Baby Reflux

A friend emailed me today – both his grand babies born recently are suffering from reflux.  I share with you here what I shared with him, and with many mamas.

My dear Friend –

Usually, there are 1 or two key factors, and 1 or two things which do the trick:

Air bubbles pushing up
  • Many of us have an intense milk let down at start often babies take in too much air  and milk too fast.  I learned a trick from one of my twice around postpartum clients:  briefly take baby off sucking when this happens.  Support her head with your opposite hand – press your near forearm against your nipple and areola for a few moments to diffuse the spray throughout the breast, and then let baby latch again.  This is often a big help, and does not create problems of any breast congestion that I have seen with many mothers.  Baby just can suck the generous supply without being forced.
  • Try nursing with feet lower instead of your “Boppy” pillow level, so air bubbles don’t go out the long way.  similarly, burping helps.
  • Bottle feeding often results in very quick delivery of milk, and Baby takes a lot in at once.
  • Either way, if baby takes in too much food, it won’t be just air bubbles that push milk out – it can be the excess milk itself.

Feeding too often – less than every 2 hours from end one feeding to beginning of another for breast milk, or – with formula feeding maybe less than 3-4 hours as a minimum, I’m not sure.  In either case –

  • Feeding too often is such a common issue, and results in poor food combining for Baby self induced.  Ie, fresh milk on top of sour or partly digested milk makes for a confused tummy, maybe gas, bloating, or general uncomfortable feelings.
  • It is like for us, after snacking on top of a full meal, we tend to feel ucky or mucky, and then gassy in the gut.
  • It is complicated by Baby’s common need to suck which goes beyond her need to eat.  Sucking balances hemispheres when they get out of sync, and gives him or her bliss.
  • So of course they want to suck, for that reason alone.  Even if tummy hurts, sucking at other times makes a tummy happy.
  • So babies do need our help and guidance with their instincts, not just with diaper changes and rocking and cuddling and loving.

Feeding baby while distracted, arguing, talking business, on phone, movie etc

  • Here is a test of this – does the reflux happen at night too?  Often it does not.
  • It results in baby sometimes not doing the mind-body integration dynamic as well – He often will eat too fast or anxiously, again causing confusion, tensions or indigestions pushing milk back up.
  • It is better to try feeding in quiet place for a while and see how that works.
  • Similarly, this is an obvious probably to you – be slower and gentler with a baby who has just eaten – whether in burping, bouncing, bending or any other activity putting crimp on the tummy’s process.

More on food combining

  • I have seen common that some formulas now have two or more types of protein – dairy, soy, whey….even a raw milk formula with raw liver and 3 kinds of oil in it.  Simpler is better, easier.
  • Complementary feeding of formula on top of breastfeeding can complicate digestion or overfeed also.

More on difficult digestion issues

  • With breastfed babies often mama’s diet is compromising baby’s digestion, creating gassy or hot stomach.  We call them VATA or PITTA aggravating foods, respectively.  We can talk more about this if  you like.
  • For more useful input for most people, I’d like to send you to my e-cookbook, “Touching Heaven, Tonic Postpartum Recipes with Ayurveda.” It is in the Sacred Window online shop with a companion handbook.  Recipes are annotated, menu planning for Mom is basically by weeks postpartum, and even Baby’s first foods are discussed.
  • For formula fed babies, we must remember formula is heavier – and takes longer to digest.  It has “old” or low prana (life force), and is not exactly what Baby’s biology was designed to handle.   It is not just about chemistry, it is about life force and other things.  So indigestion, gas, bloating, or just tension or tummy ache are more common with formula, and can easily trigger the body to move food back out.  It does depend on the formula recipe, and Baby’s constitution, imbalances and circumstances such as above, how well she handles formula or other influences on breastfeeding.
Essential oils, baby massage, warmth, swaddling
These can help in short term, each in their own way.
  1. Essential oils choices depend if the need is for calming, tummy aches from gas, acidity, ama (accumulated impurities) from overfeeding, even parasitic influences….we can talk about this more soon.
  2. A lovely book by author, Ashley Montegue, “Touching” reports we might scientifically consider newborns as premies until they are 6 months of age.  It is an interesting thought – how compared to other animals and brain size, humans at 6 months old are where other mammals are at birth, but that size  head would not fit through the birth canal well at all!  He proposes what from a different perspective, Ayurveda speaks of, that the newborn digestion is quite immature for about 6 months.
It is so worth tending to the little things that protect baby for best beginnings, and it is not just to mollify the tears.  All these factors can help structure good foundations done right.  The time flies, and babies are so influenced in their early days, weeks and months, for such a long time to come.  Moms too!
Let me know how everyone is doing, ok?  Although it may be good for us to get on the phone, there are several things which commonly help.    There occasionally may be more to address, but try these things and let me know.
Ysha ma

Colic Calm gripe water, which is homeopathic and FDA regulated, has also proven to be effective for reflux. Since it’s natural, and has a 94% efficiency rate, it’s worth trying before giving your LO meds. Here’s a link to their ingredients:

I’ve read that putting a very small amount of cultured juice or ghee on the baby’s tongue helps. I am not fully sure if this is safe for my baby who is only 3 months old. Which is why I haven’t tried it yet. It is supposed to be an old Indian tradition. Anyone else out there who heard of it or tried it before?

Hi Megha –

The issue definitely is how baby is digesting, and as that article suggests, supporting better digestion is important, not antacids which weaken digestive fire. What helps make mama’s milk more digestible might include missing probiotics from antibiotics to baby around the birth, so this idea of a drop of freshly cultured kefir is interesting. Just important it is not given as “food” – baby will end up with congestion and who knows what else. Ghee is completely safe and we use it on nipple or fingertip for constipated babies also, several times a day until things are moving well. Milk which comes from mamas with high “Vata” – more air and space element – usually from dry, cold, old or more difficult to digest foods including from poor food combining, will make baby gassy. Heavier foods mama eats can also make for indigestion due to excess “kapha” (earth and water) and make baby throw up heavy curds. If “Pitta” (fire and water dominant influences) is the issue, the acidity will be high or aggravating in some way such as from foods rich in oxalic acids or sub acid fruits. Pitta milk may be a little sour to the taste, kapha milk very heavy, vata milk bluish and a little astringent to baby’s taste. There are ways to promote balance with herbs as well as diet we will discuss in more detail in class in May.

