Not only has your baby been born, but you, too, have been born as a mother. Be gentle with yourself and accepting of your emotions as you get to know your baby and adapt to your new role.
As you settle in with your new baby, there are many ways to optimize your physical recovery mindfully. Here in this article you’ll find natural remedies for post-birth healing and improved sleep, as well as nutritional advice to promote a healthy milk supply.
Bonding With Your Baby
Although many mothers feel a huge rush of love for their newborn immediately after delivery, this isn’t the case for all moms, especially after a difficult delivery. Remember that bonding with your baby happens over a lifetime—not just in the first hour after delivery.
Becoming a Mindful Mother
Mindful mothering is a natural extension of a mindful pregnancy. It is a gentle, curious, and accepting approach to being a new mom that is abundantly generous in kindness.
Being mindful is a lot easier when everything is rosy. During challenging times, for example when you’re sleep deprived, your mindful awareness will be even more important. Notice how you talk to yourself about your abilities as a mother and how your thoughts impact your parenting, breastfeeding, and your connection with your baby. Even a moment of slow, focused breathing as you mindfully change your baby’s nappy will help you stay present and connected with your baby.
When you are accepting and kind towards yourself without judgment, your capacity for the most fulfilling, flourishing relationship with yourself as a newly born mother and your beautiful new baby are limitless.
This is a season in your life of intense physical and emotional changes that will alter every day. Some days it may feel like a season of storms, and other days will feel sunny and fresh. The storms always pass and so will the intensity of this season of your life. In the first days after delivery your hormones are likely to be in free fall, and it’s normal to feel tired and tearful. Remind yourself that this is just temporary. Both you and your partner can benefit from mindful breathing to help you navigate intense emotions, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed.
As your volume of milk starts to come in a few days after delivery you may experience swollen, hard, and hot breasts. Frequent feeding can help with engorgement, and cold cabbage leaves placed on the breast can be very soothing.
Often a newborn baby will have their first feed and then sleep for a few hours. However, on the second night your newborn is likely to be active, unsettled, and hungry. This is normal newborn behavior and keeping your baby skin-to-skin may help him settle.
Nurturing Postpartum Foods
This is a time for self-care as much as baby care, so cultivate a compassionate, nurturing attitude towards yourself, starting with the foods you eat. Choose fresh, natural, energy providing and mood-boosting foods.
Make sure you are drinking plenty of water and are well hydrated, especially if breastfeeding. Good ideas for nourishing meals include replenishing, warming casseroles and stews, which can be packed with vegetables and pulses. Healthy, low-mercury fish such as wild-caught salmon and sardines contain “good” fats and can be served with a selection of leafy green vegetables. Include collagen and protein-rich foods for tissue repair, such as bone broth. Also consider taking probiotics to support your immune system.
Before your baby arrives, stock up your freezer with premade dinners so it requires little effort to eat nutrient dense, comfort food. Keep a selection of healthy snacks handy rather than sugar or fat-laden ones that provide minimal nutrients. Foods containing oats are great for milk production and can help to alleviate constipation.
Cabbage Leaves for Engorgement
It’s very common a few days after delivery to find your breasts become uncomfortably heavy, hard, and even painful as your milk comes in fully. Cold, soothing cabbage leaves can help to relieve the engorgement.
The best way to help reduce engorgement is to keep your baby skin-to-skin over those first few days and cue feed often. Also ask your midwife about reverse pressure softening to ensure your baby can latch on well if you do become engorged. Applying cabbage leaf compresses to the breast can be very soothing and cooling and can help to reduce engorgement.
Wash green Savoy cabbage leaves and place them in the fridge. Just before you use them, roll out the leaves with a rolling pin and shape them to your breast shape. Cover all of the engorged area with the leaves but be careful not to put them on broken skin (place around the nipples if they are sore). Leave on for a maximum of 20 minutes until the leaves wilt. Don’t leave them on for longer as this may actually reduce the milk supply.
Herbal Remedies for Milk Supply
It is very common for new moms to worry about making enough milk for their baby, so since time began many cultures have used traditional remedies to help support an abundant milk supply.
Lifestyle and stress can impact milk production, so before taking herbs or medication check that you are hydrated, eating well, and resting enough. Also check your baby is latching on properly. Fenugreek is one of the best-known herbs to increase milk supply, but it is not recommended if you are diabetic, have a peanut allergy, or if you or your baby experience digestive upset. Blessed thistle is often combined with fenugreek and is found in many nursing teas. Fennel also supports the letdown reflex and is available in its vegetable form or as a herbal tea, although note too much can reduce milk supply, so have a maximum of three cups of fennel tea a day.
Herbal Teas for Insomnia
Sleep is critical for your physical recovery and emotional wellbeing as you settle into motherhood. Chamomile and lavender make excellent herbal teas to help with relaxation and improved sleep.
One study of new mothers with poor sleep quality found that those who drank chamomile tea daily over two weeks reported improved sleep. To make your own tea, place four to six organic chamomile flowers or buds in a tea ball and let it steep in 250 ml of just-boiled water for three to five minutes. You can also add turmeric, ginger, or honey if you prefer it spiced or sweeter. Lavender tea is a wonderful calming alternative. Place one teaspoon of dried organic English lavender flowers in a tea ball and leave to steep as above.
Herbal Remedies for Perineal Healing
A daily herbal bath is a wonderfully nurturing way to help your body recover after delivery. It can help reduce inflammation, shrink hemorrhoids, and promote healing of the perineum whether you had stitches or not.
To make the herbal mix you will need several muslin bags, 250 g of unrefined sea salt, and 50 g each of lavender flowers, witch hazel flowers, calendula flowers, and chamomile flowers (all can be purchased online). Combine all the ingredients and fill the muslin bags. Place one bag into a hot bath and allow the flowers and oils to steep in the water (your bathroom will smell divine too!) Once the bath has cooled to a comfortable temperature, you can enjoy.
Another option for perineal healing is to use padsicles. These are maternity pads you presoak with alcohol-free witch hazel and store in the freezer to use for postpartum recovery. You can also add a drop of lavender essential oil or aloe vera if you wish. Leave to thaw for a few minutes, then apply to the perineum to reduce pain and swelling.