Recipe: Ayurvedic Self-Care for the Post-Partum Parent

Cara Brostrom is a photographer and mother of two, who cooks from a self-described “Ayurveda-inspired Westerner’s kitchen.” She is co-creator of The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook and Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind. Cara photographed both books and developed recipes, alongside Ayurvedic teacher and practictioner Kate O’Donnell.

How has Ayurveda changed your life: Before I found Ayurveda I was constipated almost all of the time and utterly confused by all of the advice out there on “healthy” eating. Ayurveda taught me how to eat in a way that supported my particular digestive patterns and got me regular again, and for the long term! If this has ever happened for you it is a real Hallelujah moment! I’m definitely not perfectly “Ayurvedic,” but when I wander too far from the path (because life and kids happen!) I know how to use Ayurveda to gently steer myself back on course. The beauty of Ayurveda in my life as a householder with a family is that it isn’t an all or nothing approach. I am able to have an Ayurveda-inspired pantry and still prepare food to the tastes and textures of the many ages and desires in my home.

Why did you want to integrate Ayurveda into your post-partum experience? When my first child was born I was completely unprepared for the complete and total disruption it would have in my life, and the way it would transform my body and my mind (in both good and not-so-good ways). When I had my second child I saw it as an opportunity to go in with my eyes wide open, and to give myself a more grounded beginning with the new baby and recovery from the birth. My practice of Ayurveda provided a map to recovery and well-being during a time when the norms and routines of the day-to-day feel extra demanding and unpredictable.

In terms of Ayurveda, what is going on with the body after the baby is born? The post-partum period is a time of Vata imbalance. According to Ayurveda, Vata reflects the elemental qualities of space and air. There is literally space left in the body where the baby once was. Vata-imbalance also often manifests in the mind as thoughts of overachievement. Digestion is also pretty weak when you enter the post-partum period. During pregnancy, your body digests very slowly to pull as many nutrients as possible for the baby. And so after the baby was born I used digestive spices like ginger and turmeric to help fire up digestion and elimination once more.

What were the most useful recipes/practices/tips for your during the post-partum period?

1. Favor foods that are warm, moist, oily and easy to digest. Soups, dals, kicharis, oatmeal, rice puddings. Avoid cold smoothies or raw salads.

2. Take fats to nourish your tissues and soothe hormones and emotions. Ghee is the best choice, add it to all your foods. Use coconut oil if you are vegan.

3. Use spices to fire up your digestion and get it back on track. Think ginger, turmeric and cinnamon.

4. Enlist a helpful and well meaning friend or relative to prepare this Kheer and Turmeric Milk and bring it to you at home or in the birth center/hospital. They should be consumed warm, so provide them with a beverage and food thermos for hot food delivery!

5. Create a sanctuary in your bedroom. Keep the first three days holy. Try to give yourself 6 weeks of time before other responsibilities creep in. Now is not the time to fast or try to lose baby weight. If you care for yourself and rest during this time, you will find recovery and reintegration to daily life much easier down the road.

Recipes

Post-Partum Turmeric Milk

(inspired by “All-Healing Turmeric Milk” from Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind)

Turmeric taken hot and combined with spices and fat support digestion. This can be used post-partum or anytime hormones are making you feel wacky.

Makes 1 serving.

  • 1 cup organic, whole milk (may substitute almond)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • ½ to 1 tsp Sucanat or maple syrup
  • generous pinch of black pepper

In a small saucepan, warm the milk uncovered over medium-high heat for 2–4 minutes, or until you see steam rising out of the pan. Add all the other ingredients and whisk by hand, or with an immersion blender until combined.

Pour into a mug, and drink immediately.

Post-Partum Kheer (Rice Pudding)

(Inspired by Spring Kheer from The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook)

This is most powerful when taken several times per day in the 3 days immediately post partum. When everyone is asking you how they can help, give them this recipe and ask them to bring it to the hospital / birth center / your bedroom daily in a thermos to keep it warm on your bedside table. The carbs found in the rice will help you rebuild tissue, the spices fire up your digestion, and the addition of molasses boosts iron levels and is a natural stool softener (sorry mamas, you’re gonna need it).

Makes 2 servings.

  • 1 cup cooked basmati rice
  • 1 ¾ cups almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger root, grated
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cardamom powder
  • pinch of saffron thread
  • ¼ cup Blackstrap molasses

 

Warm the rice, almond milk, ghee and spices in a small pot over medium heat. Partially cover the pot, with the lid slightly ajar, and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the molasses and serve warm.