Category Archives: Lactation

Blood and Milk – Self-Care for Breastfeeding Mamas who are Menstruating

I don’t know about you, but I rarely see anything written about breastfeeding and your moontime, I mean how mamas cope with the ups and downs of their cycle while giving to their little ones 24 hours a day? Is it just presumed that if you are breastfeeding then you don’t have a cycle? I know this is true for many women (I’ve known women not bleed for 2 years!) but for me, my bleeding time has always returned after a few months, despite exclusively breastfeeding. 

Most days breastfeeding is such a joy, I love the oxytocin high I get when I snuggle with my little one and feed all night long- BUT the days and nights just before my moontime, I feel touched out, wound up by the constant demands and I JUST WANT MY OWN SPACE!

So many books, blogs, articles give us moontime advice (myself included) about how important taking time out is, giving to ourselves at this sacred time- but how do you do that when you have a baba swinging from your nipples??

I tend to focus on my first bleeding day- I have just found over the years if I can have a smooth first bleeding day (or first 2 days ideally!) then the run up to my moontime next month is so much easier. So I try- its hard, but they can spend some time with daddy, or grandma- just while I soak in the bath (with lovely oils, petals or a herbal preparation for ‘that time of the month’) even if its the middle of the afternoon- I grab any opportunity I can! And when baba naps- I nap too, and sometimes I just have a duvet day and keep baba close by while I read something nurturing from my women’s book collection, drink soothing herb teas, eat yummy simple foods, massage my belly with beautiful scented oils and generally give to myself while not doing much at all!

These days, he’s a bit bigger and on the move (and on solids as well as mama milk- so that makes things a bit easier) I just pop him in the sling (on my back- “AWAY from the boobs boy!”) and head out for a nourishing walk in the woods or up to the stone circle behind our cottage. Usually this puts him to sleep so I get a bit of ‘me time’ on our return.

I have some ‘rules’ that I adhere to on my Sacred 1st Bleeding Day- I DON’T cook, clean, wash or do any ‘housework’, I DON’T work (although occasionally you might find me peeping in on Facebook!), I DO eat simple nourishing foods, I DO some gentle exercise- sometimes a bit of yoga, more often a walk in nature, I have a period of SILENCE to listen in to my inner wisdom- sometimes that has to be a few mins with my eyes closed while feeding.

I know- I’m lucky to have a supportive husband who accepts this- I think because I would take ‘Sacred Days’ when he first met me, he knew the score! So he is happy to take on household duties and extra childcare on these days to support me- and in the bigger picture, by supporting me on these few days I am able to be there for him and my family the rest of the month! (This is possible as we both work part time, so we can support each other, share childcare and housework)

I tune into my blood when I rinse my cloth pads, I consciously give away any negative emotions that have come up during the month, and ask Mother Earth to transform them (I pour my blood and rinsing water on to my garden) while softly chanting ‘I give away this blood of mine to all my relations…’ or ‘blessed be the blood…’

I have started charting my cycle again too, after my last baby (yes he is my LAST baby!) who popped in to my womb space after taking part in Miranda Grays first World Wide Womb Blessing last year, I got a bit worried that my cycle has changed – I’ve spent years regularly ovulating around day 12 of my cycle so I knew when to take precautions, but now I’m getting older (over 40) AND I’m breastfeeding – both of which a have an effect on your cycle, I have decided to use the temperature method, which is one I haven’t used before, but I have been assured its THE most accurate way to know when you ovulate. I used to rely on my cervical position (high and open when ovulating, low and closed when bleeding) and mucus- but after birth my cervix was so soft and squishy it didn’t feel as if it was moving at all- and breastfeeding effects the vaginal secretions (low oestrogen) so mucus charting wasn’t working for me either. Also my cycle didn’t return to its usual ‘regular’ pattern, so charting gave me a chance to focus on it and get an idea of when my moontime was coming- I was so used to knowing exactly when it would arrive, having an irregular cycle was quite a lesson for me!

I think the biggest thing I miss are my ovulation/full moon creative surges; I often suffered with insomnia around the full moons- which for me mostly coincided with my ovulation time, my brain would be buzzing with ideas so I would just get up and write or draw, even paint sometimes and then sleep half of the next day! These days I don’t have the luxury of being able to sleep in, nor even creep out of bed at night as baba is so firmly attached he senses my every turn in bed! So I have to make do with note taking and glancing at my ideas on my note paper occasionally though the month with a sigh that not much (if any of it) will get done. But having 2 older children I know ‘this too will pass’ -babies grow fast and before I know it they’ll be running out the door to school without a second glance and I will have some ME time again!

I’d love to hear how other breastfeeding mamas cope with the demands of your body and your baby!

Rachael Hertogs lives in the wilds of West Wales with her husband and two youngest children, bees, chickens and ducks, she is a mama of 4, the creatress of Moon Times Cloth Pads, and she occasionally blogs at www.moontimes.co.uk/blog

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The Power of Breasts

Art Lucy H Pearce -http://lucy-h-pearce.artistwebsites.com

Few would deny the power of breasts. They are magnetic. Hypnotic. Fascinating.

