It's midday here as I attempt to multi-task to find the words for this post, watch over my baby girl sleep in her rocker, while I glance up to capture the highlights of the Ellen show. Oh how life has changed! I am twelve weeks into motherhood and my days (and nights) are now full of breastfeeding, burping, reading baby books and of course, loads of cuddles. I have to admit, it's been the most challenging but rewarding and joyous experience.
As Amelia is past the new born phase and our 'Fourth Trimester' is over, I wanted to share with you how we filled up our precious twelve weeks post birth (if you missed it, read our birth story here). Why? With all the attention surrounding baby, the health and wellbeing of Mumma is overlooked during this phase, often contributing to future exhaustion and illness.
After reading books 'First Forty Days' and 'The Fourth Trimester', I understood the importance to nourish my temple during these initial weeks post birth, so I could best provide for my bubs. I prepared ahead of time what healing foods, supplements, activities and environment we wanted to create, which I feel have all played an important role in my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing now three months down the track.
Here are some ways I did this...
In Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, after a woman gives birth she lacks life force and is yin and blood deficient. It is also a time where there will be a vata (cold and dry) dominance in her body. For a new Mum, the postpartum period is a crucial time to support and strengthen her, to rebalance the body, allow full recovery and promote vital health for herself and new born. According to Heng Ou in her book 'The First Forty Days', an ongoing yin deficiency could contribute to wellness concerns such as insomnia, night sweats, hair loss, anxiety or headaches.
As warmth helps to calm a vata dominance state in the body, I kept warm by retreating indoors with our wood fire, always wearing warm clothes (especially keeping my feet warm), taking baths, using hot water bottles on my lower back and belly and staying mostly bed and couch bound for the first month post birth. Rest was a priority for us and we only left the house for health appointments (integrative GP + chiropractor for the both of us). Otherwise after first two weeks and if the sun was shining, I'd also duck out to our back lawn to catch some vitamin D.
In Chinese medicine, the health of her eyes is related to the amount of blood a woman has, so I also allowed my eyes and mind rest by limiting screen time and when I got a chance, I would take a nap or meditate.
To prevent any nervous system overwhelm for our baby, we kept visitors to a minimum during the first two weeks and I wasn't ashamed to ask those who did visit, for help with providing meals or cleaning around the home. I actually had a 'Ways to Support Kasey Post Birth' list on the fridge to provide ideas when others wanted to give us a helping hand.
For the first month of motherhood, I consumed warming foods and drinks that were easy to digest, focusing on herbal teas, broths, soups, slow cooked meat and vegetables (with lots of ginger, cinnamon and cardamon), congee and porridge. Healing fats and oils like avocado, olive, coconut, MCT, cod liver and ghee also all featured regularly in my diet to help balance out the dry constitution of a vata dominance, restore my nervous system and enhance detoxification.
Hydration is also key to support the body post birth. I included teas with galactagogue herbs of fenugreek, fennel, raspberry leaf and blessed thistle to enhance my breastmilk production, along with the liquid of warming broths and soups. Other ways I promoted my milk supply was upping my intake of carbs, particularly oats which I'd add ground flaxseeds to (as they are both galactagogue foods).
After the initial month post birth and as the weather began to warm up, I reintroduced raw salads and some fresh fruit. One of my go-to snacks since has been homemade nut butter on organic apple, which has helped satisfy my increased breastfeeding appetite between main meals.
With the greater demands on my body together with broken sleep, I have used the support of various supplements to accelerate healing in my body post birth, as well as provide enhanced nutrition to Amelia through my milk supply.
Most effective, I believe was my capsulated form of placenta which I started on day three post birth. As explained on the Blooming In Adelaide website, "...in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the placenta has been used medicinally for thousands of years. TCM consider the placenta as a great life force and is highly respected in terms of its medicinal value..." I know, it sounds icky but I believe the capsules helped my recovery, nourished my chi (energy) flow and prevented the baby blues, commonly experienced in the early after giving birth.
I also took (and still taking), a pregnancy/ breastfeeding multivitamin (with activated B's, iodine and vitamin K2); Cod Liver Oil (for omega 3's, vitamin A and vitamin D); a probiotic (containing the LGG strain, to help prevent allergies in bubs) as well as Magnesium and Coenzyme Q10 (for energy support).
Along with using oils internally, topically massaging oils such as sesame, almond, coconut and apricot can help to restore the nervous system, enhance detoxification and balance out the dryness of a vata dominance during the postpartum period. In these nourishing oils, I added healing essential oils.
To enhance perineal recovery I took sitz bath's regularly in the first week post birth, with castile soap, epsom salts, almond oil, Lavender and Roman Chamomile essential oils. After any baths and showers I would also (and still do) massage a blend of Frankincense, Roman Chamomile, Lavender and Myrrh over my body, in with fractionated coconut oil and vitamin E and a topical blend of Clary Sage and Jasmine locally for promoting my milk supply.
At around two weeks, I woke one morning feeling what I identified straight away as the symptoms of mastitis and therefore spent the day sleeping, aside from regular breastfeeding and massaging Lavender and doTERRA Citrus Bliss topically onto the affected areas. By the end of the day, I was over the flu-like symptoms and was so impressed with how quickly my body recovered once it had the tools to heal!
I also use essential oils in my own homemade body wash for both myself and for bubs, which includes just castile soap, fractionated coconut oil, vegetable glycerin, water along with skin healing Lavender and Tea Tree essential oils. After bath time Amelia also enjoys her massage time, where essential oils like Sandalwood, Roman Chamomile, Lavender and Frankincense are featured for their skin nourishing and calming properties. At night, we diffuse Lavender, Roman Chamomile and Frankincense to enhance a restful sleep and if Amelia is sounding slightly snuffly, we'll use Lavender together with a doTERRA blend called Easy Air.
Other blends of oil and fractionated coconut oil I've made into roller bottles and ready to use as a natural first aid kit for bubs include Fennel for easing any tummy upsets, Thyme to soothe a cough, Lavender for healing nappy rash and Ylang Ylang for calming an ongoing cry. I also have a blend of Tea Tree and carrier oil ready for any nipple thrush and back in the early feeding days, I added Geranium into my Lanolin ointment for help heal nipple cracking (used between feeds).
After waking to feed two - four hourly throughout the night, I regularly diffused my favourite doTERRA Citrus Bliss blend to pep me up in the mornings as well as massaging a drop of Frankincense in with my morning moisturiser.
Despite the increased physical, mental and emotional demands of the postpartum period, I've thoroughly enjoyed nourishing my body, mind and soul during this crucial fourth trimester time, so I can be a healthy Mumma to bring up a thriving bubba.
Are you or a loved one nearing this stage of life? Supporting yourself post birth with a nurturing environment- providing rest, nutrition, warmth, hydration and healing oils, I believe many concerning symptoms and conditions could be minimised for you in future weeks, months and years. The fourth trimester is a time to surrender to the jobs list, social calendar and netflix marathons and truely nourish your temple, so you can emerge more rejuvenated than before.
For a more informative look at preconception and pregnancy care, see my latest book: Glowing Mumma, a Naturopaths Guide To Enhance Fertility & Support a Nourished Pregnancy.
Image: Womb & Womb Doula & Photographer