Essential Oils for Childbirth

How do you choose the best essential oils for childbirth?  There is more to it than this oil is good for that, there is also using the oils you have, applying your creative intelligence to combine them.

Using aromatherapy for birth is an age old process and regaining popularity.  Top quality essential oils, which are truly 100% grown on the planet all offer to some degree the general supports below to both two and four legged animals, even though different species have some special caveats.  Over 90% of “essential oils” sold on the planet are not grown here though, so let’s talk about that soon too.  I.e. they may be petrochemical entirely, or laced with synthetic molecules to bring the profile up to sniff test or even gas chromatography profile that may be hard to distinguish from natural.  So, damaging molecules come not just from the pesticides which any fat or oil concentrates while growing.

Here are some of the exciting virtues of organic low temperature and low pressure distilled essential oils (I use Young Living oils for their purity):

  1. antibacterial; many are antiviral also
  2. enhancing oxygenation and life force or “prana”
  3. most cross the blood brain barrier with their effects by diffusion through inhalation, topical application or ingestion, and all quickly penetrate topically being very small molecules (compared to food oils which are much heavier)
  4. antioxidant, free radical reducing effects
  5. many are cortisol reducing (stress hormone)
  6. help maintaining proper acid/alkaline balance
  7. lifting toxins out of tissues for elimination
The body will actually use oils for some of these purposes if needed, rather than their more familiar signature effects, and sometimes people will say, essential oils don’t work for me much.  It is a sign either the quality of the oil is not up to snuff even if it was up to sniff, or that there are higher priorities in this body at that time.  If we tend to be constipated or use toxic chemicals for body and home care for instance, this may happen, along with a rash from those toxic chemicals being pushed out.

But I digress.  You can hear more about the really important Essential Oils Basics on a recorded 2 hour class available now in our shop.

Where to begin choosing birth oils

Some mothers like aromatherapy more than others for general labor support to relax or surrender into the process, and we let their nose know what to use.  Some prefer lavender, others more feminine florals like jasmine, rose, neroli or geranium.  Geranium has gifts for mother issues and all 4 are very skin friendly, neroli for anxiety, jasmine so feminizing and sattvic and also may help release the placenta, rose oh my and the price is an oh my too if it is the real stuff.

Some may want the aroma of the evergreens to bring nature’s life force into the room (and many other benefits), or one of the more hormonal oils like vetiver, clary sage for jump start or try a touch of chamomile for a respite when labor slows.   Sandalwood may help on any chakra level issue, or be not quite feminine or warm enough – see how she feels.   She may be dry, choose a thicker oil, or ungrounded – vetiver, clary sage, sandalwood or jatamamsi/spikenard may call. Well formulated blends offer more bioconstituents which means a broader spectrum effect.  I carry a blend with clary sage, peppermint et al for stalled labor on the rare times I get to attend births – I don’t have a midwife’s physical constitution, so don’t do that much.

Non-toxic antimicrobial support in hospital or home setting has extra benefit of smells and feels good.  Again blends are great here – or use what Mama’s nose chooses.  I use Ayurvedic principles to help choose too.  For example, in hot season we choose a less heating blend, or even lavender can be helpful here with it’s mild antimicrobial action.  In winter, or with kapha mama or someone with a bug in the family, and to protect my client from my own microclimate, I’ll often use a well researched blend which has clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus radiate and rosemary.  I use less expensive oils for diffusion, and the super potent/expensive ones on key physical or emotional points on the body directly.

For special needs during labor and delivery, aromatherapy is not nearly appreciated enough.  Used correctly is a key caveat to this discussion – essential oils are ideal for helping ease some of the problems occurring during labor.  If you are not sure about quality, dilute significantly.  If you know the inside story, and are not just trusting a bottle which says “100% pure therapeutic” etc (which could be synthetic plus hype according to the loose regulations on aromatherapy) you may dilute 1:1 or 1:2 with a carrier/massage/vegetable oil or use “neet” (straight).

But see what Mama feels about that concentration on her abdomen or near her nose before just putting it on, and know which oil may create some dryness, or be really intense.  We have booklets with nice color coded charts to make it easy.  If she is sweating with an undiluted oil on her, it is likely to sting.  Dilute with oil not moisture or cream to prevent this.

Most commonly –

  1. Enhancing tissue oxygenation
  2. Help relieve tension and promote relaxation – topical on muscle or inhalation
  3. Relaxing oils can help relieve emotional fears and trauma
  4. Help ease pain and strain – wonderful during and after labor
  5. Aid in opening the breathing passages – be careful here, oils like Peppermint are too strong for Baby!  Many oils are respiratory specific – check your reference for their other qualities.  Ayurveda talks about the 20 qualities or gunas, and it is very common sense to apply this wisdom with things like, are they soothing, warming, denser and grounding or light, penetrating, cold or hot?
  6. Communicating & Bonding with Unborn/Newborn
  7. Refreshing oils like the citruses, evergreens eucalyptuses can enliven when dullness or some kind of congestion seems to slow or tire.
  8. Antimicrobial and pain relieving oils are being used internally as well as topically by D. Gary Young for surgery!  That’s for another discussion though.  Some oils are safe for internal use, others not wise, and how they are used is key.
  9. Spiritual and emotional protections – from both solar and lunar oils can be valuable in special cases too.

So I”m asked for my favorite 3 oils for birth.   Not an easy sort, unless mama and the oils collection is there together.

