Custom Search

February 20, 2010

Final month of pregnancy

Basically by now you have a minature human inside you, all it will do in the last month is grow good and fat. During this time expectant mothers are advised to reduce fat, salt and water from their diet.

Traditionally pregnant women move to the birthing house during the last month of their pregnancy, and remain there until the baby is six weeks old. During this time the mother and baby and both mothered, with twice-daily oil massages and specially prepared foods. This is a time of re-birth for the mother, and great physical, spiritual and emotional healing

Fenugreek and pippali are good for stimulating the uterus so you may want to gradually add these into you diet leading up to the baby's due date. Clary sage, dandelion root and raspberry leaf are all easily available herbs for gently preparing the body for labour.

Sex is fun way to stimulate labour, but don't over do it. During the last month the baby is gathering ojas from you, and sex uses a lot of ojas.

Rice porridge is an excellent light and nourishing food for the last month or two of pregnancy, as well as being the first food a mother should have after the baby is born. Cook rice in milk with a little ginger and cardamom and serve warm and soupy with some jaggary.

February 17, 2010

Week 36 - Post-natal plan

If you've ever had a baby you've probably heard of a birth plan, even if you chose not to write one, however most people have never heard of a post-natal plan. In our culture we wouldn't even know why one is needed. With breastfeeding rates so low and post-natal depression rates so high it seems obvious that we need to provide new mothers with extra support during those early months.

I study Ayurvedic post-natal care for mothers with Ysha Oakes. She has 16 years experience in this highly specialised and valuable field, and has a wonderful website called Sacred Window which I highly suggest you visit. You may like to read through the free articles or even sign up for some distance study.

I'll write more about my post-natal experiences, care and learnings after my baby is born, but for now I want to emphasise the importance of considering your post-natal needs before your baby is born, because chances are you won't have a spare second to think about your needs afterwards if your support mechanisms aren't already in place.

Here are some things you may want to include in your post-natal plan:

Phone numbers

Make a list of phone numbers of people who can support you. I suggest you have ready:
  1. 24 hour breastfeeding helpline (1800 686 2 686 in Australia)
  2. Lactation consultant for one on one support if needed (you'll need someone local, and don't just depend on your hospital, they sometimes aren't that well qualified)
  3. 24 hour health advice helpline (1800 022 222 in Australia)
  4. Three like-minded friends who have had babies within the last year
  5. Professional supports (maybe your midwife, obstetrician, doula, pediatrician or childbirth educator)
  6. Depression helpline (1300 22 4636 in Australia)
  7. Phone numbers of friends who have offered to be part of your village

We seem to have forgotten that it takes a village to raise a child and even mum's often think they should be able to do it on their own. If you look at childbirth anthropologically most traditional cultures offer new mothers a 'sacred window' for healing and bonding and becoming a mother. This time is usually about 4-6 weeks, but may be longer after a difficult birth or shorter if poverty requires.

During this 4-6 weeks the new mother should be excused from cooking, cleaning and shopping, so she can focus all her energy on her own rejuvenation and caring for her baby. A stressed, exhausted or unhappy mother can't be the best for her baby.

Before your baby is born is the time get to know your neighbours, and have a baby shower where friends give you meal vouchers, shopping vouchers or cleaning vouchers instead of more and more baby clothes. If you have older children try and arrange a village for them too. Someone to bring them a gift or take them to the park or help you out at difficult times of day like getting them to school or into the bath.


It often helps to set some guidelines about visitors before they turn up on your door step expecting your hospitality. Choose a time of day when you would most like to see people and set up "visiting hours" like a hospital. Some mothers like company during the day so they don't get lonely when their partners are at work, others prefer visitors when their partner is home so there is less pressure on the mother to play good host.

It often helps if mums make it clear they are resting by wearing pyjama's even when visitors come. I have bought and been given a few lovely sets of pyjama's to wear during my first two weeks after the baby is born. That way I immediately set up my visitors with realistic expectations of my ability or willingness to look after them. Hopefully visitors will be more inclined to make the tea or bring a casserole without having to be directly asked. We've got to put an end to this super woman image and admit that our babies would be much better off if us mums accept a bit more support.


Post-natal is all about CHANGES. It's take nine months for your uterus to grow a baby, then just 6 weeks to return to it's original size. Mothers lose litres of blood and fluid and kilo's of baby giving birth. Not to mention the emotional, spiritual and mental changes that accompany becoming a family.

