As a health care provider, I know that when you treat mom, you’re treating baby as well, and vice-versa. After all, there is no closer bond I can think of than that between a mother and her newborn child. New moms want to do everything perfectly for their babies. There is tremendous pressure to do all the right parenting things in order to give your child the best chance for a happy and healthy life. All of the building blocks for good health start right at the beginning.
But, if things aren’t going as perfectly as you’d hoped, please do not fret or fear. Complimentary medicine can offer effective solutions to optimize the health of mommas and their babies from pre-conception to birth to childhood and long after, along with healthy solutions for the whole family.
Most babies I’ve worked with have had some antibiotics some time shortly after birth, and most people do not know that replenishing gut bacteria is not only critical to form baby’s healthy digestive system, but also to regulate his or her immunity. Although healthy bacteria are passed from mom to baby through vaginal birth and breastmilk, for some babies supplementation is a very good idea. Be sure to consult an expert for baby-friendly probiotic formulas. To help with colic symptoms, massaging gas through the digestive system is helpful, and I very often recommend castor oil tummy rubs to help regulate a baby’s digestion. You can watch a tutorial on infant massage here at Wallis for Wellness and read more about castor oil use on our blog. In a nursing baby, having a cup or two daily of fennel tea for mom can both increase milk supply and act as a digestive tonic for baby to help calm his or her digestive symptoms. While peppermint may be good for digestion in adults, it can decrease milk supply in nursing moms and should be avoided.
For many mothers, breastfeeding is a challenge and there is often insufficient education around nursing. Seeing a lactation consultant to ensure proper latching is an excellent idea to make sure you and your baby are feeding happily together. Incorrect latch is often a reason women stop breastfeeding–a correct latch should not be painful.
For the moms with difficulty producing the right amount of milk, there are many herbal options. Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk Tea is a blend of galactogogues, or milk-stimulating herbs, that is gentle and effective. Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle are also popular herbs included in most lactation teas that can be taken in stronger extract form to further stimulate milk production. Don’t forget to keep taking your pre-natal supplement throughout breastfeeding to ensure nutritional adequacy. Apart from herbs and supplementation, don’t forget about food: ginger, garlic and oatmeal are foods that can increase breast milk production. Lastly, as much as this seems like a paradox (you have to wake up to feed, at first), sleep is essential to producing healthy and adequate milk supply.
One of the biggest challenges faced by new moms is getting quality sleep, especially in the first few weeks after the birth of their child. With breastfeeding moms, few options exist that are known to be safe for nursing babies. I’ve found that homeopathy – a gentle, yet effective energetic medicine – provides help for desperate moms wanting some crucial shut-eye. There are a number of remedies that are applicable for helping mommas sleep, so a practitioner such as a homeopath or a Naturopathic Doctor can help find the right remedy for you. I’ve used Cocculus, for example, in moms who need a really good, long sleep, soon after the birth.
For restless babies who do not sleep well, good sleep training habits are crucial and homeopathy again is a useful adjunct. For adults, aromatherapy can be useful, but I would use essential oils cautiously in infants since they are highly concentrated. While Lavender is a relaxing herb, it should not be administered to an infant either orally or topically in essential oil form, as it can be harmful. Using a diffuser to aerosolize the oil may help your child relax into a good night’s sleep.
During pregnancy and childbirth, many changes can happen to a mother’s body, from diastasis recti to perineal tearing to C-section surgery. These traumas need proper care in order to heal quickly so that you can get back to being the Supermom you are. Eating a healthy diet high in antioxidants, especially Vitamin C, can help encourage new tissue growth quickly to minimize risk of infection. Other herbs, such as calendula, can be applied topically to tender or sore skin or administered homeopathically to help the damaged tissues heal. Arnica is a mainstay homeopathic remedy for healing from surgery and birth trauma and is safe for both mom and baby.
Post-partum depression affects around 8-9% of Canadian moms. Lack of sleep as a new mom also figures strongly into maintaining a healthy mood. While for nursing moms there seem to be fewer options, research still provides some hope: chamomile tea has calming and hypnotic effects and appears safe for nursing moms. Exercise, yoga, mindfulness, and even journaling have been shown in scientific studies to benefit either depression or post-partum depression, and the therapeutic properties of these activities should not be underestimated.
Also make sure you have enough Vitamin D in your system, since deficiency is correlated with mood disorders. Omega-3 fatty acids are also important to consider for mental health – you may have taken a DHA supplement for your baby’s developing brain while pregnant, but now is the time to ensure you have sufficient fatty acids as well.
As a new mom, the responsibility of another person’s life may feel like the weight of the world on your shoulders, especially when a few things don’t go as planned. This is why it’s important to ask for the help of a trusted healthcare provider. The right practitioner can troubleshoot your problems to help your baby have the best chance of a healthy start.