In the ancient science of Ayurveda, the days after birth are a sacred period—a time of rest, self-care, and love.
Ayurveda believes there are three doshas or life force energies – vata, pitta and kapha, derived from the five elements. Vata is space and air, pitta is fire and water and kapha is earth and water. Each person naturally leans toward one dosha and this affects their body type, temperament and health.
When you give birth, your vata increases because of the now empty abdomen, loss of fluids and blood, and decreased energy, creating an imbalance in the body often leading to postpartum anxiety.
Here’s a guide to counter vata, heal from childbirth and set yourself on a path of health and balance in the future.
42 days of rest
Ayurvedic texts suggest that the first forty-two days after giving birth should be focused on rest, rejuvination and bonding with your newborn, after the incredible changes your body, mind and spirit have just gone through.
The focus of this healing period is to bring the vata dosha into balance, restore the reproductive tissues, and promote healthy lactation channels. This ensures the mother’s health is cared for and in turn, allows for better bonding between mother and baby.
Regrettably, in modern culture, families find it difficult in setting aside the time and space to implement this important practice. The drive to get back to “life as usual” can often have a negative effect on the mother and the family in the long-term, with postpartum depression being the most destructive one. Women who experience postpartum depression are often unable to bond with their newborn, and many experience guilt for the same long after they have recovered.
So at a minimum, it is recommend for a new mama to spend atleast her first two weeks postpartum in a state of complete rest. After the first two weeks, gentle, short walks outdoors with your baby can be wonderfully uplifting, as long as you’re aware attentive to your body's cues and discontinue if bleeding or pain increases. Yoga and other forms of extended physical exercise are recommended only after the first forty-two days.
Eat to fuel your body
Due to the high vata in your body, your digestive fire, or agni, is compromised. Since digestion itself takes a considerable amount of energy, during this time, it’s especially important to fuel your body with foods that are easy to digest, so your body has the maximum energy for performing it’s primary functions – including postpartum recovery and lactation.
Think of qualities that are opposite to vata, so have warm and grounding foods like broths, soups and root vegetables. Also try adding warming spices like ginger, black pepper and cumin to your meals. A glass of warm almond milk with cinnamon and honey before bedtime is also a soothing, re-building protein drink for your body. If you find yourself feeling bloated and gassy after meals, it’s a sign to eat lighter, simpler meals that are easy to digest.
Eat at regular intervals
Between breastfeeding, taking care of a newborn and the lack of sleep, many new moms forget to nourish themselves at regular intervals and find their energy levels or milk supply drop. So besides eating the right foods, it’s important to eat small meals at regular intervals, too – and keep your vata in check.
Sometimes it works well to time your food intake with your baby’s feeds. For example, if you’re breastfeeding, eat something before/during/after every feed. This way, you’ll always be replenishing your body to provide energy for the next feed. And by timing your meals with your baby’s, you may also find it easier not to forget to eat regularly!
Set up a food calendar before you deliver
It’s a good idea to stock up on healthy snacks and plan your meal calendar before the baby arrives because the last thing you want to do between naps and feeding your baby is to cook or if you have someone cooking for you – then even think about what should be made!
Share your ideal meal plan with your loved ones and let them pitch in by bringing you freshly cooked meals on specific days. This is a wonderful way to feel the support of your family and friends.
Integrate relaxation practices into your daily routine
As a new mother, your dinacharya (daily routine) will change drastically in the first few months as you respond to your newborn’s rapidly changing needs and your role as a new parent.
Whether it’s closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths, getting up and stretching, chanting out loud, spraying rose water on your face or lying down for a short catnap – take out a few moments for yourself throughout the day to switch off and re-set between juggling your new role as mama with everything else.
This will help restore your sense of order and leave you feeling more grounded, restful and energetic.
Get enough physical rest
Another simple way to calm vata is sleeping with an eye pillow and light scarf around the top of your head and ears to help induce melatonin (the “sleep hormone”), which can help you fall asleep better through the new-mom postpartum anxiety phase.
Sleep supports your immune system, metabolism, memory, and mood, amongst other vital functions. So sleep, sleep, sleep (as much as you can with a newborn in tow!).
Post natal oil massages
Oil massages for mama and baby will balance out the vata dosha, ground the new mama, and allow her to be fully present in her new role. Oil is nourishing and dense (opposite to the qualities of air, which we associate with postpartum anxiety). This will not only help strengthen your body but add heat and flexibility to your tissues and muscles, too.
If you have someone helping you after your delivery, see if they wouldn’t mind massaging at least your head and feet from time-to-time. Otherwise, a daily self-massage works wonders… just remember to use plenty of warm oil!
Massaging your baby daily enhances the bond with your newborn and grounds them in their new body, through nurturing and nourishing strokes.
Wrap your belly
After a massage and a hot shower, wrap your abdomen with a bellyband or a long piece of cloth to offer support to the uterus and help tone the muscles in your stomach.
This practice of belly binding isn't just comforting physically, but emotionally, too. The feeling of containment around your now-emptier belly will help give you a sense of stability.
Fill yourself up… with support and love
There is no amount of preparation that can take care of the anxiety and uncertainty that accompanies the transition into motherhood. The postpartum period is one of those things in life that we do not quite appreciate until it finally arrives.
So it’s a good idea to have a plan to support your postpartum self through the right foods, body rituals and love from family and friends, to have the strength and emotional wellbeing to usher your baby into the world.