  • Lavender gets the most votes for calming.  It has some benefits for pain also, called the “Swiss army knife of essential oils”.
  • A pain oil….if I’m choosing a single, I’ll choose an evergreen, fav is Balsam Fir, as it helps all the tissues – muscle, connective, bone, nerve, plus all the systems.  Evergreens are more solar, but labor is hard work and it may suit.
  • If mama is fearful or anxious, we will go into a couple emotional supportive oils and the Valor blend by Young Living is first on that list.  It has spruce, blue chamomile, rosewood and frankincense in it.  Vetiver has multiple virtues and is inexpensive.  There are many wonderful oils with hormonal and emotional benefits, that’s another class I’ve spent easily 2 hours on.
  • A hormonal oil, helpful if labor slows – clary sage if mama likes the aroma.

That’s …4… and I’m kind of biting my tongue, but a good start!

I’m of course happy to escort you into the world of my favorite oils, and your most cost effective way to do it.   What’s missing here?  More on how to USE them. If you really want to dive deeper, consider taking our Perinatal Essential Oils Home Study course.

bye for now,
Ysha Oakes

Mama-Baby Self Massage

Here’s a 6 minute video by Banyan Botanicals on how to do a self-massage with warm oil. You can of course do a few more strokes to fill in a 10-15 minute self massage, but you get the delicious idea and keys here.

Moms – this is posted for YOU especially right now! Daily self massage or when you can, the AyurDoula postpartum ayurvedic massage is recommended in the ancient medical textbooks to do for 42 days after birth to prevent so many problems. It is a good lifetime habit, but in your Sacred Window after birth you will especially feel the benefits.

Even if you just start with oiling your body all over, then Baby needs your attention, you will feel so much better.   After Baby has slept, and eaten, and you have had something to eat as well, Baby usually will be happy for a few minutes listening to your bath water run, and you talking or singing to him.

So even without someone to be with your baby while you do your massage and bath, you can do a few minutes or more.  If Baby needs attention then you can do baby massage then, and both get in the bath. Babies like the bath a little less hot than postpartum mamas do, but it is still lovely. Be sure to learn how to float your baby safely with one hand so the other is free to bathe her. Holding them close in the bathtub usually makes them fussy as they get held up out of the water and evaporation is disturbing to them.

The benefits of daily warm oil massage are so many!  To name a few – proven help for immune health, hormonal and mood balance, good circulation, understanding of safe touch, relaxation and deeper sleep, more clear and alert awake times, enhanced bonding, wonderful for fathers to become comfortable handling their baby, better lactation for mama….that’s just a beginning. Daily massage for mama as well as baby and other children, is so valuable!  At the Maharishi School, where many schoolchildren receive or give themselves daily abhyanga (warm oil ayurvedic massage), there is not the common outbreaks of head lice young school children often pass around – a great added benefit.

Our default choice of oil is – always use organic oils please, and no mineral oil. Oils and fats when they grow in nature concentrate environmental toxins which tend to be lipid like in structure also. Sesame is best for most (light, not roasted!) for it’s absorption capacity into the skin. Some pitta/rash prone folks and babies need to use sunflower, or a mix, maybe with some coconut. Coconut is harder to wash out of towels, sunflower and coconut are more cooling and may be preferred for summertime. Babies may also get rashes from nut oils, so we prefer not to use those. If you can afford it, jojoba or avocado are also heavenly.

To learn more about how to give a baby a warm oil massage, check back with us. We’ll be offering a webinar on this in the future.

bye for now,
Ysha Oakes

“The Middle Wife”

by an Anonymous 2nd grade teacher 

show-and-tellI’ve been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second grade classroom a few years back.

When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell. So I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually, show-and-tell is pretty tame. Kids bring in pet turtles, model airplanes, pictures of fish they catch, stuff like that. And I never, ever place any boundaries or limitations on them. If they want to lug it in to school and talk about it, they’re welcome.

Well, one day this little girl, Erica, a very bright, very outgoing kid, takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a pillow stuffed under her sweater.

She holds up a snapshot of an infant. ‘This is Luke, my baby brother, and I’m going to tell you about his birthday.’

‘First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad put a seed in my Mom’s stomach, and Luke grew in there. He ate for nine months through an umbrella cord.’

She’s standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I’m trying not to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching her in amazement.

‘Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts going, ‘Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh!’ Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans. ‘She walked around the house for, like an hour, ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ (Now this kid is doing a hysterical duck walk and groaning.)

‘My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn’t have a sign on the car like the Domino’s man. They got my Mom to lie down in bed like this.’ (Then Erica lies down with her back against the wall.)

‘And then, pop! My Mom had this bag of water she kept in there in case he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like psshhheew!’ (This kid has her legs spread with her little hands miming water flowing away. It was too much!)

‘Then the middle wife starts saying ‘push, push,’ and ‘breathe, breathe.  They started counting, but never even got past ten. Then, all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff that they all said it was from Mom’s play-center, so there must be a lot of toys inside there. When he got out, the middle wife spanked him for crawling up in there in the first place.’

Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her seat.

I’m sure I applauded the loudest. Ever since then, when it’s Show-and-tell day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another ‘Middle Wife’ comes along.

Warm Smoothies for New Mama

oat-smoothieNourish postpartum mothers for lactation, strength and rejuvenation with warm smoothies.  Sound wierd?  They are delicious, or can be.  Here is a Mother’s Nourishing Oat Drink.  I would love to hear recipe play.

Maya Tiwari’s cookbook, A Life of Balance has some good recipes to work with, and can use some modifications for the postpartum window.   Coming out of a long home spring cleanse (PK style), my agni is iffy and my craving is for rejuvenating influences – I’m a good candidate (using less oil/ghee) for testing postpartum recipes.  How about you or loved ones?  Children love these too.

Both barley and oats are reported by some sources helpful for lactation.   Barley being astringent and more cleansing, it will be more for Kapha moms or after first few weeks, or if there is a cold and she still needs this soothing, nourishing effect.  I’m playing with oats today.

In Ayurveda we know the gunas (qualities, out of 20 in nature) here are important influencers on lactation (notes below).

This one is quite good, was easy with pressure cooker and blender, and can use some refinements still.

