Unlearning Postpartum Nutrition
I've been studying Ayurveda for over a decade and I am the author of an Ayurvedic Postpartum Recipe Book. But I'm not as strict about 'diet' as some people might expect.
That's because I am a huge advocate of increasing baby brain and oxytocin. Strict rules and information overload can inhibit the natural release of feminine hormones and create obsessive and controlling behaviours.
As postpartum professionals, it is so important that we do whatever we can to keep our clients in a gooey mushy loving haze. :) That’s why I repeat, over and over again, my golden rule of postpartum care:
Love Conquers All
Ayurvedic nutrition and any nutrition for that matter can be very confusing!!
At my workshops, for pregnant women, I always ask the question… What was your favourite food as a child? Answers varied from spaghetti bolognese to vegetarian lasagne to ice-cream cake!
Although these foods might not strictly be the most nutritionally ‘correct’ foods for Newborn Mothers I would sometimes surprise my clients by encouraging them to eat their favourite comfort foods occasionally anyway if they felt like it.
I feel there is great value in promoting comfort foods associated with love and nurturing, and maybe finding some more nutritionally appropriate alternatives.
Amber Rogers writes on her blog Kaleo:
"Eating the right way... is equated with moral superiority. This isn't a healthy way of thinking about food. It's actually disordered. A person with an eating disorder has tied their identity to their food choices and when they eat the right way they are good and when they eat the wrong way they are bad. There are too much power and morality associated with food choices."
It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with any diet, some people might think what I choose to eat is a bit weird! It's just that we have a bit of an obsession with diet in our culture, to a point where it can become an intellectual activity rather than being guided by our bodies and our babies.
When it comes to food I want you and your clients to feel healthy, happy and relaxed. Food should not be about morality or judgment and if you are feeling obsessive or controlling it might be time to seek professional help.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a postpartum mood disorder, and many new mothers cling to rules and control their diets when the world feels so changed and out of control.
Another beautiful way of understanding and explaining this is from one of my favourite scientists Kersten Uvnas Moberg. She says:
"An interesting aspect of Oxytocin's role in digestion is that it differs according to whether the animal is hungry or full. A sort of intelligence applies to Oxytocin's way of working because its effects vary to promote the optimal outcome in each situation."
Oxytocin increases nutritional uptake. When a mother has high oxytocin levels (from eating foods she loves) she gets more nutrition out of those foods! Magic, right?
If someone loves the food, no matter what it is, whether it fits into an Ayurvedic or any other dietary paradigm, if they really enjoy it then their oxytocin increases. And they then get more nutrition from that food! Enjoyment of food is really, really essential.
Although I write frequently about postpartum being a valuable time for healing and rejuvenation, and eating foods that are warm and nutritious, today I want to offer some balance.
Postpartum is already a time of great change, so to bring some more stability and grounding to your brave new world try including some of your staple foods or comfort foods. Tune in to your body and your baby and put the books and blogs away!
This is your food mantra:
Enjoy foods that are sweet, warm, oily, simple and moist.
Sit down to eat fresh, homemade food regularly.
If you only do one thing - eat cooked food.