What most mums really enjoy now is a bit of routine. Try to have regular meal times, go to bed and get up at reasonable times (even if you nap during the day) and allocate a time so that you can shower/brush teeth/get dressed/put contact lenses in... at the same time every day. Some families really enjoy it when dad gets up early to have a long bath with the baby before work so that mum has time to attend to her own basic needs.

Dietary needs

See Ysha's website for full details on an Ayurvedic post-natal diet, but here are the basics. Food should be warm, soupy and easy to digest. Naturally sweet foods are most important for the first few days like rice pudding, jaggary, porridge and dates. As appetite dictates start having more soups building up to stews and when really hunry introduce more solids like unleavened breads, blanched almonds and dhal. Key spices include warm sweet spices like fennel, fennugreek, cardomom, cinnamon and cloves. Ghee and well cooked garlic are a very important part of your staple diet - eat them every day. Ayurveda considers warm, spiced, organic, unhomogonised milk to be an ideal food for new mothers.

Social needs

I will be staying at home with my baby for a minimum of two weeks after the birth. If I feel the baby or I need more time or the weather is bad I will extend that time. After six weeks most new mums are ready to get out and about a bit more, but often don't know where to start, as most of the social things that we do before we have babies are no longer relevant or possible in our culture. Don't wait until you feel lonely or isolated to set up social networks, do it before the baby is born:
  • Ring your local government, PCYC, library or community centre and ask them what services they offer for parents of young children
  • Find out about local playgroups and mums groups and attend them whilst you are pregnant to meet a few other mums
  • Consider post-natal exercise classes like yoga, physio or hydro-therapy, particularly ones that let you bring your baby
  • Cinema's often have cry baby sessions during the day to take baby's to and some cafe's seem to attract new mothers
This is such an important and neglected area of women's health that I feel I could write many pages more. I'll write more over time, but this is enough for a start. For more specific Ayurveda information I can't rave about Sacred Window enough, please visit this website if you or someone you love is expecting a baby!

February 11, 2010

Meditation during pregnancy

Meditation is a wonderful practice during pregnancy. Meditation can help ease the hormone induced anxiety of pregnancy, it's great practice for managing labour pain and good for your physical health too. And if it's good for mum it's good for baby.

I've practiced meditation for many years, I aim to do one hour every morning. In reality an hour is a struggle for me, and I often miss one or two days a week. But I figure as long as my practice is regular and I put in effort then I will get better over time.

I practice a technique called Dhyana meditation, as taught by Shivarudra Balayogi. He says
Sit comfortably with the back and neck straight,
Close your eyes.
Concentrate the mind and sight in between eyebrows.
Keep watching there by focusing the attention.
Do not repeat any mantra or name. Do not imagine anything.
Do not open your eyes until the duration of meditation is over.
For more on this technique visit this website. There are many, many techniques and if you are interested in starting meditation experiment until you find one that suits you. This style of meditation is about thoughtless awareness, I also do some guided relaxations in my pre-natal yoga class which involve sending love to the baby and thanks to the world for support and lovely things like that. These are only for five or ten minutes at a time.

So back to pregnancy. Before I was pregnant I had heard that being pregnant is very grounding and that people find meditation easier during pregnancy. Prior to my pregnancy was one of the easiest and most regular periods of meditation I've been able to do. But since then it's been a very different story!

Between nausea, constant hunger and sleepiness I've found early mornings on an empty stomach difficult, which is the time of day I usually meditate. I gave up meditation completely for a few weeks when morning sickness was at it's peak, and have since found mornings a bit easier if I have some milk or fruit or some other simple food before sitting.

Then actually sitting has been difficult too. My back and hips ache, and I've found sitting in my regular half lotus far too much work for my stomach muscles. There was a stage where the only position I could stay still in for long periods was on my back supported on two bolsters, like this. This is a lovely stretch during pregnancy anyway as it opens the lungs, ribs and shoulders. Now I'm too big to lie on my back at all, no matter how well supported! These days I'm comfortable sitting in half lotus with my back against the wall, which is great.

And there's my mind. Anxious, hormone fueled,'s really hard to keep it from wandering. When I finally get comfy the baby gets the hiccoughs or decides to have a kicking frenzy against my ribs, so really, I can't win.

