Friday, May 20, 2016


“A new mother should be treated with massage, warm baths, a specific diet, and herbal drinks that prevent infection, pro-mote vitality, and alleviate vata.” — Charaka Semite - sarira sthanam

India has a wonderful tradition wherein a pregnant woman stays with her parents three months before and after having the baby to ensure that she gets abundant rest, support, and nurturing. This enables a woman to recover from the extraordinary mental and physical stresses placed on her through childbearing, allowing her the relaxed time and assistance needed to bond with the baby.

The ninety days after delivery are considered a vital, cleansing, recuperative period during which the mother should take complete rest to regain the strength and health of her pre-pregnancy state. This will give her the mental, emotional, and spiritual resources to cope with the demands of motherhood. It will also protect her and her baby from common health disorders associated with this time such as colic, insomnia, irritability, and post-natal depression. Even modern medicine acknowledges that it takes a women’s body at least six weeks to re-turn to normal after childbirth, hence the standard six-week post-natal check up.

Mothers who are not able to recover properly run the risk of suffering long-term depletion and chronic childbearing- related weaknesses. Women are particularly vulnerable to post-natal depression if they lack proper rest and support at this time. The many challenges they face include fatigue, sleep deprivation, pain, anxiety, breastfeeding, worries about weight gain and feeling generally over-whelmed regarding the responsibilities of motherhood. Issues such as these contribute to the post-natal depression suffered by 80% of women.

Childbirth and new motherhood tends to unbalance the elements of air and ether (vata) due to mental and phys-ical strain, sleep deprivation, irregular eating and weak digestion after delivery. Vata is cold, dry, and active; hence the approach to rebalance it is with warm, unctuous, and restful therapies. If the mother is unhappy or unhealthy this affects the baby and the developing relationship between the mother and child. Conversely, a nurtured mother over-flowing with joy and health showers that energy onto her child.

Ways to Restore Balance and Reduce Stress

    The mother should rest as much as possible for at least one month. Having a baby may be the beginning of the greatest love affair, but the end of sufficient sleep. To guard against exhaustion she should try to go to bed by 9 p.m. (or earlier) and do minimal exercise. Practicing yoga nidra is also very rejuvenating.
    To promote a peaceful lifestyle and reduce stimulation she should restrict the number of visitors; reduce talking; remain in a warm, quite environment sheltered from the cold and wind; avoid travel; and delegate domestic and work duties to caring helpers. Soliciting someone else’s help with the shopping, laundry, cooking, and cleaning for at least a month will allow mum time to focus on her recovery and the baby’s needs, without feeling swamped and depleted.
    The mother’s digestion will reflect the baby’s digestion, so special care should be taken to provide food that is lovingly prepared, light to digest, and rich in nutrition. Meals should be regular, warm, cooked, organic, liquid, and gently spiced. Foods to favour include whole grains, stewed fruits, steamed vegetables, mung dhal, basmati rice, milk, ghee, almonds, raisins, dates, figs, palm sugar, and plenty of warm fluids such as chamomile or fennel tea.
    Digestive spices such as basil, bay leaf, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, hing, mustard seeds, pepper, and turmeric are good to stoke the digestive fire. Some foods disturb the mother’s digestion and make breast milk more gas-forming and should therefore be avoided. Examples of such foods include cold, raw or fermented food, leftovers, broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, capsicum, cauliflower, eggplant, garlic, onions, green peas, potatoes, sprouts, and most legumes (except for mung dhal).
    It is good if the new mother is massaged daily with warm herbal oils and then left to sleep for an hour. She can then take a bath with the therapeutic leaves of tamarind, jackfruit, castor, and neem. All these have anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. An aromatherapy alternative employs an elixir of rose, rosemary, lavender, cypress, and geranium essential oils. Jasmine is also good to prevent post-natal depression. Her belly is then bound with a cotton cloth to support the abdomen and uterus’ return to normal. Post-natal massage helps the mother’s body to reorganize itself; relaxes; promotes circulation; boosts immunity; conditions skin; soothes the nervous system; and returns muscles, ligaments, and bones back to normal. Another special treatment given after the nor-mal daily massage for the first week is an herbal leaf poultice massage (ila kizhi). The poultice containing castor plant leaves, tamarind, Vitex nigun-do, lime, and rock salt reduces body aches and improves muscle tone.
    Herbal tonics given at this time to restore the mother’s energy, immunity, and promote quality breast milk include chyavanaprasham jam, Asparagus racemosus (shatavari), and Withania somnifera (ashwagandha). Other classical preparations given to ease vata and promote digestion include dhanwantaram decoction plus tablets, dasamoolarishtam or jeera-karishtam.
    Many women suffer from constipation after delivery for which castor oil may be taken before bed to lubricate the bowels and encourage complete evacuation.
    Intercourse should be avoided for at least three months to allow the reproductive system recovery time. Pelvic floor exercises and yogic moola bandha can assist vaginal elasticity. To shrink the size of the vagina a douche of gooseberry (amalaki) decoction or fig leaf paste is used.
    Ayurveda considers the milk from the breast best, custom-made for the baby’s specific needs. As soon as possible the baby should be put on the breast, as the initial colostrum, though heavy, is considered to be nectar. To increase milk production the mother can think of the baby with tender affection and take fenugreek, fennel, shatavari, milk, drumsticks, and ghee. If the baby is reluctant to drink breast milk, honey is put on the nipple for encouragement.
    For mastitis, warm cabbage leaves can be put in the bra and cracked nipples are eased with calendula and turmeric ointment.