Nourishing and Strengthening Oat Drink
serves 4

Quick and Easy!

2 cups pure water in medium pressure cooker
1/4 cup steel cut oats
2 cup water on oats, in stainless inset bowel for pressure cooker
3 T iron rich sweetener – dates, succanat or jaggery syrup not raisins
1/2 tsp anise or fennel seed
2 – 3 slices fresh ginger
2 T light sesame oil
1/4 tsp mineral salt
1/2 tsp Bala

or use 1 tsp-1Tbs extra ghee per serving for early postpartum mothers


  1. Put oats, sweetener, herbs, fat and salt with 2 cups of pure water in stainless bowel, on a stainless trivet or a few ball jar screw on lids, in the pressure cooker.  This setup will prevent the oat water from sliming the pressure cooker valve.
  2. Put at least 2 cups of pure water in the bottom of the pressure cooker – should come up or just over the trivet in a medium or smaller pressure cooker.   You will need more water in a larger pot.
  3. bring the pressure up and cook for several minutes.  This/instructions vary a little from brand to brand and by my experience, is not critical as long as it is cooked enough.  Turn it off and let set until pressure is down – this continues to cook safely without your attention.
  4. Add your warm (not boiling hot) oat mix and the cooking water in the pot to the blender.
  5. Process well and serve warm, and the same day.  Wonderful snack or early morning food for mama; she gets  extra ghee in hers.

Notes – the oats, anise or fennel and qualities (among the 20 gunas) of this preparation all support good lactation:  warm, oily, moist, sweet, very easy to digest includes some digestive and appetite enhancing spices usually.  Extra thin, creamy texture and all this is grounding, integrating, building to plasma/lymph tissue (rasa dhatu), from which breast milk is made.

If you like to play with recipes, here are some suggestions in keeping with postnatal needs –

  1. whatever source oats you have available – no pressure cooker needed for quick cookers.  Whole/steel cut gives best flavor
  2. presoak the steel cut oats or other grain
  3. instead of sesame oil, use ghee (min 1 tsp /cup, maybe 1 Tbs for most new mamas)
  4. 1/2 Cinnamon stick in with the oats – powder for quick oats
  5. dry ginger (and sesame oil) for kaphas
  6. more water for stove top cooking
  7. 2-4 Tbs soaked cashews after 10 days
  8. or 2 T soaked hulled mung after first few days, for added and balanced protein, with extra 1/2 cup water
  9. leave out herbs if desired.  notes:
    • the Bala is for strengthening nerves, grounding, special Vata rasayan
    • or Shatavari after 8-9 days for galactague and female systems rejuv; estrogenic
    • or Ashwagandha after 8-9 days for grounding, mamsa dhatu, vata, and doing too much
    • or Vidari Kanda or Wild Yam for progesterone supports
  10. Varieties of rice instead of oats – (be sure to soak and pressure or long cook) – favor a few whole cloves, maybe few cardamom seeds.

Madhavi Rathod’s mother taught me the Raab recipe in our cookbook, which is prepared differently, also quick and easy.   You can use rice and other flours in that way also, for even more yum and gluten free options.  For some, especially vegetarians, wheat is particularly satisfying and grounding.  Semolina (organic, please due to all the things they do to the plants these days) may bother some with gluten sensitivity, but the outer husk of wheat which has been removed for semolina, is the culprit as allergen for many of us.

Please share if you get a recipe which sings, ok?  Although I must admit, this body is quite pleased with the results of what I drank 1/2 hour ago.


Why avoid yoghurt postpartum, and why is it overrated?

Why/when to avoid yoghurt postpartum, and why is yoghurt overrated for probiotic use?

Hello Cheryl !

It sounds like your lassi was yummy!   Yoghurt does have benefits after childbirth, after 2-3 weeks, in specific preparations.  And it has some not critical but – for some moms can be more of an issue risks, depending upon when and how it is used.

After childbirth our digestion is so fragile, and little things make a big difference for mama and baby sometimes for long time to come.  “42 Days for 42 Years” is a pretty stunning statement about it!  Yoghurt is creamy, cloudy, sweet and sour inherently – these things can help rebuild and knit tissues back together, sour can even help digestion.  It contains a little, or more probiotics, not a lot.  It is taken usually cold which complicates maternal digestion and absorption of the nutrients.  It is sour which has it’s place and risks.

Lassi is a dilute yoghurt, buttermilk or Kefir drink.  If not made with ice or fruit, and including some digestive spices (yes and with sweet or pinch salt), can act as a digestive with a non-meat or egg based meal, esp legumes, esp lunch time when our agni is highest.  Note that postpartum legumes have to be cooked to thin or light creamy broth also for a few weeks.

Yoghurt and soured dairy in general are advised to avoid for all of us after say 2pm, or certainly after sun goes down. Though the least problematic of this category, yoghurt is more phlegm producing than *properly used* milk. Agni (digestive fires or enzymes) are weaker at that time of day, and these foods even yoghurt easily clog channels in this way.  I believe it has something to do also with how much time it takes for the layers of yoghurt vs milk digestion, and that in the nighttime, more food means less of Ma Nature’s intended work on the body.

The all so popular yoghurt or any dairy with banana is also contraindicated for everyone.  This food combining tends to create some heavy incomplete products of digestion which clog the “shrotamsi” (channels) and risk buildup into carcinogenic influence, per Dr. Vasant Lad.

Postpartum conditions in first few days are such that although we need some very specific digestive spices which are also warming, and warm temp foods, other warming energetics with includes sour and even salt for 2-3 days or more, is generally contraindicated. Add to that the heavier nature of yoghurt, classical ayurved as I have learned it avoids yoghurt even in lassi for at least the first 10 days after birth.

That time period is when the body is still strongly bleeding or just lightening up, and at risk of increase after decrease is still high. IE, excess even to hemorrhage, and especially in our culture of doing too much after childbirth.  Sour, salt, laxative foods and herbs, doing too much, the wrong type of heating influences all can increase blood loss.

