Did you know that Maharishi Ayurveda has a complete program designed for new mothers? Psychologist and postpartum rejuvenation consultant Ragnhild Rannie Boes, Ph.D. was the first researcher to study the effectiveness of this program. In this article she tells us all about the benefits of the Mother and Baby Program of Maharishi Ayurveda, and what steps it consists of.
Postpartum care for mothers is still a fairly neglected area. During pregnancy and birth you have lots of appointments where they check the health of both you and the baby, but once your precious little bundle arrives and you’re discharged from hospital, there’s very little support. Unless something is wrong or you’re ill you’re unlikely to receive much care – even though this is when you need it the most.
Postpartum is a very vulnerable time in a woman’s life. The first few weeks after childbirth are critical for healing and rejuvenation, and they have a significant impact on your long-term health and wellbeing, too. But where do we start when it comes to postpartum care?
It turns out there is an established program for new mothers based on the teachings of Maharishi Ayurveda. As Dr Boes writes in an article in Midwifery Today the Mother and Baby Program was specifically designed to help new mothers return to full strength and vitality after giving birth. It has instructions for daily massages for both mum and baby, a suitable diet, use of herbs, rest, meditation, and exercise. It also helps strengthen the newborn baby’s tender physiology. The months after childbirth are very challenging times, and new mothers really need good resources to regain health, vitality, happiness, and to rejuvenate. They need a systematised program – and this is where the Mother and Baby Program comes in.
Dr Boes was the first researcher to study the effects of this program on postpartum health and recovery in her doctoral dissertation in 1999. She interviewed a group of new mothers who were doing the Mother and Baby Program of Maharishi Ayurveda, and a group of new mothers who received usual, standard care. She then compared the progress between the two groups at six and twelve weeks postpartum.
As Dr Boes revealed in our interview the results were very encouraging. There were significant differences between mothers who were participating in the program, and those who received standard care. The mothers in the program experienced the following benefits:
- Higher and more stable levels of health
- More harmonious, enriched family relationships
- Greater emotional stability, comfort and happiness
- Feeling more confident as new mothers, ease in terms of mothering
- Greater energy
- Better quality of sleep
- Greater overall stability in all of these areas
The program can start right after childbirth, and most of the mothers in the research conducted by Dr Boes started it one or two days after they’ve given birth. During the program a female Ayurvedic technician who is trained for this comes to the home of the mother for about two hours every day for six weeks, and gives treatments to the new mum. She also teaches her about diet and baby massage. The main points of the program are the following:
Warm oil massage
The Ayurvedic technician gives the mother a warm oil massage, which relaxes the body and also resets the physiology. These daily massages last for about an hour and they are wonderful for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. The massage is typically followed by a little nap and a warm bath, while family or friends are looking after the baby.
The mother also learns how to do baby massage. This can be performed by the father as well, which is a great way for fathers to bond with the baby early on – while it allows the mother to take some time for herself. Massage is really beneficial for babies: it relaxes them, strengthens their physiology, stimulates digestion and circulation, and it’s also a great way for new parents to bond with the baby.
Warm, liquid meals
The Ayurvedic technician also advises about what foods are best to eat postpartum. Food should be easy to digest, warm, freshly and well-cooked, and if you can, organic. The digestive system can be weak after childbirth and there can be various imbalances. New mothers need a diet with plenty of warm, soupy dishes that are easy on the stomach, with the largest meal of the day being consumed at lunchtime. Special healing herbs are also given to the mother that help digestion.
Staying in for a few weeks
It’s recommended to stay in for the first six weeks, which is roughly the time it takes for the internal organs to heal and get back to normal. But that’s not the only reason: as Dr Boes says, this is also for the sake of getting plenty of rest, and bonding with the baby. It’s interesting to find that this kind of advice is well-known in many cultures. In China, for example, it’s called “doing the month”. It’s one of those things that got lost in the busy cultures that we now have – even though it’s incredibly helpful for new mums.
Dr Boes explains in an article on Elephant Journal that Transcendental Meditation is particularly useful and recommended to optimise rest. This technique generates a state of restful alertness, where mind and body are at rest, yet fully alert. It works well to reduce stress, anxiety, and worry, which new mums can experience quite often. Pregnancy is a good time to learn transcendental meditation, according to the website Transcendental Meditation for Women. The practice of the technique before, during, and after pregnancy can reduce the stress of new motherhood, balance emotions, and curb anxiety and depression. A Huffington Post article by Jeanne Ball also mentions that an increasing number of mothers are finding meditation to be an effective way to avoid exhaustion and burnout (you can find out more about Transcendental Meditation on the official US website www.tm.org and www.tm-women.org).
Lots of quiet time
Lots of rest and quiet time will help you recover quicker. Limit visitors as much as you can in the first weeks. Enjoy quiet activities with your baby, and limit TV time in the evenings before bedtime. Talking of bedtime: aim to go to bed early, 9-9:30pm at the latest. Your sleep is very important and not to be underestimated.
Taking time for yourself
It’s also part of the program for new mothers to realise that they need to take time for themselves. The importance of taking time for yourself is often mentioned. Mothers want their baby to do well and they are willing to do everything for them; but as Dr Boes says, one of the most important things you can do is to be strong, healthy and happy yourself. This way you have more to give. A lot of mothers mentioned in the research that they felt they had more to give to the family when they completed the Mother and Baby Program.
Letting others help you
You’ll be pleased to hear that all the housework should be done by someone else. That’s right: cleaning, shopping, cooking, household chores are not your job right now. Let your partner, family and friends take on these tasks for a few weeks. Many people can find it difficult to ask for help for themselves – which is why Dr Boes recommends that your partner or a close friend should arrange this for you. They can contact family members and friends to organise who can help with household chores or look after older children.
The Mother and Baby Program has the potential to make the transition into motherhood smoother, and it could help reduce or prevent postpartum difficulties. The only drawback is that it takes a specially trained female Ayurvedic technician to do the massages, which makes it difficult for the program to be available everywhere. That’s why Dr Boes created the e-book New Beginnings for New Moms – A Postpartum Support Workbook. It tells you how to do the baby massage, and how to do the oil massage yourself. Of course, not everything can be put into an e-book, but it still has a lot of information, advice and guidelines for new mums. Check out the website newmothercare.com to find out more.
The following books and websites are also recommended by Dr Boes:
“For A Blissful Baby: Healthy and Happy Pregnancy with Vedic Medicine” by Kumuda Reddy, Linda Egenes and Margaret Mullins
“Super Healthy Kids: A Parents Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda” by Kumuda Reddy and Linda Egenes
“Dharma Parenting: Understand Your Child’s Brilliant Brain for Greater Happiness, Health, Success, and Fulfillment” by Robert Keith Wallace and Frederick Travis
Maharishi Ayurveda Mother and Baby Program: www.motherbabyprogram.com
Global Mother Divine Organization: www.gmdousa.org
Maharishi University of Management: www.mum.edu
Thank you Dr Boes for your insights.