The baby may be weaned off breast milk either after the teeth appear or continued according to the mother’s preference. To dry up milk the mother can apply neem or jasmine leaf paste externally to her breasts. Though it may seem unrealistically idyllic to follow these mother-care practices.

 Mother and Baby Program offered by me at my Hospital and  saw the benefits for hundreds of mothers, “I never saw an instance of post-partum depression in all of the years I worked with this program.... Mothers looked healthier, more supported, more rested. Their ongoing good health seemed to continue for years.” Research conducted &  supports the effectiveness of the Mother and Baby Program. I found that the mothers in the program had better overall health, more confidence and happiness in new motherhood, enriched family relationships, and better physical and emotional stability.

The initial six months of a baby’s life are considered a crucial phase, during which the foundation of mental and physical fortitude is established. The transition from the womb to the world should be as gentle and tender as possible. The situation babies have been in could be likened to spending nine months in dark solitary confinement; hence they need time to adapt to sensory input. Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.31 describes the discomfort suffered by the baby in the womb who, likened to a bird trapped in a cage, appeals to the Lord, “I, the pure soul, appearing now bound by my activities, am lying in the womb of my mother by the arrangement of maya (illusion). O my Lord, when shall I be released from this confinement?” To make the adjustment as easy as possible the newborn is protected from any intense sensory stimuli. This includes wind, strong sunlight, rain, loud or jarring noises, strong scents, hard surfaces, and sudden or excessive movement. Everything should be soft, warm, and nurturing. According to Vedic tradition the child does not even go outside until it is fourteen days old — a ritual known as niskramana samskara, where the father takes the child out under the sun and recites a mantra for its well-being. Also, at three-months-old the child may be placed briefly at the feet of the temple deity for divine protection while receiving the  blessings and a sprinkle of holy water.

Three practices that enhance bonding with the baby are breastfeeding, massage, and “baby wearing.” Modern medical research has established the benefits of breastfeeding over bottle-feeding. Scores of studies conclude that breast fed babies have a lower mortality rate than bottle fed babies, develop physical and mental milestones faster, and are less prone to dental decay and infections. Breast milk has seventy ingredients not found in bottled milk and is an important source of immune building antibodies. The baby is weaned onto solids once the first teeth appear. The first grains are given to the baby  in a ceremony called annaprasana. After 56 days the baby can eat semolina soup which is prepared by soaking semolina in water overnight, draining the water the next morning and cooking the semolina with palm sugar and milk. Dried, seeded, and powdered green banana is also given with buttermilk as a digestive aid for the stomach. Ragi or red millet water, rice, and cow or goats’ milk are also administered. Salt is withheld for the first six months.

Massage is integral to the mother/baby daily routine in India. It is partic-larly advantageous for premature babies. When premature babies are given daily massage they have gained more weight and left hospital stronger than those who were not massaged. Ayurveda advises that massage should take place in a warm, quiet room. Also, due to the delicate newborn’s skin, a small dough ball should be used for massage in the first month. This can be made from atta flour and water, then rolled in a little boiled organic coconut milk, or sesame oil and turmeric. Baby massage enhances circulation, expels toxins, sharpens reflexes, aids digestion, reduces colic, and gives the baby a deep sense of security. By the second month, massage with boiled organic coconut milk or lakshadi oil is used, applying gentle hand strokes and incorporating some sensory-motor coordination exercises. Use light long strokes on the long bones, circular motions on the joints and gentle pressure in a clockwise direction on the abdomen helps to expel gas. At two months, oil such as brahmi oil may be applied to the scalp, stopping the initial ghee pad placed on the crown fontanel from birth. This acts as a brain, neuromuscular, and hair tonic as well as preventing cradle cap. The massage can last from ten to twenty minutes and is best done at least thirty minutes away from feeding. If the baby suffers from colic a washer dipped in warm water and a pinch of hing can be placed over its abdomen for a few minutes at the end of the session. The massage may be followed by a bath and a sleep.

Massage should be avoided if there are signs of fever or cold. Babies thrive from this tender touch and relaxing time with the parent. The ancient pediatric text Kashyapa Semite says massage is very important for the baby’s neuromuscular and central nervous system development as well as for weight gain, pain relief, improving skin tone, sleep, vision, and digestion. Massage sessions also provide a mother or father with a unique opportunity for quality time with their baby.