And most people eat pre-prepared yoghurt. If made with sweeteners, the culture value is pretty much stopped.  Yogurt past a day they say changes properties to more sour, less digestible, more phlegm producing. The probiotic value is minimal also compared to what is needed to re-culture the gut flora after antibiotics. Best use something more focused there – a liquid or rehydrated powder preferred.

Homemade Kefir seems to have better culture also, and should be treated like yoghurt when using.  Store bought kefir, IMO, and we know this about many yoghurts, must have some milk added to it after culturing, to even out the flavor and stabilize it form souring too fast.  But this creates another food combining issue.  Sweet milk and soured milk digest in different time zones and locations in the gut, and confuse the body, creating ama also (incomplete products of digestion) .

It is quite the story, isn’t it?  Controversies are I’m sure tweaked reading this post.

Add to all this, the sequence of dhatu (tissue) nutrition, so little understood in the west.   For instance, one’s self-assessments which really do not go beyond, for those who even make the connection, whether we have gas, bloating, constipation, loose stool, or heartburn from our food. Per Ayurveda from food to finest product of digestion, beyond rejuvenating the deepest tissues (reproductive), is at least 32 days most foods – who knows how to “feel” what our food 4 weeks ago did?  To say nothing of the extra time involved after childbirth, at least 42 days instead of “32”.  There are exceptions, including the fact that sweet taste is the first digested from upper stomach where generally it is absorbed. And milk properly used, is said to potentially convert to ojas in a few days.

As you must know, occasionally breaking the dietary “rules” or advice is not nearly the issue as is often doing so.  I hope this discussion helps?  And encourage you to just lean into any changes.  It takes time to make changes and we have to honor gentleness there too, of course.  Sometimes the scales are hard to read, which is priority.  This is one of the reasons to have someone who knows how to make the postpartum “rules” delicious and satisfying, helps so much!

Great to be still in touch, I honor our connection and all the amazing work you do.


> Hi Ysha,
> Why is yogurt overrated and not good in the postpartum period? BTW, I just had a lassi last night!
> Cheryl

Water meditation with new baby

Water meditation with new baby – enjoy

What a wonderful way to welcome and deeply calm a newborn into at home-ness in the earth plane and human hands. This is much more than a water bath and … if it could be taught before infant massage … about 5 minutes and worth every minute.

Thanks for sharing, Suz.

Cool it with warmth – Crazy Idea?

Keeping Cool with warmth – crazy idea?  The common sense of it is known by the Egyptians, Ayurvedics and others in tropical countries. Early postpartum mamas often enjoy hot water bottles on tummy and lower back, maybe breasts or neck, even in hot summer weather.  I’ve seen it many times!  OK, I haven’t researched other cultures much, just a few stories.  Like using HOT temperature peppermint, green or black tea to cool down in the mideast.  Sounds weird and there is more explanation than I can offer now… but here are some common sense and reflections on this dance of the opposites –

Hot tea may make you sweat – sweat evaporates and cools that way.

Many herbs have cooling energetics – many astringent, sweet, and light bitter herbs, even when ingested at warm temperature.  They can be used in pregnancy and postpartum teas and foods.  All mints, raspberry, oat straw, coriander, sandalwood (use pinches of the powder), fennel, cumin, tarragon, rose, chrysanthemum, cilantro, small amounts of lime (not lemon, it heats) and many other herbs can be used to cool.  These are more helpful than just doing bland foods and drinks – try small amounts steeped into water and see.  Midwives use more of some for the mineral content.  Nettle is also cooling, though diuretic and less valuable for Vata types.

Of special note for right use – small pinches cardamom, even small amounts of clove and turmeric can transform food and experience with their penetrating (“pungent”) qualities, yet post digestively cool.  Licorice, mostly avoided in pregnancy except in small amounts in formulation by Chinese or Ayurvedics is tonic for adrenals, pitta and Vata.  Yet licorice should be avoided with HBP and water retentions.

For the same reason, minimizing energetically (beyond temp) foods and drinks like red meats, most fish, tamarind, chilies, raw garlic and onions, tomatoes, and most citrus helps, even if they are served cool temp.

So the naturally abundant sweet juicy fruits and sweet, astringent, bitter and moist vegetables – most of them ripened with the heat, have cooling and gently cleansing effect though they nourish and build.  Coconut, grapes, and pomegranate stand out.  Peaches, most melons, later season mangoes, succulent green vegetables and opo (loki) squashes are particularly refreshing and cooling yet nourish, rebuild and are easy to digest.

Vegetables and more astringent fruit like apples and pears need the heat of cooking and seasonings for the early or unusually vata exacerbated postpartum system to prevent gas, bloating, and less obvious signs of malabsorption or incomplete products of digestion.  The dark green leafies do us more good in the spring and fall when they naturally are happiest in the garden, and after a few weeks post-pregnancy.  Easy to digest well cooked mung or matpe lentils, or for non-vegetarians, something like long cooked chicken soup complements protein needs, along with the use of cooling energetic dairy (milk), a few almonds, moist dates and and grains  during the day, even though the milk is taken warm and with at least a little (sometimes much more) digestive spice, and generous use of cooling but digestively enhancing clarified butter.

Hanging out by waterfalls, rivers, and in the moonlight sound nice?  Exercise for the joy of it, which means after birth, after some weeks, gently strolling.  And in water is great for pregnancy and after 6 weeks post;  sleeping outside may nourish later stages, walking barefoot in the cool grass or seashore – you remember these probably.  These are tonic behaviors which warm the heart, nourishing a feeling of connectedness with Mother Nature and ourselves and helping us feel at home where we are – part of what we these days call “chilling out”.

Things which expand the capillaries in relaxation can help disperse core body heat and still support our primary topic, of postpartum rejuvenation.  Core warmth is super important for rest, digest and transformative rejuvenations needed.

