It is so important to nourish your body postpartum. It can be easy to fall into depletion after your body made a baby. Our bodies are intelligent and will give our nutrient stores to the developing baby. It will continue at a much lesser rate while breastfeeding This can be seen by mothers getting cavities during or after pregnancy as the calcium is leached from bones. Staying on your supplements like a prenatal, vitamin d, and fish oil will help offset some of the depletion. However, the gut needs nourishing postpartum.
The gut takes a beating during pregnancy from being literally moved in location to make room for the baby. It is also so common to get heartburn, nausea, and cravings during pregnancy which can cause gut issues, absorption issues, and even just nutrition problems. This is not to blame the mama in any way! It's just to stress the importance of rebuilding your gut postpartum.
In Ayurveda it is taught that giving birth is a huge act of vata and then there needs to be re-balancing postpartum. Herbs that help "ground" or move gas through the body are incredibly helpful during this postpartum time. A lot of these herbs are also helpful to encourage breast milk and help a gassy baby too! During postpartum there are also many tissues that need healing either from a belly birth or a vaginal birth. From the ligaments that held your womb, to tissue trauma from a belly birth, to muscle strains during labor, and even the wound from where the placenta was.
A great way to nourish your body with herbs during postpartum is to make nourishing infusions. A nourishing infusion is made with ¼ cup to 1 oz weight of dried herbs per a pint of nearly boiling water. Then you will cover and steep for 2 hours to overnight. The longer it steeps the more medicinal it becomes however, also the more earthy or bitter tasting it will become. You can take all day to drink it, dress it up with milk and honey, lemon, or treat it like a broth and add salt. The long steep of the herbs allows the minerals and vitamins leach into the water making your tea like a "herbal vitamin".
A few herbs I like to use for nourishing infusions are nettles, red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, and oatstraw. All of these herbs are fantastic sources of vitamins and minerals as well as galactagogues, which means they help increase breast milk supply.
Nettles is full of vitamins and minerals. It also has chlorophyll, quercetin, and is a mild diuretic (helps you pee off excess water). Nettles is fantastic for low energy, someone who feels shaky, has low iron, has allergies, or just feels completely deficient. Nettles is also a galactagogue (helps increase breast milk production).
Red raspberry leaf is probably the most well known herbal tonic for woman as it has effects on the womb. Red raspberry leaf is also full of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, which helps the muscles relax. Red raspberry is a fantastic choice when your womb is still returning to size, you're having any cramping, or you feel you have womb trauma from birth. Red raspberry leaf is also a galactagogue.
Alfalfa is very high in nourishment. It is one of the herbs that is very high in vitamin K and iron. It is actually given to cows to increase milk supply. One caviat for alfalfa is that it does come through the breast milk so watch yourself and baby for diarrhea or upset stomach. I personally have never had any issues while nursing.
Oatstraw is calming for the nervous system and even helps rebuild within the nervous system. It is great for belly birth moms when they’re weaning off of the pain medication from surgery. It helps with frazzled state, insomnia, restless leg, and others. It is high in vitamins and minerals and has a good amount of calcium!
Some supplements you should consider for your postpartum time to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need and healing your gut. First is your prenatal. You should remain on your prenatal as long as you are breastfeeding. Additional vitamins may be needed depending on how you're feeling, what you're absorbing, and what prenatal you have. Consider iron or calcium if your prenatal doesn't have it. Consider taking additional magnesium, Aviva Romm, MD says a proper dose is 500 mg per day.
For your gut health consider a probiotic! I like ones that are refrigerated. Make sure you read up on the strains as some "prevent diarrhea" which could potentially constipate you or baby. Consider a collagen supplement to help heal your gut lining and to help your joints, ligaments, and tissues heal. Collagen can be a great help during postpartum. I personally like perfect supplements as they test their collagen for heavy metals. Collagen is easy to add to your nourishing infusions as it's tasteless and mixes right into warm liquid.
So how do you bring yourself back to nourishment? Get enough rest. Really. You need to sit back, sleep if you can, and let your body heal. This isn't the time for exercise or anything strenuous at all. Eat warm nourishing foods, try to stay away from processed or high sugar foods. Take your supplements, vitamins, and collagen. And drink your nourishing infusions or teas when you first start to feel run down.
Happy nourishment, mamas.