Ayurveda is the sister of yoga and a healing science that can be traced back 5000 years to the Indus Valley Civilization. It is a complete mind, body, and spirit approach to health, which is practiced all over the world.
My knowledge of Ayurveda began as a teenager when I would accompany my mother to her Ayurvedic doctor. I felt like those one-hour visits lasted forever. The doctor would ask her lots of questions and usually send her home with herbs and recommendations for her daily routine.
Because of that experience, during my early twenties, I went as far as finding out what my dosha was and reading a couple of books about Ayurveda; that was as far as I went with it.
Around the time I began studying to become a childbirth educator, and welcomed my first baby, one of the things my birth doula encouraged was the practice of Kayakalpa; also referred to as the sacred window or body time.
Kayakalpa is an Ayurvedic practice observed for the 42 days after the birth of a baby. It is a time of bonding, with rituals for mothering the mother, caring for the new baby, and healing the body, mind, and spirit after birth.
Kim van der Veer is a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic practitioner student, and mother based in Amsterdam. I discovered her through my friend Erica Jago and was impressed by her passion for Ayurveda.
On her Instagram, Kim regularly shares simple and easy to follow tips for incorporating Ayurveda into ones daily life. More impressively, she even talks about Ayurveda for children and has a Dosha test for kids on her website.
Here, Kim shares her wisdom about Ayurveda for mothers, babies, and children.
How does Ayurveda support mothers and babies during pregnancy and postpartum recovery?
We all know that we have to take care of ourselves during our pregnancy. Not only to stay healthy ourselves, but also because we need to set the right conditions for our baby to grow inside us. In Ayurveda there is this saying that a pregnant woman should be carried as if she is a bath filled to the edge with golden oil and no drop should be spilled. Hence, a huge emphasis is put on relaxation and good nutrition of the mother during pregnancy. Ayurveda even gives suggestions on what to eat in a particular month to support the growth of the baby.
But what is even more important, and this part seems to be lost in the west – is taking good care of yourself in the 42 days after. It is in this period that you can grant yourself a good recovery which is the basis of good health in the 42 years after according to Ayurveda. In this period it’s all about balancing Vata Dosha. Because Vata Dosha – which is the manager of Ether and Air – has gone sky high after giving birth. This sounds very logical if you think that there is such an empty cold space left in the centre of your body where once your baby was comfortably laying. This may even feel as if you are leaving all the doors and windows of the house wide open in order for those drying and physically and mentally disturbing (Vata Dosha) winds to come in. Eating warm nourishing and grounding foods and covering yourself in warm oil everyday are key for an effective and good recovery.
For a pregnant mom new to the concepts of Ayurveda, how can she begin to slowly incorporate it during her pregnancy?
The most important part here is to allow yourself to feel what you need which is in its essence what Ayurveda is all about. Since we are all unique it’s actually hard to give some general guidelines, but that is not a convenient answer I know. So to make it more practical you can read the article ‘Keep the Pregnancy Glow for 9 months with Ayurveda’ on my website. It includes some practical tips and tricks you might want to try yourself.
What are some simple ways a mom can use Ayurveda to support her recovery after childbirth?
The most important and easiest tip is to stay warm. As mentioned earlier Vata Dosha is sky high after giving birth and therefore needs to be taken care of. As Vata Dosha is cold in nature, staying warm in your childbed period is of utmost importance for your recovery. Think about wearing wool socks (even in summer a newborn mother’s feet are often cold), take warm showers or baths and only eat warm food. The latter will also support your digestion which is distrubed after giving birth.
Another thing you can do is make yourself 3 times a day a shot with ½ tsp. Shatavari and ½ tsp. Ashwagandha mixed with warm organic full fat cow- or almond milk. Shatavari has an excellent rejuvenating effect on the female reproductive organs and it supports lactation. Ashwagandha is there to ground you as it calms the nervous system.
The last suggestion is to oil yourself up with warm sesame oil at least 3 times a week. Self oil massage (called ‘abhyanga’ in Ayurveda) soothes your skin, tones your muscles, nourishes and calms your nerve system and brings bodily fluids and fats into circulation. Actually, it nourishes all the tissues (called ‘dhatus’ in Ayurveda) of your body and therefore is a perfect way of taking care of yourself and boosting your immune system. Besides, it’s a way to stay in touch with yourself, a way to get to know your body better and cultivate gratefulness for the beautiful body you have. Something that is very important after giving birth if you ask me.
