You have been on an incredible journey throughout your pregnancy and giving birth to your new baby. In fact, this has been a rite of passage where you yourself have moved through a transformation of your own and in a sense have been re-birthed from Maiden to Mother in your own life.
The first weeks, months & even years after birth, is a very sacred time for you and your baby. In, many ancient traditions it is highly recommended for mother and baby to stay at home being cared for by family and friends at least for the first 40 days or longer. During this time, the mother can rest and is fed nourishing foods to sustain her while she recovers from the birth, and conserves her energy for the many hours of feeding and caring for her new baby. If a mother is breastfeeding, it is also important that the new mum is kept hydrated while her body is busy producing litres of milk for her baby every day.
In indigenous or ancient cultures women probably birthed mainly in nature such as a quiet forest, cave, waterhole or lake where she felt safe and secure. As civilizations developed women began birthing in designed space for women menstruating and birthing such as a “Red Tent”, or “Moon Hut”. Here she would stay until she felt fully recovered from the birth and was ready to venture back out into the world and resume her usual daily activities and responsibilities. For some women this may have been 4 – 6 weeks & for other women perhaps, 4 – 6 months depending on how the birth unfolded and her health and resilience in this post birth period.
For most of us, we don't have the luxury of being cared for ‘hand & foot” 24 hours around the clock, however, there are some ways to create our own Red Tent in your home and living spaces.
Within your home or private space, you may call in support from your partner, family friends, the community, healers and other professionals. This may be an attitude that you need to develop if you are not accustomed to asking for help or reaching out for assistance. However, this is a wonderful skill to develop early on in motherhood as it will help sustain you over the many years of mothering, so that you can receive as you give to your child or children. This receiving may be anything from someone making you o cup of tea or a meal, getting a massage, your house cleaned or holding you baby for a 10 minutes while you shower. Importantly, having a support network of people who you can talk with is vital especially for the first 12 months. This generates oxytocin and other feel good hormones, which help establish a healthy mental & physical wellbeing.
Establish a Rhythm
In the beginning, it may feel like any routine you had while you were pregnant has gone completely out the window! That’s ok and part of the process of re-adjusting to life with your baby. Yes, initially your baby will set the rhythm depending on their sleep and feeding times. Even in these early days, you can still be setting up a routine for yourself, for instance, find a period of time every day you enjoy having a shower or bath, for instance between 9-10am everyday. This time frame will vary depending on you and what feels most relaxing & nourishing. And you can do the same for your meal and sleep times. Find an approximate time for breakfast lunch and dinner, and an ideal bedtime. Eventually, over time your baby will fall into your routine more and more.
After giving birth, your body is in recovery mode for at least the first 3 - 6 months (in fact up to two years!) and during this time, your digestion usually slows down considerably. This means that anything that is already cooked will digest easier, compared to raw food that requires much more effort from the stomach and digestive system to break the food down.
Suggested foods are soups, broths, stews & casseroles cooked at lower temperatures, rather than fried or barbequed. Cooking with Ghee (butter heated to remove the milk solids, retaining the precious oil), mild herbs & spices, root vegetables (avoiding ‘gasey’ veg) as well as some animal protein give you the nourishment you need after birth.
Even in India where the bulk of the population are Hindu & therefore, vegetarian, Ayurvedic doctors recommend eating chicken & fish during pregnancy & for the months after giving birth. If you don't eat meat, one possibility is to try bone broth or stocks that you can add to any of your dishes without eating the actual meat. Otherwise, include as much protein & oils into your diet as possible as well as supplements such as iron, zinc, B12 and magnesium (Ideal to check with a kinesiologist or naturopath about which supplements are best)
Relax your Body
Your body has been through many changes throughout the pregnancy, the birth and now as you care for your new baby, possibly spending many hours a day and night feeding, holding & rocking your baby. This means that your body is now working in new ways and holding different positions for long periods of time, such as when you hold or feed your baby, pick your baby up or co-sleep with your baby.
