not at its strongest and the body is healing and recovering from a MASSIVE event.
But as life goes, I wasn’t perfect all the time and as the weeks went by, I started eating more raw salads, my favorite yogurt and raw fruit breakfast, etc. But all in all, I tried to stick with it as best I could and I know it made a huge difference in how I felt every day and how quickly I recovered post birth.
Here’s what a typical day looked like for me:
I’m still doing my 1 heaping tablespoon Paleo Greens powder + 1 heaping scoop of collagen powder + 1 packet of ProbioMed 250. I shake it up with water in a pint mason jar and boom! Getting some greens/protein/and probiotics in the body first thing, usually while I was feeding Oliver.
Breakfast generally consisted of one of the following:
And a mug of black tea, 1 tsp raw honey, and Aroy D coconut milk.
Lunch was usually one of the following:
Dinner (aka my favorite meal of the day) rotated with the following:
And, because snacks are life and I am ALWAYS hungry, I kept all of the following on hand: homemade applesauce, cashews, homemade lactation cookies, sprouted almonds, homemade rice krispie treats (made with sprouted brown rice crisps, organic peanut butter and raw honey!), and of course …. dark chocolate with peanut butter 🙃. Yep, still obsessed.
ProbioMed 250 probiotics: these are hands down the most potent probiotics I know of. Each stick contains 250 billion probiotics and consists of ten of the most highly-researched probiotic strains. I took these for the first 2 weeks post birth because I had to have IV antibiotics during my labor, and Oliver was given IV antibiotics in the first 48 hours of life. As a result, I wanted to do whatever I could – right away – to support both of our guts (he benefits from my good gut bacteria in breastmilk).
Immunospore probiotics: I also started taking these after Oliver’s birth in addition to the ProbioSpore and the ProbioMed 250. This is a synergistic combination of spore-based probiotics and antioxidants to support natural immune system health and overall gut health. It contains 3 billion CFU spore-based probiotics, along with a highly concentrated chloroplast extract from organic spinach, vitamin C, zinc and the soluble fiber beta-glucan.
Seeking Health Infant probiotics: In addition to supporting Oliver’s gut post-IV antibiotics with breastfeeding and all the good bacteria he’s getting in my milk, I added in infant probiotics that contain five bifidobacterium species that are typically present in an infant’s gastrointestinal tract. There is a lot of research around giving babies probiotics (in addition to breastfeeding, if possible) to support their gut health, especially if they were born by c-section or if they had to receive antibiotics at birth (which Oliver did). I will continue giving him probiotics daily until 6 months of age.
Vitamin D drops: 400 IU/day. The AAP recommends that all infants receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily. Vitamin D is critical for healthy bones, immune system function, and normal sleep rhythms. Unfortunately it’s difficult for babies’ to receive sufficient vitamin D from breastmilk alone, so it’s suggested to supplement it to ensure baby is receiving enough. I know how important vitamin D is, especially during COVID, to support our immune system, so I’m fully on board with this recommendation.
Although my body felt way better than I had imagined just a couple days after birth, I had to remind myself to take it easy.
Remembering that all my organs had moved around, my pelvic floor was still unsteady and the ligaments holding my *used to be huge* uterus were still very stretched out like rubber bands, so to prevent injury – it’s critical to take.it.easy.
Which, I have to say, was super difficult for me because I just felt so damn good!
About 7 days after Oliver’s birth, I started going out on a very short (20 min max) walks around the block and then slowly I increased my time to get back to my daily 60-90 minute walks by about week 5.
Right before my 6 week mark postpartum mark, we took a trip to Crested Butte and I did my first hike with Oliver in the Colugo carrier and felt great! I hiked every day we were there and now feel more confident and supported in my postpartum body and I feel ready to resume my Melissa Wood workouts, Studio Bloom and RBL Remote classes.
My favorite – weekly ayurvedic postpartum warm oil Abhyanga massage. There are SO many benefits to this tradition and I LOVED my weekly Abhyanga massages. Just a few of the benefits include:
Oliver and I met with our midwife weekly for craniosacral sessions.
My postpartum doula made me herbal yoni steams to aid in recovery.
Four weeks following birth – once I was finished bleeding and with the go-ahead from my midwife – I started taking herbal baths. My postpartum doula would gather fresh herbs from her garden, add them to a large half gallon mason jar, cover with boiling water and then let the herbs steep for a couple hours. When I was ready to take my bath, I added the water from the steeped herbs to my bath water. Talk about heaven.
Ayurvedic meals made for us by … you guessed it … our postpartum doula 😉. This included delicious roasted vegetables with fennel seeds (and other specific postpartum supporting herbs), kitchari, dhal, sweet potato mash, roasted cauliflower soup, Tulsi tea and other incredible warming dishes.
We have a wonderful group of friends who created a meal train, and we had homemade meals or meals from our favorite restaurants, delivered almost daily. It takes a village, right? MY VILLAGE IS AMAZING.
WHO HAS TIME TO GOOGLE ANYTHING RIGHT AFTER BIRTH?
Seriously, between gazing at my sweet baby boy, trying to get in some desperately needed naps, and reveling in the magic that is my body and what she created, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to Google.
