Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
If you’re a new mom, you’ve likely heard the common refrain. While ample fluids after birth are critical for your recovery and well-being, as well as making plenty of breast milk for the baby, there’s more to the story than keeping your water bottle full at all times.
Teas and tonics have historically featured prominently in postpartum care. Traditional healing systems like Ayurveda, in which I’m formally trained, recognize the value in herbal medicine and use much more than plain-Jane H2O for hydrating new moms. In fact, they often viewed the unadorned stuff straight from the faucet a lamentable missed opportunity. After all, with so many changes after birth, every sip and morsel can make a difference, so why not give your hydration the biggest bang for the buck?
Common spices like cumin, coriander, and fennel can be brewed into a simple digestive tea, as can ginger and fenugreek, with added support for breastfeeding. Other mineral-rich plants, like nettles, can infuse postpartum hydration, while more substantive tonics, like specially prepared kinds of milk, provide easily assimilated nutrition as well as hydration.
Before we look at each of these options, in turn, notice the emphasis on heating hydrators like herbal teas. In proper postpartum care, warmth is key! Food and drink should be served warm, with even plain water no colder than room temperature.
This is because birth disperses the newly delivered mother’s critical warmth, which must be rekindled from the inside out. Learn more.
Reaching for warm drinks serves another, less tangible purpose: ritual.
Medicinal and celebratory drinks permeate all cultures and cuisines—and not only for their powerful healing compounds. The ritual of savoring a warm drink can steady the mind and emotions far beyond the capacity of the given constituents to heal the body.
Furthermore, sharing a warm drink with a companion or community, or even in solitude if it’s a brew that’s been cherished throughout the ages, can create a sense of unity, a type of soul synergy that defies time, place, and even explanation. Postpartum hydration is indeed nourishment for body, mind, and soul!
Cumin, coriander, and fennel (CCF) are powerful digestive spices that create a synergistic blend when simmered together. A traditional Ayurvedic remedy for a number of gastrointestinal symptoms, CCF tea especially benefits new mothers. In addition to gently removing gas, relieving abdominal distension, and enkindling the digestive fire, it aids hormone balance and milk production. Mildly laxative and diuretic, this easy-to-prepare tea benefits both mother and baby, since fussiness may be due to digestive discomfort.
While not classic components of CCF tea, fenugreek and ginger can be welcome additions. For new moms, fenugreek is often the go-to lactation aid, but it has other perks: in addition to supporting digestion and rejuvenation, it encourages the uterus to release remaining placental fragments. It also supports normal bile production, healthy pancreatic function, and blood sugar balance.
Ginger is also a well-known digestive aid. Gently warming with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, fresh ginger features liberally in postpartum cooking. In fact, Ayurveda affectionately dubs it the “universal medicine,” so throw in a few slices whenever you can!
- 1 quart filtered water
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
- fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (optional)
- Bring seeds, water, and optional ginger to a boil on the stove.
- Simmer for 10 minutes or more.
- Strain and serve hot.
Especially for postpartum moms, the thermos method is even easier. Add the seeds and boiling water to a quart-sized thermos. Drink throughout the day, aiming for 5 to 10 minutes before breastfeeding if trying to counteract digestive discomfort in the baby. Chew some of the seeds while you drink for a little extra strength or strain them and add to a meal later.
If tea isn’t possible, you can still benefit from these healing plants. Herbal suppliers like Motherlove, a family business that makes organic products for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and babies, crafts supplements with similar ingredients. Their More Milk Plus and More Milk Special Blend alcohol-free liquid herbal extracts contain both fennel and fenugreek. Motherlove also makes a plain Fenugreek extract.
Other time-honored herbal favorites for both pregnancy and postpartum include red raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, and oat straw, often prepared as infusions. When used regularly over time, they have myriad benefits, including
- nourishing both mother and baby
- strengthening bones, teeth, lungs, nerves, and the circulatory system
- preventing miscarriage and hemorrhage
- easing morning sickness
- providing vital nutrients like iron and protein
- reducing pain during labor
- speeding birth
- assisting milk production
Infusions are stronger than teas, extracting more vitamins, minerals, and proteins from the plant leaves. Yet they are easy to prepare: steep overnight and drink in the morning! Pick two herbs and prepare on alternating days, or combine several herbs into a large glass jar for storage and then infuse together.
Basic Herbal Infusion
- ½ cup dried herbs (like red raspberry leaf or nettle leaf)
- 1 quart filtered water
- fresh lemon wedges (optional)
- stevia to taste (optional)
- Put a large handful of herbal matter (about ½ cup) into a quart-sized glass jar or a small handful (about ¼ cup) into a pint-sized glass jar.
- Fill the jar with boiling water and cap tightly.
- Let stand for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
- Strain and drink, adding a few squeezes of fresh lemon or a few drops of stevia to taste, if desired. Refrigerate what you do not consume, reheating later as needed.
Again, Motherlove offers alternatives, if tea isn’t available. Check out their More Milk Two alcohol-free liquid herbal extract, which is specially formulated to include both red raspberry and nettle.
If you tolerate dairy, consider warm milk tonics for additional nourishment and rebuilding. Make sure to choose raw (or at least low-temperature pasteurized), grass-fed, non-homogenized, organic cream-top milk whenever possible. You can also replace dairy milk with nut kinds of milk like almond, cashew, or coconut. Either way, make sure to warm it up and spice it up with tasty digestive aids like cinnamon, cardamom, and clove.
Here’s one new-mom-approved recipe for a warm milk tonic. You’ll notice that I often camouflage traditional herbal medicine, like Shatavari, in my postpartum tonics. Shatavari is a classic rejuvenating herb that promotes vitality and strength, nourishing the tissues and supporting healthy lactation.
While I like the simplicity of powdered Shatavari, it can also be taken in supplement form, like the Shatavari capsules or Shatavari extract from Motherlove.
Proper hydration with heating herbal brews can ease the transition into motherhood for body, mind, and soul. But much more goes into successful breastfeeding and a peaceful postpartum experience. Learn more.
And if you’re interested in other herbal products designed especially for the delicate and sacred season of new motherhood, check out the whole line of Motherlove products. They’re 15% off right now at Soap Hope, but only for only a limited time! Use code MLVDD.
Stacy Claxton is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner (FDN-P) and an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner (AHP) specializing in preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum care. She offers a range of services that merge the laboratory investigation of her FDN training and her foundational background in Ayurveda and yoga. As an educator and a clinician, she believes strongly in the transformative power of diet and lifestyle and desires to inspire wise stewardship in the realm of holistic health. Stacy is one half of the dynamic duo behind Preparing to Parent (P2P), where she and her identical twin, Erin, are “growing families with purpose…on purpose.” To learn more about Stacy’s private practice and the mission of P2P, please visit www.preparingtoparent.com.