 Learn good techniques of Ayurvedic baby massage from us which flows from love rather than method.

The expression “I slept like a baby” must have been coined by a parent fortunate enough to have mastered the art of “baby whispering.” Indians have always used hammocks to lull their babies into a deep, cocooned slumber. These hammocks, now available in Western designs, are simple constructions of a spring hanging from the ceiling attached to a strong triangular frame from which a folded cloth hangs. The hammock is very comforting for the baby as it is like the womb environment with the snugly secure shape and the range of movements similar to sensations in utero. The baby’s slightly slanted position also prevents reflux and colic. Conventional cribs being firm and flat don’t provide the same swaddling comfort and can also lead to the baby developing a flat head. Babies also wake more peacefully in a hammock as its own movements initiate a reassuring bouncing action.

Babies can also be soothed if carried close and moved. Rather than straining the carer’s arms and back a carrier can be positioned so it gives the mother good symmetrical back support and the baby is positioned diagonally or horizontally rather than vertically inside. The trend for vertical baby carriers is contrary to the Ayurvedic ideal that a baby should be kept horizontal or with its weight evenly supported along its spine whilst the backbones and muscles are developing. If the head is unsupported the sudden jerking position of the head whip-ping back when made to sit upright can cause neurological and muscular weakness, possibly linked to kyphosis (a weak back) and some osteopaths even suspect a connection with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Carriers that put pressure on the sacrum and force the baby’s legs apart create an unnatural, stressful posture and are detrimental to the infant’s musculoskeletal development. A baby sling holds the baby in a natural fetal position just as they were inside the womb. If comfortable, it is also the perfect position for breastfeeding and also allows the mother to carry out two-handed tasks while still com-forting the baby. Slings are also helpful for babies who are slow to gain weight as they have been shown to gain more rapidly if carried in a sling for several hours a day, the proximity of the mother encouraging more regular feeding. Carrying a baby also reduces restlessness and colic and promotes cognitive development, motor skills and speech and builds a solid sense of security and self-esteem. The idea that infants who are carried will become dependant and clingy later on is unfounded. Babies that are carried feel more confident to explore by themselves at a younger age, and as adults display less aggression and better relating skills. There are some good slings available, or you can make your own from a length of soft cotton approximately 5 meters long and 30 inches wide.

The Vedic culture has prescribed rituals and rites of passage at various phases of an infant’s development. When the child has lived for a full lunar phase (28 days) this is celebrated by tying a protective yantra or blessed charm (tali) around the child’s waist with a string (this may be changed to a gold chain after six months). Another auspicious item that may be used is an ornament which consists of five metals (pan-cha-loha). This is said to protect the child from malefic planetary influences. Also from the 28th to the 56th day after delivery a special ceremony called dasandhya uzhiyal is conducted for the child. At sunset the grandmother or mother offer a flame first to a lit lamp three times clockwise chanting “Hare Krishna”then to the baby three times. She then places the wick in turmeric and limewater, touching the water to the baby three times. Finally, the baby is fed a paste of calamus, triphala, gold, butter, rudrakasham, chandana, and brahmi water to boost physical and mental well-being.

The name giving ceremony, nama-karana, takes place some time after the baby’s birth. In some traditions, the formal name is given when the child reaches six months. In the meantime pet names such as, “little goddess” and “little jewel” are used. This gives the parents time to observe the child’s character in order to select a name that is really apt. In choosing the name an astrologer, poojari, or guru may be consulted to ensure it has a beneficial sound vibration. An auspicious sounding name which is constantly repeated over the person’s life then acts as a mantra, attracting positive energy into their life. The astrologer calculates the best first syllable and the family agrees on a name they like starting with that. Once the name is selected the uncle or father first whispers it into the child’s right ear if it is a boy and the left ear for a girl. Only then may the name be spoken aloud.

The ear-piercing ceremony called karna ve-dhana samskara is performed by some castes on the sixth, seventh, or eight month. A jeweler generally performs this nowadays. The first ear to be pierced is the right one for a boy and the left ear for a girl. This immediately induces a cell-mediated response to boost the child’s immunity, though the earrings may be taken out after a week if desired.

Because a baby’s hair is considered too fine it is generally shaved off be-fore six months to promote healthy thick re-growth. This ceremony called mundana may be conducted by a barber. After shaving the hair a soothing balm of sandalwood and saffron paste is smeared over the head. This protects against infection and adds to the world’s most sublime scent — a baby’s head!

May we all appreciate these precious souls and the loving parents who hold the future in their hands.

Source : Dr R. Prasad

The sole purpose of these blogs is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor/health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call us or e mail.
Dr Unnati Chavda
(Promoting pregnancy wellness)


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