But, um, upon looking at my Google history, there was a daily trend – infant sleep and sleep schedules. I’ve purchased two online products and I’m really loving the content in both: Taking Cara Babies and Full Feedings Method.
The Fourth Trimester
Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood and Trusting Yourself and Your Body
The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama
The Wonder Weeks: A Stress-Free Guide to Your Baby’s Behavior
Haaka Manual Breast Pump: I had heard about this from so many moms but didn’t understand how useful it was until I got home, started breastfeeding, and realized that while feeding I was leaking (and losing) SO. MUCH. MILK. from my other boob. Enter Haaka! You just squeeze it and the suction attaches to the lateral breast to catch any let-down that would otherwise be lost. I collect almost 2-3 oz of milk from the other boob when I use it! It’s so easy to use and is literally genius. Now if I could just remember to use it every time I feed!
Boppy breastfeeding pillow: this is so so helpful for supporting Oliver (and me) while breastfeeding. I consider it a total necessity for every mama.
Uppababy stroller with bassinet: the best stroller – hands down – in my opinion. I love the bassinet for when Oliver is still tiny, and love that we can keep using this stroller even when we have another child!
Coterie diapers: I mean these are seriously the best diapers ever. Ben had spoken to the founder of this company months before Oliver’s birth and he was super impressed with their mission and concept. I also had a handful of girlfriends raving about these diapers so we were stoked to try these. Unfortunately they were out of the newborn diapers when Oliver was born, so we had to use a smorgasbord of different brands while we waited for Coterie to arrive. We tried all the so-called “clean” brands like Honest, WFM365, Dyper, etc. but once Coterie arrived, I was blown away at the difference in quality. NO plastic or chemical feel whatsoever. They fit Oliver perfectly. Never once leaked and the ingredients are actually things I can pronounce. They are free of fragrance, lotion, latex, rubber, dye, alcohol, heavy metals, parabens, phthalates, Chlorine bleaching, VOC’s, optical brighteners, animal testing and there are no harsh chemicals. Andddddd Oliver hasn’t had a touch of diaper rash once. Diaper rash is often caused by baby reacting to foods in mom’s diet but another super common cause is due to the chemicals in conventional diapers. Coterie = zero diaper rash. I seriously love these diapers so much. A weird obsession I know ;).
Herbal Perineal spray: this one is a cooling mist with a sprayer that works upside-down, making it easy to access hard-to-reach places. It’s a soothing blend of cucumber, witch hazel, and lavender and peppermint essential oils, with organic herbs traditionally used for postpartum relief and to help soothe perineal discomfort before and after childbirth. The mist brings temporary symptomatic relief for any perineal discomfort. Although I didn’t have much pain down there post birth I still used it after every bathroom trip as it was definitely soothing.
Colugo carrier: I can’t say enough good things about this carrier! The large pockets mean not needing to carry a purse or diaper bag. The ventilation means feeling cool while wearing and being able to wear longer. Being able to put the carrier on and adjust the fit all by myself before putting Oliver in makes it super comfortable to wear and hike with. The fabric is super soft and breathable! I love all the pockets, the additional removal pouch to store my phone, sunglasses, wallet, etc. But the absolute best part is the magnetic shoulder straps! They make it so easy to clip in a wiggly baby!
Boba wrap: this one is perfect when we’re at home, or out for a little walk. I love this wrap so much and put Oliver in it almost daily.
Snoo bassinet: I’ve been hearing about the Snoo for years. Moms who rave about it, moms who totally poo poo it, and moms who have no idea what it is. In short, the Snoo is a “responsive” bassinet. When you put baby to bed, you swaddle them with the Snoo-branded swaddle, then strap them into the bassinet via clips. While baby sleeps, the bassinet gently rocks and plays white noise.
But here’s where things really get interesting, if baby cries or begins to stir, the bassinet senses this and responds by adjusting the level of the rocking and the white noise. The more agitated baby gets, the faster the bassinet rocks and the louder the white noise gets.
The bassinet is meant to imitate the calming sensations of the womb. If you think about it, baby is used to being in a snug space (your belly), the loud ambient noises of your body, and constant movement from your activity.
We went back and forth on whether to get the Snoo and honestly, it’s been amazing. We didn’t start using it until Oliver was about 3 weeks old, but I have to say it’s been beyond helpful. Oliver is definitely getting more sleep, which means mama is getting more sleep 😉.
My one concern is that he will be reliant on the movement and it will be difficult to transition him to a crib at 6 months, but there’s a whole ‘weaning’ setting which turns off the motion and only uses the increasing white noise when baby’s fuss so hopefully the transition won’t be too brutal. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
If you’re just catching up on my Pregnancy Diaries, you’ll find the first three here:
SJS Pregnancy Diary Part 1: The First Trimester and How I Survived
SJS Pregnancy Diary Part 2: The Second Trimester and How I Thrived
SJS Pregnancy Diary Part 3: The Third Trimester and How I Reached the Finish Line
Are you trying to get pregnant?
Balance your hormones?
Feel good in your body?
Or maybe you’re just starting your postpartum journey alongside me?
I’ve love to support you, with whatever you’re going through. I am always available to have a one on one chat.