Sweet floral essential oils are well known for their antidepressant, usually cooling, relaxing and calming properties.  Rose, geranium, jasmine, vetiver, lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile, helichrysum and others.  They “warm” the transformational processes – hormones, heart, liver and blood vessels with their potent and gentling properties.  They put us in touch via mind-body coordination whereas strong pungent coolants like peppermint and eucalyptus may create too much sudden change, contractions from the overwhelm and be too extreme to nurture the needed subtle experience of connectedness and self-referral, self-correcting dynamics of awareness.

Warm oil Ayurvedic massage actually helps support this dual need of the times – It supports the body’s thermoregulation to work better, which was slowed down from natural fatigues of birthing and caring for Baby – so the inner heater and cooler both work better.  It also supports the core work so needed after such deeply transforming as well as usually hard labor to be tended to.  IE, Relaxation  puts us into rest, digest and transform, rejuvenate, while stress hormones put us into a state of fight or flight which tightens us up and keeps us HOT and geared for outer, not inner work.

Those living in hot damp climate feel the heat the most.  They should do less of these heat therapies, favoring warm instead of hot foods and drinks, a little less heavy on food and massage oils, and delay their massage treatments for maybe 3 days after the birth says Dr. Bharat Vaidya, quoting the ancient classical textbooks in Ayurveda on postnatal care.   Hot damp weather does a lot of the needed work and is a blessing.  Too much oily massage and heat too soon can increase kapha unduly – the priority the first few days still is to re-kindle or strengthen Agni, the digestive fires, which is specifically heating.  Professional guidance and care is particularly helpful during the first weeks to navigate this dance of the opposites in our various tissues and systems best.  Mothers DO need to AVOID air conditioning as much as possible.  The cold draft of “refreshing” AC can exacerbate natural weaknesses.  OK, I dare you to carry on this conversation with me if you doubt.

I shared some of this with a midwife who was grateful to understand why their clients (in Florida summertimes!) would not let them turn on any AC even for giving birth.  Everyone was dripping, but mama’s system, and baby’s, work best with this integrative experience of keeping their cool via mind-body integration awareness, supported by warmth.

And try the cooling effect of sattva, if you know what that means.  You could start with simple alternate nostril pranayama.  At this time, don’t worry which hand, and if baby is falling asleep in one arm at the breast – great – now is your time.  Baby needs 10-15 minutes often, to settle into stable deeper sleep.  Perfect time for you to purr.  This breath practice in the postpartum time should be done without any strain, force or breath retentions – simply inhale in through one nostril closing the other, naturally full breath, then switch nostrils for a naturally full out, and in on that side.  Switch – out, in.  Switch – etc.  for about 10 minutes.  The shift in brain wave patterns accompanies a chilling out mentally, physically and emotionally, a balancing of core and surface circulation and comfort, and much more.

Does this biochemistry make sense to you?   Let me know!  And consider Ayurvedic Midwife Terra Rafael’s course, Enhancing Fertility, Pregnancy and Birth with Ayurveda (16 hours), and my core class for the AyurDoula and Maternal Newborn Ayurvedic Practitioner’s programs – Ayurvedic Maternal and Newborn Care (16 hours)



Herbs for Mood – Depression and many related conditions

Herbs for Postnatal Moods – We use several really good ones.  Front line – I often call on Tulsi with Gotu Kola or another Brahmi tea – serotonin enhancing in Nature’s user friendly bio-balancing way that can be tandemed for month or more before beginning to SLOWLY reduce other herbs, according to some experienced Ayurvedics.  Transitioning off over at least 6 months, according to Dr. Ann Blake Tracy, if on mood meds for over a year.  She does not however have Ayurveda’s toolbox, so I believe there can be more help up front while still proceeding so very cautiously.   (Good results for a few days do not mean all is well – the medicines have stored in high quantity in brain tissues and begin to download in chunks into blood).  So this is just a beginning discussion of a number of mood supportive herbs.

These 2-3 herbs are also gentle at a time we need to be gentle!  They are key manas (Mind) rasayana (rejuvenative tonic) herbs.  Yes, they are safe in pregnancy and postpartum.  Especially for Mamas, I combine them a bit of digestive (ginger, pippali, or even cardamom), with shatavari (wild asparagus root) to potentiate the manas effects (connecting to body/hormones, and enhancing to lactation anyone?) and/or ashwagandha (more root chakra and Vata grounding/pacifying, also helps lactation).  There is controversy about use of ashwagandha in pregnancy, some are big on it, others totally avoid, I take a more middle perspective, in smaller amounts and well combined.  We can discuss that again another post.

Although there are many distinct diagnoses for mood issues after, or before childbirth, in Ayurveda we see a common thread during the postpartum time of high Vata, which may also push another dosha out of it’s right place and function.  We can consider support with herbal foods – a gentle benign tea – and leave the legally appropriate scope of practice in hands of licensed practitioner.

Tulsi-Gotu Kola Tea is on sale – just received the message today – with this wonderful company, Organic India .  I so honor this company – they sustainably employ thousands of families now in India in organic herb production.  They have loose leaf tulsi and brahmi (gotu kola or bacopa both work similarly and are called “Brahmi”).

I learned this from Ayurvedic practitioner of many years, Sarasvati Buhrman – she gives 4-5 drops nasya (nose drops/nasal administration of herbs) per nostril of brahmi decocted into ghee for Vata depression, varying it for Pitta and Kapha, along with 4-5 cups daily of the above tea as front line support while the rest of needed “homework” is being put into place.  I’ve worked with an older woman her family sent me East to support for a week, in severe suicidal condition under Dr Bhurman’s advice, and watched it really help, but please note that nasya is contraindicated in Pregnancy.

And severe cases MUST be under her doctor’s umbrella of support and referral.  Particularly with pitta cases involving violent impulses or thoughts which are highest risk.  There may be risk to baby or mother’s life.  They often have many issues and sources of advice, which can throw them off from prioritizing use of your support, even dietary and massage gets de-prioritized.  So this is offered as beginning discussion on long term project for education and care research perhaps.  We would want to look at the individual’s other issues in postpartum time and prioritize for it all to create their unique herbal formulation, under client’s and Doctor’s ok.  Research projects would start with much simpler perameters of course, and less potent results for many.