For mothers who’ve experienced a premature birth or traumatic birth, are there more aggressive Ayurvedic protocols they may utilize to get back into balance?
Well in this case I would actually highly recommend finding yourself a good professional coach or psychologist specializes in premature birth or traumatic birth. You could of course support this process with the help of a good Ayurvedic doctor which you definitely have to inform about your process.
The First 42 Days
Will you explain the Ayurvedic tradition of 42 days postpartum? Did you practice this after having Miki? If yes, what benefits did you receive?
In Ayurveda we say 42 days, for 42 years. Which means that the quality of postpartum care of a mother the 42 days after giving birth will determine the overall state of well-being of a mother for the next 42 years. Hence, it is so important to allow yourself this time to restore properly. Not only for the short term benefits, but also for the long term. If you do not take care of yourself and restore properly you will get it back later. For example in meno-pause or because your body stays achy for years to come.
With Miki I’ve definitely practiced this and I can honestly say that it was the best 6 weeks of my life so far. Yes, of course, I also had difficulties with asking for help and allowing others to pamper me. I don’t know why this is so hard to accept, but I guess it’s just our way of thinking that we need to be independent and ‘strong’.
Nevertheless, I knew how important it was and enjoyed every minute of it. The result: A great recovery both mentally and physically plus a child that is so deeply connected as I gave her all the time to land safely on Earth. It took us 2 weeks before we entered the kitchen and even 2 more before we went out for the first time. My most memorable moments of pure love and joy were after lunch when we were both oiled up and sleeping together naked in bed. She was on my chest and I was supported by many fresh cushions and blankets. Somedays with a nice scent in the diffuser and all days with flowers. Gosh I would do anything to do this over again.
What are some ways Ayurveda may support breastfeeding moms and help grow and maintain their milk supply?
There are many ways in which you can support your milk flow with Ayurveda. Here are a few things I did myself which really supported me. Especially to keep up the flow after the first 4 months.
- Make sure you drink enough fluids. Fennel Tea, Nettle Tea or Weleda’s Bio Breastfeeding teas are a good choice.
- Spoil yourself with fresh homemade almond milk. It’s very simple: soak one cup of almonds overnight and put them in a blender or slow juicer with 2 cups of water. Drink plenty. If you have time you can warm it up and add dates to it. Gosh I love this one.
- Add oats (which are considered lactation-boosting) to your diet. A wonderful recipe is: 3 cups of oats, 10 cups water, chopped fresh ginger, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, raisins, walnuts and cashew nuts all cooked together for 30 minutes until the porridge becomes jelly. Put it in a container in a fridge and scoop yourself a good portion every morning. Put it in a pan with some (fresh) almond milk and stir until your porridge is nice and smooth.
- Use plenty of fenugreek powder in your cooking. It goes very well in curries, kitchari (typical Ayurvedic dish) and in all soups. You can also make yourself a very lactation-boosting tea which you can sip when you are nursing. For this you boil ¼ cup fenugreek seeds, ¼ cup cumin seeds and 4 cups of water. Let it cool slightly and add some honey to it.
I love the Ayurvedic test you have for children! Why do you feel it’s important to know the Dosha of our children and use Ayurveda with them from such a young age?
Knowing which type your child is will not only benefit you in making the right choices in food and lifestyle, but definitely also in supporting your child to grow into their most authentic version of themselves which will in the end make them the best and happiest version of who they can be.
What is one simple daily Ayurvedic habit anyone may incorporate into their day?
Making a habit of tongue scraping after brushing your teeth every morning. Place it at the back of your tongue and scrape to the front. Repeat 5-10 times until your tongue is clean and fresh. It takes out the undigested stuff (that can transform into toxins) at the back of your tongue that has been accumulated overnight.
What type of support and resources do you have for mothers and babies, and where may we find them?
Well there is this website called sacredwindow.com which contains a lot of resources and information about the postpartum period and care of a mother. Moreover, I’ve written a very modern guide to support newborn mothers in their journey. This ‘Ayurveda for mommies (to be)’ e-book can be bought via my webshop.
This advice is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers for specific questions you have regarding your situation.