So in short, I feel meditation has really been very beneficial to my pregnancy, but it certainly hasn't been easy. If you are struggling with meditation don't worry, you are not alone. It's called practicing for a reason, and you'll probably find that even the most seasoned meditators have to put in effort. We have this idea in the west that some people can just close their eyes and enter heightened states of awareness. But for most of us it's about dedication, discipline and patience, as my guru says. And like pregnancy, birth and parenting, it really is worth it!

February 03, 2010

34 weeks - Count down begins

I've finished work which is wonderful! I'm keeping active with yoga, swimming and walking, as well as all the home improvements and general sorting and cleaning I'm doing whilst in nesting mode. I have birth preparation classes to go to, books to read and baby stuff to buy. I thought I might get bored but now I'm not even sure six weeks will be long enough!

I'm making an effort to do self massage with dhawantharam oil, drink raspberry leaf tea and do perenial massage. I have weekly pre-natal check ups with my midwife and the good news is the baby is head down and engaged. The surprising news is the baby is big, even though I am small, but I always suspected that I could grow a big baby!

We have the birth pool, but I'm still gathering enough old sheets and towels to contain the mess of a home birth. We have a wonderful rocking chair (after searching for months IKEA has done it again!) but are still searching for a light weight stroller. We've got cloth nappies and I figure that a newborn really only needs nappies and a couple of boobs, so really we're set.

I've got a few birth videos to watch with my friends and family who will support me through the birth, and my birth plan is pretty much ready for action.

So now it's time for rest, exercise, good food and positive thoughts. And spending some time with my darling husband whilst we are still only two.

If you read nothing else...

READ THIS BOOK. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth should be read and re-read by every pregnant women and her support people. It contains such ancient and subtle wisdom on the process of giving birth. What sometimes sounds a bit hippy and airy fairy is backed up by solid scientific evidence.

Ina May has amongst the best maternal and infant outcomes in the world, with the lowest rates of intervention. She has learned through observing childbirth in a natural environment without interference how this miracle of nature actually works, and why it goes wrong so often in our modern culture.

She has a lovely website, but seriously, buy this book and lend to every pregnant woman you know!

February 01, 2010

A-Z of cloth nappies

Cloth nappies, or diapers, have been a big area of research during my pregnancy. I went to a baby expo which was horrible (think fast food and Bob the Builder) but had a great range of cloth nappies being demonstrated so I could see them all side by side. It's hard to work out what's going on, especially from websites, so here's my little guide.

You've basically got the following choices, and loads of variation in between.

Flat squares

Old fashioned flat square nappies are what our grandparents probably used. You need something to hold them in place, like safety pins, snappi fasteners or a elastic band around the waist. You also need to buy pilchers, or waterproof covers. This is the cheapest nappy option out, but you have to learn to fold them properly or they leak.


Prefolds are still similiar to the old system in that you have nappy inserts and waterproof covers. They are fitted covers like disposables, but flat square inserts like old fashioned nappies. The advantage is that you don't need to learn any folding techniques and you don't need to use pins or other fasteners.

All in ones

All in ones are the most like disposables because the nappy lining and waterproof cover are all sewn in together. This means they are the easiest to put on the baby. The disadvantage is that you have to change the whole nappy each time, unlike pre-folds or squares where you usually only change the nappy or liner and use the pilcher or cover all day. All in ones also take the longest to dry as you can't unfold them out flat. They are the most expensive option (other than disposables) becuase you need to buy a lot more of them.

One size fits all or sized nappies

Of course you don't need to buy as many nappies if they are one size fits all, but you do risk leakage on newborns and bigger toddlers. You have to buy more sized nappies, but they will fit better.

So that's the pro's and cons, and here's my choice:

Real Nappies

This is a sized, pre fold system invented by a mother in New Zealand. The website, as usual is totally confusing, but read through the topics under Advice to get the gist of it.

The reasons I chose this system is because the folding is very simple and their are videos on the website if you need help. The nappies are very cheap ($3.50 each) and the covers are a reasonable price at $15. The nappies are square so they will dry quickly.

I also bought a pack of flat square nappies, I'll use these round the house without covers, and generally for mopping up spills and "catching possets" and for all the other messes that baby's make.

Finally (I'll write a whole post on this later cause I'm obsessed) I want to practice EC with my baby. Which is basically a fancy modern name for what humans have been doing for years, offering their babies the use of the toilet instead of letting them sit in wet nappies. Check out this great website for more info. And in my opinion prefolds will work best with EC.