So much so that their power has become taboo. They are biologically “secondary sexual features”. But their sexual aspect has supplanted their primary function. They are mammary glands. For nurturing young. They are what connects us to all other mammals. But our culture has forgotten this, and has put them into the “erotic” bracket, and kept for TITillation of men. Their superficial appearance is all that is valued: large, pert, neat nippled breasts.

But breasts are so much more than this.

When we talk of nurturing, the first thing we think of is their milk. And this is truly incredible stuff. Over the years, the more I have learnt about it, the more I have been purely stunned by the intricate miraculousness of this precious fluid. Breast milk, so I have read, changes composition according not only to the age and nutritional needs of the baby, but in order to protect them from infection. Every time a mother kisses her baby, she ingests the pathogens on their skin and creates antibodies which are then fed to the baby through her milk.

I breastfed all three of my children for around two years each. I am so glad I did. But many mothers can’t, or don’t. What I want to talk about is the invisible aspect that is rarely talked about that every mother, whether she breastfeeds or not can give with her breasts: her feminine, nurturing energy.

Think for a second of when you hugged your mother as a child, or when your child hugs you… where is the head? That’s right, laying on the chest, on the breasts. Soothing. comforting, transmitting love. It is intangible, but no less real. This is how mothers transmit the nurturing, loving energy to their children even when they are not breastfeeding, but when we breast feed this streaming of energy is even more direct from mother to child, and sustained for greater lengths of time than a hug.

I first read about the energy properties of breasts in Dr Christiane Northrup’s life changing book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, where she talked powerfully about energy depletion in the breasts and how this can lead to infections and abscesses, when the nursing mother is giving too much and becomes exhausted.

I have also read about the energetic properites of them in Tantric Orgasm for Women, Where author talks of the breasts as a woman’s positive energetic pole, which needs to be approached and awakened first, before genital contact is made. In The Art of Sexual Ecstasy there is an incredible picture of a man sucking his partner’s breast, with a thought bubble, and in it you see him remembering the feeling of suckling at his mother’s breast. His eyes are rolled back, in the same way a milk drunk baby looks, in sheer ecstacy, feeling deep peace and pleasure in their own body and profound connection to the beloved. This is the power of the breast.

Many who have not breastfed worry about the mixing of feelings and emotions between the eroticism of the sexual breast and the nurturing aspect of the mammary gland. Most women report that the physical sensations of breastfeeding are completely different to any sort of sexual interaction, and that if the sexual feelings do emerge, which can happen with a child who is weaning and gone a few days without feeding, that it feels odd and uncomfortable. But the feelings of pleasure and closeness for mother and child are similar to a post orgasmic haze as the act of nursing produces the same hormone: oxytocin, which produces feelings of bliss, bondedness, deep connection and relaxation.

But there is something more to the energetic and nurturing aspect of the breast – something to do with this energy flow which I have experienced many times. When each of my children weaned for a few weeks, to a couple of years with each different child, when they were tired or upset, they would choose to come and put their head, or their hand, on my breast. At first it would have to be on the naked breast. There was some sort of soothing which they got from its energy alone, that was separate from the sucking sensation and the milk itself with which they previously comforted themselves.

And it was not just my breastfed babies who would associate my breasts with nurture. A neighbor’s 3 year old son, who had not been breastfed, fell on the road outside my house, and was very shaken and upset. I picked the sobbing child up to carry him down to his house, the first time I had ever held him, and the first thing he did, was to put his hand gently onto my breast and kept it there, as his sobs subsided, all the way to his house.

And it is not even just humans. One day we found a tiny abandoned kitten in the hedge, and carrying it back home (I was still nursing at the time), it wriggled and nuzzled its way in under my cardigan, nuzzling and licking at my breasts, looking for milk and comfort.

This energy, its pull, its draw for both nurturing and sexual terms fascinates me. One of the most distinctive thing about my paintings is the nipples with the spirals on that emerge so often: a making visible though art, of what lies invisible.

Many of us are unaware of this energy spiral. We have learnt to shut off our feelings to our breasts. But whether we are breastfeeding or not, being aware of this aliveness in our breasts, the energy spirals is key to our feminine health and to healthy, loving, connected relationships. Bringing our attention to them throughout the day and especially when you are hugging people, and before and during intercourse is a key way to be sure that we are in our bodies, giving freely of our energy, not depleting ourselves, nurturing and connecting with love. It is also vital to receive love in through the breasts and heart chakra through hugs and open communication, through keeping our bodies warm, through rest and relaxation, and through massage and loving touch.

Your breasts are miraculous, not for what they look like, but for what they are and do. Take care of them.

This post is part of the Irish Parenting Bloggers BlogMarch to support Breastfeeding Week. For an introduction to the March, and a list of the other participants please visit
Mama.ie

Nourishing The New Mama~ Healing foods & Herbs

“Drink tea and nourish life; with the first sip; joy; with the second sip, satisfaction; with the third sip, peace.”

