Ayurveda is a knowledge (veda) of life (ayur). It encompasses mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Ayurveda is an elemental science (earth, air, water, fire, space) based on a variety of metabolic body types, called dosha.
It is over 5,000 years old and believed to be the oldest healing system in the world, and the forerunner of many systems on medicine including Traditional Chinese Medicine and Hippocratic medicine. Yoga, as we know it today, is one form of Ayurveda, and still now, in India, an Ayurvedic hospital would have many departments including surgery, gynaecology and paediatrics.
Ayurveda began as an oral tradition, passed down through songs. Its most important texts are the Charake Sumhita and the Sushruta Sumhita, which were written down in the form of hymns (like the bible) somewhere between the birth of Christ or a few hundred years later.
Your baby, and every human being, has two influences, nature and nurture. Both modern science and ancient Ayurveda agree that the influence of each is about even, children are created of half nature and half nurture. In Ayurveda, these are called prakruti and vikruti.
Prakruti is nature, it’s your fixed metabolic constitution. It’s with you for your whole life and is influenced by a number of factors including genetics, the health of your parents, uterine environment and your mother’s diet during pregnancy.
"Vatta, Pitta and Kapha,
the group of the three doshas,
in their natural and disturbed state,
give life to the body and also destroy it."
Ashtanga Hridya 1.6
Vikruti is nurture. It’s more environmental and it’s the part of your body type that changes. For example, everyone is hotter in summer, and dryer in old age. You probably noticed your digestion had extra fire and water during pregnancy (manifesting as nausea or heartburn), but became dry and cold after giving birth (resulting in constipation or loss of appetite).
All dosha, Vata, Pitta and Kapha are present in all life forms. When in harmony the dosha create health, growth and vitality. When out of balance dosha become disease, toxicity and atrophy.
A Vata body type is dominated by air and space and energetically cold, light and dry. Pitta is predominantly fire and water and feels hot, wet and light. Kapha is earth and water and is heavy, cold and wet.
Understanding dosha can help you to balance your body and maintain health.
Your Baby's Dosha
Everyone contains all three dosha, Vata, Pitta and Kapha, but one or two will be stronger. A naturally dominant dosha does not signify imbalance, it is simply a body type. Read through the description of each metabolic type and see which one sounds most like your baby. You will probably notice traits from each type.
Your Vata Baby
Personality - A Vata baby is very alert and active. Vata has delicate nerves and startles at sudden noises, sometimes Vata babies don’t even enjoy music, unless it is very peaceful and quiet. Vata is busy! So much to do - so little time! But is easily overstimulated and thrives on routine.
Play and Learning - Vata is intelligent and learns new things easily. This baby has an active imagination and is happy to escape to a fantasy world. Vata doesn’t like to miss out but can be easily overwhelmed and needs some help learning to self-regulate.
Sleep - Vata is a light sleeper, takes short naps, wakes frequently and often wakes if there is a sudden noise. Vata babies need a lot more help than their peers to fall asleep, and may need to be parented to sleep for many years.
Food – Your Vata baby snacks all day, but fidgets and doesn’t like to sit still. This body type is more likely to be a picky eater and have colic as a baby, and indigestion persisting into adult hood. Vata can forget to eat, then suddenly seems ravenous. Can have constipation, or alternating constipation and diarrhoea.
Body - Vata is often light and thin with dry skin and busy eyes.
Vata needs regular meal times and snack times and sometimes needs some encouragement to sit still and eat. Vata needs warm, cooked, soupy foods and a naturally sweet and warming diet high in ghee and grains. Spices really help Vata’s digestion by warming things up, including cumin, ginger and cardamom. Avoid dry, light and raw foods. Warm oil massage and warm baths will really benefit Vata babies, as well as time relaxing at home with loved ones.
Your Pitta Baby
Personality - A Pitta baby is a leader and can be quite bossy from a young age. Pitta is ambitious and can get very frustrated if unable to achieve something, but also forgives and forgets easily. A gentle routine may help this baby by pre-empting needs before they are too urgent, but whatever you do don’t interrupt them in the middle of something!
Play and Learning – Pitta is highly motivated and focussed and will keep their eye on the prize. Pitta babies like to play in groups so they can be competitive or be the boss. They play intensely and then crash into a deep sleep.
Sleep – A Pitta baby never looks tired, sometimes the only tell-tale sign is that they keep falling over. Sleeps very deeply but wakes occasionally. Pitta may fall asleep in their high chair.
Food – They need to eat immediately and don’t cope well without food, skipping meals leads to massive melt downs. Pitta has a strong digestion, eats lots, and leaves you with lots of nappies to deal with! If out of balance can tend towards diarrhoea. Pitta babies are more likely to have reflux, food sensitivities and allergies.
Body – Pitta is sturdy and strong. Average weight but often a stockier build. Pitta skin is red, hot, burns easily and prone to rashes and spots.
Pitta needs to have food ready before they get hungry! Avoid large amounts spicy, sour and fermented foods including chilli, garlic, olives, tomatoes and mature cheese. Pitta needs a sweet and cool diet including cow’s milk, ghee, coconut, white basmati rice and fruit. Pitta can tolerate raw foods better than other dosha. Cooling spices like turmeric and coriander help cool down Pitta.
Your Kapha Baby
Personality - A Kapha baby is gentle and easy going. Kapha likes to please and will smile easily and frequently. Kapha loves cuddles and is very good at making eye contact. They go with the flow and don’t need routine.
Play and Learning - Kapha can be very materialistic and this can make it difficult when playing with other babies. They take great pleasure in observing others joy and remember every detail. It takes Kapha longer to learn, but they never forget.
Sleep – Kapha loves sleep, and has long, deep sleeps, day and night, and doesn’t wake easily. But they are quite content without sleep and don’t mind if you cart them around all day and skip naps and meals.
Food – Kapha needs to eat only moderate amounts and can go longer without food, though they often like to eat for more emotional reasons.
Body – Kapha babies are big and chubby and are not very motivated to move – often walking or crawling later just because they can’t be bothered. Kapha babies often have big eyes and long lashes.
Kapha needs a little encouragement to get moving by offering plenty of fresh air and time to play in nature. Avoid sweet, heavy and oily food. Kapha needs light and spicy foods including ginger and vegetables. Kapha needs less heavy foods including dairy and nuts than other babies, and more rye, barley and buckwheat. They may reach for food for emotional reasons so try and offer cuddles when they are sad and a playmate if they are bored.