I remember visiting one of my client after the birth of her first baby.
It has been a week since she welcomed her baby earth side and was having a hard time with breastfeeding.
She had been sucked up in a whirlwind of appointments, pumping, weighing, documenting and nursing around the clock. Things were really overwhelming for her and she felt unsure and anxious.
When I arrived at her house, I did a little scan of her face and body. Her muscles were tense, her face was drawn and she had dark circles under her eyes.
I sat down on the couch next to her, touched her arm gently and softly asked how she was doing.
She burst into tears.
As she cried, her words flowed out. She talked about how she had been feeling, how she worried she wasn't making enough milk and the stress she felt in feeding her baby.
Beside her was a chocolate muffin with a few bites taken out of it. After a pause in her her story, she looked over and it and scrunched up her face.
"It's so weird" she said. "My husband bought me this muffin because he knows I love them. I've been trying to eat it for 45 minutes, I just can't do it! It's so hard to swallow!"
She burst into tears again, feeling hungry and frustrated.
I excused myself to the kitchen. In 20 minutes I had a simple soup of bone broth, sausage and vegetables simmering on the stove. I returned to the living room with a a mug of warm tea and honey.
I set it on the table beside her and offered to hold her baby to give her a break. I tucked her in with a blanket and watched as she wrapped both hands around the mug, closed her eyes for a moment and breathed in the steam.
While she sipped her tea, I noticed something interesting. I could visually SEE her muscles starting to relax in her shoulders and face. Her breath slowed a little. She stopped shaking.
The warmth of the tea was helping her come back into her body.
Around the world in traditional cultures, postpartum mothers are treated with great care and attention. There are many rituals, celebrations and traditions surrounding the monumental event of creating life, birthing and healing after birth.
Most traditional cultures care for newborn mothers by preparing and serving certain types of foods. One notable common characteristic between cultures is offering foods that are "warm".
Warm foods include dishes and drinks that are physically warm in temperature, such as steamy broths, warm herbal teas, porridges and stews. But warming spices are also given to mothers, such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves and black pepper.
Here are three reasons why warm foods can help with healing after birth.
1. Warm foods promote blood flow, circulation, digestion and help with healing.
Different cultures consider the mother to be “cold” after birth and warming foods help to bring warmth back to the mother’s body.
This also makes sense from a scientific perspective as warm foods and spices actually do promote and support digestion. Warming foods helps nutrients to travel to areas of the body in need of healing and support blood clotting.
In fact many spices and herbs (ginger and cinnamon are well studied) are linked to tissue healing, reducing inflammation in the body and many have other positive functions, like boosting breast milk production.
2. Cooked foods are easier to digest, which boost nutrient absorption.
After a period of high stress, like childbirth, digestion is temporarily compromised and suppressed.
On top of this, mothers after the birth of their baby, have the highest nutrient requirements of their entire life! Healing, tissue repair and producing breastmilk are all "nutritionally expensive" processes.
Therefore, it makes sense to feed newborn mothers foods as easy to digest as possible. Foods that have been cooked are more digestible than raw or cold foods. For example - vegetables cooked in a soup or stew would be easier to break down and absorb in the gut than a raw salad.
3. Warm foods are really emotionally comforting and grounding.
Think back to when you were sick as a child. What foods were prepared for you that brought you comfort and joy? Chicken noodle soup? Hot chocolate? Tea? Macaroni and cheese? Sweet porridge?
That warm fuzzy feeling you get from enjoying the foods you are eating (like when you go "mmmmmh!") helps boosts oxytocin in your body.
Oxytocin is a hormone which helps us feel in love, relaxed, produce breastmilk, bond with our baby and promote tissue healing and repair!
The positive emotions we feel with eating special warm foods helps support your body and brain to do what it needs to do in early motherhood.
Warm foods are also about the emotional warmth, love, connection and nurturing served along with those meals.
If a mom of a newborn is drinking of cup of tea or eating a bowl of soup - chances are someone has made it for her.
Mother's need care, love, support and attention. Food, especially something someone has taking time to prepare, is a tangible way to show that care and love to her.
So my client I mentioned above? She did need a hot nutritious meal to support her nutritional needs...but she also really needed the warmth to ground her, to help her feel better in her body and to also feel that love, reassurance, validation and support that she desperately needed.
With much love and warmth,