How to breastfeed your baby is likely a loaded question and you may have received many different opinions about what is right and what is wrong. The thing is that breastfeeding is not ‘one size fits all’. Breastfeeding is unique and individual to every Mom! When honoring your natural instinct of wisdom, breastfeeding is much more likely to be successful.
Before we get into the Ayurvedic view on breastfeeding, I would like to offer a couple of suggestions on how to become more in tune with your inner wisdom and guidance.
Become aware of your breath and breathe long and deep! Breath awareness is key in allowing more peace – an inner state of calmness is essential in order to get in touch with your inner guide of wisdom. The moment you remember to breathe with awareness, your breath becomes deeper and longer, and when you focus on it, you put the mind chatter in the background. Think of your breath as a bridge to connect with something deeper within you, something more aware, something wise.
Sit comfortable with a straight spine or lie down, touch your hands on your belly to bring awareness to the lower lobes of your lungs. Watch how your breathing responds. You may notice that your belly wants to expand as you inhale and retract as you exhale. Let this happen but do not try to force it.
If your belly seems tight, massage your belly, especially right around the outside edge of your belly button. Notice how your belly begins to soften and relax. If your belly is still not relaxed and is not moving as you breathe, press down with your hands as you exhale. Then as you inhale, gradually release the tension. Try this several times.
Notice how your belly begins to open more on inhalation. You are now breathing deeper with awareness.
Take it a step further and imagine that your breath is moving up your spine to the top of your head on the inhale, pause and feel an expansive sensation, then exhale while perceiving your breath moving down the spine, pause at the base and feel a grounding sensation.
Continue this conscious breathing for at least 20 breaths. Practice in the morning and at night or whenever you have 5 minutes to center yourself, feel more peaceful and want greater clarity.
Take a walk in a park, lie on green healthy grass, sit by running water or go for a swim in the ocean, climb a strong tree or lean up against it if you are pregnant or postpartum, enjoy the sunshine, look up into the vastness of the sky, listen to the birds, have fun looking at the clouds, smell the roses.
Allow silence to enter and appreciate the quietness. Allow yourself to just be, to be one with Mother Earth. Something magical often happens when you relax into the present moment, breathe deeply and connect with Nature. Try it and leave a comment below about your experience.
Now let’s move into the Ayurvedic way of breastfeeding. In this blog you are going to learn about how long babies ideally should nurse, how to ensure healthy breasts and what to eat and not to eat during the first three months after childbirth for optimal lactation.
According to Ayurveda, breastfeeding is very important. It is stated in the ancient Ayurvedic text Charak Samhita that the best life insurance for your baby is mother’s milk and daily oil application.
Ideally a child lives exclusively on breast milk for at least 6 months and continues to nurse for as long as possible.
Fortunately more and more experts and professionals are realizing the many benefits of extended breastfeeding, and we are moving away from modern society’s view on breastfeeding being an abnormal act.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all babies are breastfed for at least one year, or as long as mutually desirable.1 In support of this recommendation, the AAP’s statement cites a study that discusses the age of weaning among American women who practice extended breastfeeding. Weaning ages in the study extended through the age of six and a half years.
You may be surprised but experts actually consider 4 or 5 years to be the average age of weaning worldwide.2 Dr. Katherine Dettwyler who is an anthropologist at Texas A&M University states that the natural weaning age falls between 2.5 and 6 years of age.3 An informal survey conducted by Dr. Dettwyler indicated that many more women in the United States are nursing children past infancy, and she has reports of children as old as ten years still breastfeeding.
More and more professionals are encouraging extended breastfeeding. The health benefits for the child increase the longer the breastfeeding. The current recommendations of the World Health Organization and UNICEF are for all mothers to breastfeed until age 2 or beyond. Research confirms what has been known in Ayurveda for thousands of years that the antibodies and immunities in a mother’s milk are more concentrated the longer she nurses, to make up for the fact that the child does not nurse as often. Recent studies also indicate that extended periods of breastfeeding is protective against breast cancer.4, 5
One thing that really helps to prepare for breastfeeding is daily breast massage. You can do this yourself or ask your spouse, partner or companion to do it before you sleep at night, before you shower or before taking a bath. Use organic oil such as sunflower, coconut, olive, almond or sesame oil, or consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner to find out which oil is most suitable for you at this time. There are many different Ayurvedic herbal infused oils available for various issues. Make it a habit to massage your breasts every day, especially if you are pregnant to prevent clogged milk ducts.
If you are suffering from mastitis please avoid vigorous massage. Instead apply a warm cabbage leaf to the infected breast, rest and apply turmeric paste around the nipple.
Envision your breasts the way you want them to be; healthy, beautiful, soft, gorgeous, full and abundant with milk. You can use any positive statement that fits your desire and need.