How does all this fit in context of a postpartum care practice?  

The following perspectives and the best possible care are especially important!  Mood support is greatly aided with the following knowledge and skills which may be much less difficult to implement than herbal formulation.   A mother’s special abhyanga (massage) given 3 days in a row absolute minimum, or 5-6 days (not spread out, in a row) as a wiser minimum for more serious cases, so helps ground the herbal effects and not just pop back out of benefits to this process.  It is a deeply significant component of postpartum care and of mood supports,  actually advised for all mamas, not just mood challenged, for 42 days daily.  Our next 4 day intensive (including Infant Massage) is this September, being scheduled this month.  Sometimes energy work such as Mama Marma taught in this same Postnatal Bodywork with Ayurved course, is even more valuable in extreme trauma, or both therapies used together.  (link takes you to prereq 2 hour now recorded class on Postnatal Bodywork Ethics I, $25 only; massage CEUs available after completing homework) .

Also deeply important are the rather unique even to Ayurvedic students and many western trained Ayruvedic practitioners, dietary recommendations after childbirth.  You can learn more in the 16 hour now recorded course, Ayurvedic Maternal and Newborn Care 1 ($179).  Extensive class notes (about 200 pages) are still included, also the e-cookbook and e-handbook for your clients, Touching Heaven, Tonic Postpartum Care/Cooking with Ayurved (just $12 for both).    The advanced 5 hour class on Safe Postpartum Herbals is also recorded; advised prereq is ANMC1 and solid intro to Ayurvedic herbology.  Those wanting to get started with potent supports right away can begin studying client and practitioner use of aromatherapy.   A 2 hour Essential Oils (More than) Basics class is also now recorded and getting really good reviews – as I must say I expected – even from experienced aromatherapists.

This is a big discussion, of course.  For a heads up, we also have a 3-4 hour class on Ayurvedic Perspectives on Mood Meds, for nominal $33, recorded and soon to be available that way.  Similar advised prereqs as above.

The early post-pregnancy time has been called “The Black Hole in Health Care” by Dr. Jeanne Watson Driscoll PhD,APRN,BC.  It is a big Y in the road, and effects easily last for decades – “42 Days for 42 Years” according to “Mother of Ayurveda” in the west, Dr. Sarita Shrestha.

I must make clear disclaimers to this post – it cannot be intended to replace the advice of your medical doctor or primary practitioner.  Information here is presented for educational purposes and  you must complete your own homework and work within your appropriate scope of practice.  For serious concerns, you may wish to also look at the reports by Dr. Ann Blake Tracy on a well researched website maintained for many years,  She still offers phone consultations if you feel you are having adverse reactions to mood meds.  For some of the heavy social/medical industry implications – The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is a nonprofit mental health watchdog, responsible for helping to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive practices.  This is not a first focus recommendation for mothers, please; there is a serious political and social conscience and service they provide for those so inclined to work in that arena.

In your service,

Ysha Bhu

Finding Mama Medicine & Food in the Rose of Sharon

Today I snacked on a treat… sweet petals of “Rose of Sharon”, combined with a few iron rich Monukka raisins, pine nuts and I must admit, some dark organic chocolate, in sweet coconut milk.  Exquisite!   In the heat, that is all I wanted for a light supper actually.   But what are the medicinal properties, I wondered?  (Certainly the chocolate is not wise for a postpartum mama-baby.)  A shrub called Rose of Sharon is blooming in my back yard, and I felt her qualities might have gifts for new mamas.

There is much more than expected, for good mood food and herbal supports!   There are stories about  two plants sometimes of that name, with similar medicinal properties and growth patterns.  Cistus Ladanifer, Rock Rose or Rose of Sharon was used in biblical times medicinally.  Hibiscus Siriacus or Rose of Sharon is a relative of Hibiscus and Hollyhock, all in the Malvaceae family, and though little used in western herbology it is well known to the Chinese.  Writing about these helps me honor  them both.

Googling for pictures, we can see here the different leaf structure, with similar large blooms of 5 petals usually with dark red spots on each near the middle, and very similar growth pattern as the plant gets to full size, even to how the many buds form at the stem/leaf bases abundantly up the tall shrub’s long stems.   They bloom similarly – both species – from late July through September or later.  Cistus – Rock Rose flowers, above, are more papery.  Leaves of Cistus Ladanifer are more narrow, thicker and with more resinous sticky essential oil (still not a lot) and a smaller, narrower but thicker leaf.  It is more drought resistant.

Hibiscus Siriacus – Rose of Sharon flowers, below, are more demulcent.  Leaves of Siriacus often three lobed and serrated, are larger and make a more tropical looking bushy plant. Although my Rose of Sharon lives very happily in Albuquerque, she needs more watering to keep from drooping than the obviously more resin protected Cistus, which at least one source calls an evergreen.    Hibiscus varieties are definitely deciduous.  Flowers of both Rose of Sharon and Rock rose look and grow much the same, even growing from buds placed on stems in similar fashion.

The shrub and many medicinal descriptions and qualities are similar but it seems the mucilaginous properties of the hibiscus varieties dominate, and the medicinal resin also called Labdanum even in the Bible, is special to cistus.  Dried flowers of the hibiscus family are often used in Chinese medicine in tea form for multiple purposes, including as gentle and mild laxative, although dried powder used in large quantity reverses and can be constipative.  So though delicious and nourishing as fresh blooms for a cooked food item, we should also observe its effects with our clients, after testing on ourselves.  I am new enough eating these I can’t give you feedback yet, except that one of the fresh large blossoms did not make any change in my stool.

Western herbalists do not seem to use these plants much for medicine.  I was delighted to find some pages on Rose of Sharon in a book called Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West : A Guide to Gardening, Herbal Wisdom and Well Being.  Great detail is there about how the Orientals have used this plant for long time.  In moderation it may serve many uses including gentle demulcent benefits for irritated or inflamed gut.  The flowers may be used externally as an emollient and internally in GI tract support.  It reduces BP, is hypotensive and mildly diuretic, according to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine quoted on Wiki.  White flowers are favored for their best medicine apparently in both plants.  Flowers, shoots and unripe seed pods can be used in healthy stir fry from all I see and will be experimenting with.