There are a number of ways to keep you body soft and relaxed during this time.
The first way is with oil massage. In India and other traditional cultures, women after giving birth are massaged daily for up to 3 months or more - can you imagine this ?? How divine! Even 1 massage every week or two is extremely beneficial for you physically and mentally, as a new mum. I invested in a weekly massage after having my second child for the first 10 months. My health and vitality was definitely stronger because of this with my second child, compared to with my first child. In addition to receiving an oil massage, you are able to massage yourself everyday. The Black sesame oil contains beneficial nutrients for your body tissues and especially for strengthening your nervous system. This is best done 20-30 minutes before your bath or shower, focusing on the ears, spine, hips, belly and feet. If practical, it is preferable to leave on as much of the oil as possible.
Another easy way to apply oil is to place a teaspoon or 2 in your bath so that your entire body is covered in the oil like a protective coating for your body and nervous system. Like Cleopatra, you can put milk and rose-petals in your bath, to soften your skin, awaken your heart and feel like a goddess. This too is an ancient ayurvedic practice.
Yoga, stretching and exercise are other important ways to regularly stretch & release tight muscles and strengthen particularly, pelvic floor, abdominal muscles. You may want to do this at home in your designated space, even 10 minutes a day is enough to keep muscles limber. After the 3-month mark, if you have a local postnatal yoga class especially for mother (ideally with your baby) this can be a great way to gently come back into your body while you connect with other mothers & babies.
If you feel like movement that will loosen you up, dancing is a great way to relax your body, shake off your day, feel playful and have fun. Combined with music or your favourite song, dancing can take you out of your mind, your tiredness and into world of rhythm, ecstasy and another time & space.
Yes girls, you read this right! Only when you feel ready … find ways to feel sensual and re-connect with your sexual energy (sometimes referred to as Shakti). This might simply be putting on a dress that makes you feel beautiful and sexy. Being creative helps to re-nourish yourself and generate your Shakti. Or having a bubble bath, giving yourself a pedicure and a home-made facial. Organising date nights with your partner is not only fun, it is important to stayed connected as woman and man, not just as mother & father to your child or children. You are giving many hours of each day, so allow yourself to regularly receive massage and/or loving touch from your partner.
Simple Self-Care meditation
Within the first 30-60 minutes of waking, find time for yourself to sit, or lie down if you wont fall asleep. (Ideally in the sacred space you have created for yourself). This meditation can be anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes or more. You may even do this while you are feeding or holding your baby. However, if you find it difficult to concentrate and focus on yourself then it may be best to do this on your own while your child or children are sleeping or cared for by another. It may be that you need to pre-book this time in with your partner or family, so that they know to expect this as part of your daily routine.
Close your eyes, follow the rise & fall rhythm of your breath, notice how your body feels all the way from your toes to the top of your head. Once you feel settled... you may put your hand on your belly & connect with your womb space. If you prefer hands in a yoni mudra go for it or ok if not. Then ask yourself "what do I need for myself today?" The answers may seem simple or ordinary such as '20 minutes to myself', 'a swim in the ocean' or perhaps something deeper such as "a change of job or career', 'a holiday' or 'letting go of a relationship'. Trust what comes to mind. Stay here as long as you need to connect with your needs for that day.
When you are ready to come out of the meditation, be aware of your body sensations, breathing, your 5 senses taking in your experience and being back in the current time and place.
When you feel ready, open you eyes and stretch out. You may want to write down what came to you on a piece of paper to remind you through your day. Alternatively, you could note your meditation and your needs for the day in your journal. It may be interesting to see if there are patterns that emerge over the following weeks, months or years so that you become familiar with your basic needs to keep you balanced, happy & healthy.
What a nourishing read Emma. Thank you for all of the practical tips. I will share with my pregnant friends
Natural born leg.
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