Being a new mom, whether with her first or fifth child, can present a number of challenges for women.
When a health challenge presents itself, plant medicine can be important allies for the woman regaining balance.
A big challenge for many new moms is fatigue with frayed nerves. Sipping several cups of oat seed (avena sativa) tea restores calm and composure.
Many moms worry about having sufficient breast milk. There are a few herbs I add to formulas to increase breast milk.
Chaste berry (vitex agnus castus) stimulates the release of prolactin, the hormone that encourages the body to make breast milk. Chaste berry is also useful to ease post-partum mood swings by helping the body regulate plunging hormonal levels that trigger the baby blues or, worse, a full-blown post-partum depression.
Fennel seed (foeniculum vulgaris) has a sweet licorice taste and is a favoured tea by herbalists and midwives to increase breast milk. Besides being used to increase breast milk, fennel soothes cramping digestive systems. Fennel’s stomach-calming medicine passes through breast milk and into baby. For this reason, a mom with a colicky baby is often given fennel tea to drink.
Nettle leaf (urtica dioica) tea enriches breast milk while replenishing mom’s minerals that may have been depleted during pregnancy.
I recommend women begin to drink nettle tea when they plan to conceive. This way, they build up the vital resources before pregnancy and its increased nutritional demands.
I encourage women to drink nettle tea throughout their pregnancy and as long as they breast-feed. Nettle’s rich protein content helps reduce cravings during pregnancy.
Nettles are a traditional tea used to balance blood sugar swings. Three cups of nettle tea and a well-rounded diet will protect a woman from gestational diabetes.
Nettle tea supports the body in rebuilding blood if there has been anemia during pregnancy or blood loss with labour. By deeply nourishing the body, nettles increase energy levels, easing the exhaustion that so many new moms feel.
Raspberry leaf (rubus idaeus) is the most frequently recommended herbal tea for a woman in her last trimester. It is also a valuable tea for a woman who has just given birth. Drinking raspberry leaf tea, for at least six months after giving birth, is important for a woman’s overall health, particularly when she has had several children.
Like nettles, raspberry leaf is high in mineral, in particular calcium. Drinking raspberry leaf tea replenishes mineral stores and builds strong, womanly bones.
Sipping raspberry leaf tea tones the uterus after birth. It helps the uterus contract and find its non-pregnant shape after birth. Some women also find raspberry leaf tea helpful to lift the mood after birthing.
Another common challenge woman face during the early weeks with a newborn is mastitis, breast infection. Mastitis occurs when a woman wears constricting clothing, has slept on full breasts or is breast-feeding in a hurry. The first sign of mastitis is a hot, tender area on the breast. Mastitis is not difficult to resolve when cared for in its early stages. Begin by drinking a glass of water every hour, having baby nurse on the affected breast, resting and wearing loose clothing.
A hot compress of chamomile tea helps to resolve the infection, as will a potato poultice.
To make a potato poultice, grate a potato and place the gratings over the hot area of the breast. When the potato begins to feel hot, remove it. Repeat the potato poultice every two hours until the heat and pain disappear.
When mastitis or any other infection occurs, it is easier to resolve when treated as soon as the first symptoms erupt. Letting an infection linger allows it to move deeper into the body, the formation of abscesses and unbearable pain. The longer an infection goes untreated, the more aggressive the treatment becomes.
Finally, when a woman loses a child or is unable to breastfeed, plant medicine can be used to dry up her milk. To accomplish this, I recommend a woman drink three cups of tea made with one part sage leaf (salvia officinalis) and one part parsley (petroselium crispum).
After giving birth, women mostly need quiet time with her newborn and the support of many caring hands and hearts.
This is the surest way to ensure both the woman’s and her child’s health.
Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist. It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit www.abraherbalist.ca. Arneson can be reached www.abraherbs.com.