A sticky resin like substance on bark and leaves of Cistus, called labdanum, has been used since ancient times and is spoken of in the Song of Solomon in the Bible, reports the Essential Oils Desk Reference third edition.  There 2/3 of a page speaks of the essential oil called Cistus ladanifer, also called Rock Rose.

The ants were all over my shrub in the spring- it is sweet and a young shoots a little sticky.  But this plant matches visuals for the Hibiscus variety.  Ants didn’t like the neem spray I used, and the plant has gained it’s strength and is not much attracting them now.  It is blooming prolifically every day so I have begun drying some flowers. They are slower to dry than, say, dandelion leaves, which indicates more nourishing than cleansing bio-constituents in them.

So my plant is in the mallow family – as is okra and hollyhock.  Gentle properties are found especially in the flowers of this plant.  “Medicinally, rose of Sharon’s flower buds contain mucilage, a gooey medicinal compound made of polysaccharides, found in most species of the mallow family; think of okra’s sliminess. Mucilage can be used to heal burns, wounds, gastric ulcers and internal and external inflammation and irritation, such as sore throats or urinary tract infections.”  This information and much more is found in the “Urban Forager”, herbalist Holly Richey’s article, Eat Your Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus and Hollyhocks.  I love it!

Reducing to inflammation says reducing to Pitta dosha and alkalizing; the mucilage is reducing to Vata dosha; rebuilding for tissues, and soothing.  Whether it is actually cooling or not, it is gently so, and at least one of these “Roses” may have some prabhav for the mind and cellular rejuvenation.

Cistus ladanifer is an evergreen shrub  say some, and Hibiscus Seriacus deciduous.  The latter growing it appears even more readily to a mature 6 to 12 feet tall and about 6 feet or more in diameter.  Both drought tolerant and love full sun if possible say the growers.  Ladanifer may be very fragrant; Hibiscus Seriacus in my yard is only very mildly so, but still sweet.

Bioconstiuents which stand out are the sesquiterpenes in the labdanum.  Sesquiterpenes among other gifts are excellent at oxygenating and favored for support of brain function.   “The essential oil of Cistus comes from a rose that has a soft, honey-like scent. It is believed to be the biblical Rose of Sharon. Calming and uplifting, it is helpful for meditating and counseling. Traditionally, cistus has been used for respiratory support.  Cistus has an approximate ORAC of 38,648 (TE/L). TE/L is expressed as micromole Trolox equivalent per liter,” according to Young Living Essential Oils company.

Rose of Sharon essential oil, also called Cistus ladanifer, give Labdanum or Rock Rose essential oil.  It is steam distilled from the plant leaves and branches.  It has been studied for its effects on the regeneration of cells, is antiviral, antibacterial, andihemorrhagic, anti-inflammatory, supports the sympathetic nervous system and stimulates immune activity.  It is used with hemorrhages and arthritis, and lifts the emotions.  Mood supportive, VATA and immune supportive – nice!

This essential oil may be – if known as organic and distilled without solvents – for inhalation, dietary or topical use – Topically, up to 2-4 drops can be used on an area, touched on chakra, marma or accupressure centers, and it can be used of course by direct inhalation – rub 1-3 drops in hands and cup over face, breathing into respiratory system.  When using as a supplement, dilute one to four drops in 4 fl. oz. of liquid such as almond, coconut or rice milk, not water; or use in few drops of coconut oil in a blend or in capsules, in clarified butter or other dietary fat.  These are all preferred uses in my opinion, as those plants which are less abundant in oil are costly to use in baths, diffusers, and full body oil mixes.    Up to 10-15 drops can be added to your bath water by first mixing with milk or 1-2 Tablespoons of salt, and then adding to the bath. (Essential oil mixes well with milk or something with protein or fat; it does not mix with water and would float on top of the bath water risking skin irritation.)

For reducing skin aging and wrinkles, a drop can be mixed with night cream or oil and applied to face.  Given possible skin sensitivity issues, I would slightly dilute in some way, if using anywhere the sun will shine much, or with any repetition.  If pregnant or under a doctor’s care, we must advise to consult your physician who probably has no knowledge of this dear plant’s virtues, so I would come prepared with some good source material besides my blogpost to gain his blessings.

Naturopath Ann Hill cites the Bach Flower remedy uses of Rose of Sharon for complete exhaustion with underlying anxiety.  She gives recipes for preparation, and to use 3 drops 3X daily.  I am happy to find this; anxiety underneath complete exhaustion is not uncommon and risky postpartum issue.  We know from Ayurved that support is needed to reduce the Vata, rejuvenate nervous system, support deep rest that transcends the high Vata conditions.  Sometimes we find so much deep anxiety that bringing in energetic medicines like the flower essences as well as the physical food/herb and essential oils help a client turn around much more easily.

Whether we are looking at Cistus ladanifer, or to lesser extent perhaps the Hibiscus Siriacus, the medicinal properties speak of Vata pacification, rejuvenative powers, immune supportive and gentle effectiveness.  The ladanifer in particular strongly whispers of precious ojas enhancing and sattvic effects; special gentleness, rejuvenative powers, physical and mental protective potency.   This journey of discovery brings me to cherish – and use – a little bottle I have had in my Biblical essential oils kit for many years, called Cistus, alias Rose of Sharon.

A little on my neck this evening has been calming and refreshing!   You can be sure the next time I teach about essential oils and perinatal uses, as well about herbs and perinatal uses, these plants will be included.  And I will be exploring culinary uses – stir fries, (the rare even for me, salads and decorating sweets), edible presentations, as dried herbal, and such as in one old herbal recipe for administering flowers of Rose of Sharon, biscuits.  My rose petal shortbread was great – this should be fun too!  I hope this brings you closer to exploring these plants if they are available in your life also.