Continue with your right hand on the left breast.
At the end place the right hand on the right breast and left hand on the left breast and make circles while breathing deeply and holding the vision of your ideal breasts.
Within a short amount of time, you will see a beautiful change in your breasts and nipples.
The mother’s diet is very influential in the quality of her breast milk. The digestive system in both Mom and her baby is very delicate after delivery and it only takes a small amount of the wrong foods to cause trouble. Here are some tips on what to eat and what not to eat during the first three months after delivery.
Focus on warm, soft, soupy, grounding, easy digestible and nourishing foods and beverages.
Warm and well prepared meals are really important. Soups and stews are great when prepared with digestive spices such as cumin, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, garlic, dill and/or cilantro.
Include lots of vegetables such as carrots, beets, pumpkins, squashes, okra, asparagus and yams.
Puddings prepared with cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and rice, arrowroot or oats.
Mung beans and red lentils that have been soaked overnight and cooked well with turmeric provide easily digestible protein, and so do soaked nuts and seeds. For non-vegetarians chicken soup is especially good when prepared on the bones for added nutrients.
Desserts and snacks are not to be left out but go for healthier and richer ones. Try soaked figs with whipped cream, cream cheese filled dates, rice pudding, herbal teas with whole milk or cream or stewed fruits.
Most people love yogurt so here’s the Ayurvedic way on how to enjoy cultured dairy after the first week of postpartum. It’s best to avoid yogurt the first 5-10 days.
1 cup water, room temperature or warm
½ cup buttermilk, fresh homemade yogurt or kefir (not old and sour)
1-2 tsp raw honey
1/8 tsp cardamom or 1/8 tsp cumin for savory option
1/8 tsp turmeric
¼ tsp dry ginger powder and/or ¼ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt for savory option
1/8 tsp nutmeg (optional)
¼ tsp rosewater (optional)
1 Tbsp pitted dates (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend well for about 1-2 minutes.
Avoid all dry, cold, rough and difficult to digest foods as well as stimulating substances.
When a new mother eats a lot of raw vegetables and salads which are cold and rough as well as difficult to digest foods, her milk becomes heavy and difficult to digest. Her baby will very likely suffer from cramps and colic.
Difficult to digest foods include old leftovers, cold and hard cheese, cold yogurt, ice cream, cold milk, ice water, wheat, fried foods, French fries, chips and white refined sugar. Too stimulating substances include coffee, black tea, chocolate, alcohol, white refined sugar and excessive spicy hot pungent foods.
Most women don’t know to avoid these foods after childbirth and don’t know what to eat instead. This is why way too many newborn babies are suffering from colic.
In a recent study, 100 newborn breast fed babies and 100 formula fed babies were examined for intestinal colic. Out of the newborn babies that were breast fed as many as 43% experienced intestinal colic, and among those formula fed 30% suffered from colic.6
Now, please don’t think it’s better to feed the baby formula. It’s not!!! Breast milk is superior, but the baby eats everything Mom eats and with the delicate digestive systems in the newborn baby and the Mom, too dry, cold, rough, too heavy and stimulating foods cannot be digested.
If you are pregnant or planning to be, do yourself a great favor and plan ahead. Arrange for proper postpartum meals after childbirth. Consult with an Ayurvedic Postpartum Specialist (AyurDoula) about which foods are most suitable for you and search online for an Ayurvedic Cookbook for Postpartum.
Ask family and friends to prepare a few meals, and if they are not available, then hire an Ayurvedic Doula to cook for you. You may think that you can cook yourself but the importance of proper rest during postpartum cannot be emphasized enough!
I hope this information is helpful for you. I would love to hear from you about your experience with breastfeeding. Feel free to leave a comment below.
In the next blogs you will receive a lot more tips for Ayurvedic breastfeeding and also for the best Ayurvedic homemade formula recipe, so stay tuned!
1 American Academy of Pediatrics Work Group on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics 1997; 1000:1035-39.
2 Lawrence, R. A. and R. M. Lawrence. Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. St. Louis: Mosby, 1999.
3 Dettwyler, K. A. A time to wean. Breastfeeding Abstracts 1994; 14:3-4.
4 Layde, P. M. et al. The independent associations of parity, age at first full- term pregnancy, and duration of breastfeeding with the risk of breast cancer. J Clin Epidemiol 1989; 42:966-72.
5 Newcomb, P. A. et al. Lactation and a reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer. New Engl J Med 1994; 332:81-87.
6 Lewandowska, Anna and Zych, Barbara. Intestinal Colic in Newborn Babies: Incidence and Methods of Proceeding Applied by Parents. http://ojs.ukw.edu.pl/index.php/johs/article/view/4503
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