Entering motherhood is a transition like no other. The single most crucial component to a successful and fast postpartum recovery, is following an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle. What does this mean?
When we say ‘Ayurvedic diet’, you wont be able to identify a group of foods or habits that are singled out as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. According to Ayurveda, everything in this universe has the potential to be a poison or a medicine. With that in mind - Ayurveda teaches us to observe the qualities or gunas of a food or activity and assess if it is suitable for each individual based on their current internal and external environment. For example, if someone is experiencing constipation, we can assume there is a hardness and/or dryness of the colon. To pacify this symptom, we have to bring in opposite qualities. Like increases like and opposites pacify. In this case, unctuous, warm and soft are all qualities that would support in easing the constipation.
Postpartum healing is a similar process. Yes - we look at the individual and their health status but also at the actions and qualities of the body after delivery. Childbirth is one of the most depleting actions on the human body and causes severe vata vitiation. For those unfamiliar, vata dosha is the energy of movement in the body. Its qualities are rough, dry, cold, subtle, light, and mobile. During childbirth there is an excess depletion of apana vata (the downward moving vata) which needs to be replenished and nourished immediately. This is done through introducing foods that are opposite qualities to vata dosha (rough, dry, cold, subtle, light, and mobile). This would be warm, mushy, oily, heavy, smooth, and dense. If the body is not properly nourished postpartum, this can lead to more imbalance in the body which in turn leads to disease. Some common imbalances are anxiety, depression and calcium deficiency.
The three main pillars to support a healthy postpartum recovery are diet, herbs, and oil massage for 40-60 days after delivery.
Keep in mind the qualities that are opposite of vata—warm, oily, heavy, smooth, and dense. Adding generous amounts of ghee to each meal is very helpful as well.
Favor sweet, sour and salty tastes. These tastes help build dhatus or tissues, give strength to the body and rejuvenate all the channels
Favor soft, soupy, and oily. Foods with these qualities help take the load off off the digestive system so the body can focus all of its energy on rejuvenation and healing.
Spice your food well. There are some people who say a bland postpartum diet is best, but that is horrible false. While it’s true that you should stay away from hot chilies, onion and raw garlic, all other spices stimulate and support digestion and some even promote lactation!
Cook your food well. Cooking your food helps break it down and strengthen the
digestive fire. Cook well with water and oil. Avoid raw food, as that will create more bloating and digestive disorders.
Favor iron-rich foods such as molasses, maple syrup and unprocessed cane and coconut sugars. These will help enhance your energy, as well as rebuild the blood after birth. Dates, figs, tamarind and red grapes are also fantastic of iron-rich foods.
Samyoga or Food Combining
Eat fruit by itself. It’s best to wait 30-45 minutes before eating other foods, or allow 2-3 hours after meals before eating fruit.
Milk is best by itself. It can mix well with sweet grains such as oats or rice, but avoid mixing it with anything salty or sour tastes as it will cause the milk to curdle.
Don’t mix meat or eggs with dairy – dairy and meat are considered an improper food combination in Ayurveda. It can lead to manda agni or weak digestive fire as well as indigestion and improper absorption of food into the channels.
Healing Postpartum Foods
Boiled milk, unfermented cheeses (cottage, ricotta, fresh paneer), sesame seeds,
almonds, split mung dhal/beans, urad dhal, quinoa, amaranth, chicken/fish soups
Basmati rice, unleavened wheat, tapioca, oats, yams and sweet potatoes
Asparagus, beets, carrots, summer squash, winter squash, artichoke, okra, fennel bulb, fenugreek leaves, and dark leafy greens
Sweet fresh fruits and juices, dates, avocado, coconut, lemon and lime
Sweet basil, cumin, clove, citrus peel, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, fenugreek,
licorice, minced garlic browned in ghee, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg, black pepper,
paprika, dill, tamarind, tarragon, turmeric, ajwain, asafoetida, saffron, vanilla beans and black mustard.
Molasses, raw cane sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup and jaggery
Ghee, butter, sesame oil, olive oil and coconut milk
Just note that it is very important to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner before taking herbs while breastfeeding.
Water boiled with fenugreek, cumin, coriander, and fennel is best for most individuals.
Incorporating ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and saffron into cooking is also very good in reducing coolness and dryness and pacifying vata dosha.
Massage is the third cornerstone to maternal care after delivery. Nothing calms vata and soothes the entire body like warm oil. The oil tones the body, provides oleation where there is a lot of dryness, helps the healing of tissues, and infuses strength and a sense of groundedness.
Ideally, a full body warm oil massage done daily will work wonders on the mind and body. However, a little goes a long way. If you are not able to do the full body oil massage, simply massage the feet, hands and head. Do the best that you can, but the more self-massage the better!