I have discovered over the past few years that one of the most important things I can do for myself as a mother and woman is to focus on what I take into my body: the thoughts, the food and drinks. In my book, Moon Time, I write about creating a tea ceremony as a way of nourishing yourself with liquid, herbs, warmth and reflective time.

Never is this more important than when you are a new mama. New mamas need all the love and support they can get.

This guest post from Jen of Love and Tea really resonates with me. Jen is based in beautiful Vermont, which is where my American family are based, so I felt a natural affinity with her. She is an artist and trained herbalist who creates the most beautiful herbal teas which nourish every level of a woman’s body and soul. From the names, through the packaging and blends, they are made with a mother’s love and a woman’s wisdom. (Be sure to read to the end for a discount for Happy Womb readers!)

Becoming a new mama takes a tremendous amount of energy. After birth it is especially critical to receive proper rest and nutrition. It is crucial that you focus on…

* A balance of meals; Three full meal & nutrient rich snacks throughout the day are key to proper nourishment and keeping up the supply of breast milk. When a meal is skipped our bodies automatically produce an abundance of stress hormones. Stress hormones inhibit milk production and can lead to reflux in the infant.

*Nourishing grains include: Barley, Oatmeal, Corn Meal, Buckwheat, Brown Rice, Quiona and Amaranth.

* In Ayurvedic post-partum care, it is stressed to avoid cold/raw foods during the post-partum stage. This helps reduce gas, bloating for both mama & baby.

* Proper fats. Yes FATS!!! Healthy fats play a crucial role in the body. They are used as building blocks to create cell walls, nerves, tissues and hormonal balance. They can also stabilize blood sugars – which help protect against mood swings. EFA’S or (essential Fatty Acids) play an essential role in brain & body functions. What we eat, literally affects how we think and feel!

*Sources of healthy fats include: Organic Coconut oil, cold pressed & traditional veggie oils. Also avocados, sesame seeds, raw nuts and oily fish (avoid deep water fish such as tuna due to heavy metal toxicity). 

* Eating organic & chemical free foods not only supports your entire body, but your baby’s health too.

* Water and proper hydration: Getting enough water into your body helps heal and rejuvenate at the cellular levels. Herbals teas are another way great way to keep properly hydrated. Ayurveda recommends avoiding iced drinks.

There are a vast array of herbs to nourish, re-store and re-vitalize mamas after giving birth.

*Nettles: High in Vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting, Nettles is especially useful with post-partum bleeding. Used traditionally to increase and enrich breast milk.  The minerals and vitamins found within Nettles provides an excellent support in restoring and rebuilding the energy levels following birth.

*Dandelion: This little yellow flower is packed full of essential minerals and vitamins. Dandelion is very beneficial for new mamas!  Dandelion is high in Vitamin A, Calcium and rich in Iron. Dandelion also aids in exhaustion and fatigue.

*Lemon Balm: Relaxes and calms the nervous system.  Lemon Balm has been used traditionally for depression and insomnia. Lemon Balms add its hint of lemon aroma and flavor to uplift and refresh the new mama.  Lemon Balm is said to help one cope with new life situations, IE: Motherhood!!!

* Lady’s Mantle: Revered as an herb for the entire female system, Lady’s Mantle has an affinity to regulate and decrease post-partum bleeding.

* Jasmine Flowers: Have an affinity for the entire female system. Energetically these flowers increase compassion and love. Jasmine flowers are said to make the mind receptive, aid and receive while radiating vibrations of mantras.

“Lactation is the nutritional equivalent to running 10 miles a day!”

My Ayurvedic post-partum teachers would remind us this statement each class and I have never forgotten it! For those of you breastfeeding, here are some foods and herbs known to support and increase lactation:

* Roasted Cumin seeds

* Dill seeds

* Anise seeds

* Caraway seeds

* Coriander Seeds

* Red Beets

Foods to be aware of (Limit consumption)

These Anti-Lactogenic foods- these foods have been know to decrease the mother’s  milk supply and can cause reflux and other issues in the infant:

* Soft drinks & carbonated beverages; these not only decrease milk supply but rob your body of calcium.

* Coffee & Caffeinated beverages

* Chocolate

* Citric Acids in foods & juices (tomato, citrus fruits etc)

* Aspartame  (should be avoided in any case as it is highly toxic)

Potentially Anti-Lactogenic herbs:

(These herbs can potentially decrease and dry breast milk)

* Parsley

* Sage

* Rosemary

* Thyme

* Mint

Jen Lashua is a Certified Herbalist, Artist and Mama to four little sweet beings.

She is founder of Love & Tea Company, which features handcrafted organic teas, including a line of specialty teas specifically formulated for Women & Children’s Wellness.

A fusion of her two passions, Tea & Art, you will find Jen’s original paintings on her tea labels. Love & Tea Company promotes the Art of Tea; engaging the mindful art of loose leaf tea while promoting artist’s creative works. She is offering at 10% discount  at  www.loveandtea.com to all Happy Womb customers, for the next 7 days. Enter code “happy womb” to avail of this wonderful offer.

Connect with Jen via her blog: http://artfultea.blogspot.com/

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Love-Tea/153226064491

Twitter: http://twitter.com/LoveandTeaCo