It's FINALLY time for you and your little to go home and further transition into parenthood! Their closet is full of adorable baby clothes, food is ready to go (in a perfect world), and the demands of life settle in.
Waking up often to feed. Sore nipples. Soothing and cuddling with baby. Subtle hiccups and a case of cradle cap creep in and you're wondering where it's coming from and how to handle it.
There are creams for common newborn issues available at most stores, however many contain unnecessary additives such as fragrances and parabens that alter hormone function. In this article, we've review eight herbs to create various concoctions as a natural solution for common newborn issues.
In the midst of a hectic (to say the least) postpartum recovery, the concoctions below can be created about a month before the baby's expected arrival or in a timely manner once your little one has arrived.
Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
One of the holy grail herbs, lavender is an herb I recommend every person should have in their cabinet for various needs. When was the first time you encountered lavender? This memory may be distinct in your mind, thanks to lavender's affect on the emotional brain via the limbic and olfactory systems.
Known for it's relaxing property, its phytochemical components may be experienced topically, aromatically, or internally. The relaxing compounds affect the nervous system by harmonizing the NMDA receptor. This receptor intricately works with neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as epilepsy and corresponds with neurotoxins. Studies have shown lavender essential oil to have an effect on the NMDA receptor, suggesting it may have neuroprotective properties (4,5).
For your newborn and yourself, you may continue to bond and nurture in a calm state and have restful nights. There are studies that suggest lavender (ingested and inhaled) may improve fatigue, depression, and the bonding between mother and baby postpartum. Lavender may be applied topically to soothe little one's upset stomach and to address any cuts or swelling with its anti-fungal property.
"Lavender is the child’s stimulant, and nothing, so far as I am aware, exercises so kind an influence upon the digestive apparatus and the nervous system" ( Scudder, 1893)(9)
2-5 drops of lavender essential oil
2 drops of chamomile essential oil
Apply in diffuser and diffuse!
Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis)
Among the hundred of Aspalathus linearis species, this native South African plant is processed in one of two ways for tea: fermented and unfermented. The color of the fermented type is what prompted the Afrikaans to name the plant rooibos, which means "red bush." Green in color, the unfermented rooibos has more potent antimutagenic properties and contains more antioxidants compared to its fermented counterpart (11).
According to South African folk medicine, rooibos is utilized to calm digestive upset in adults, as a sedative, and topically to soothe diaper rash, eczema, and skin allergies. Studies have yet to be conducted to prove these uses as effective. Many mothers have also found a rooibos wash to be effective towards eye irritations (12).
Healing Eye Wash:
1 tsp rooibos
6-8 oz of water
Steep herbs in hot water for 5-8 minutes. Transfer the liquid extract into a glass container. Use a cloth to apply the liquid extract to the eyes after little one's bath. It can be applied throughout the day as needed.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Native to the Mediterranean and Portugal, Rosemary was utilized during early civilizations in Europe for its stimulant, tonic, and carminative properties. In Germany, rosemary is actually licensed as a medicinal tea for external and internal use. The combination of its historic use and phytochemical investigations proves it to be a powerful herb for healing.
The ability of rosemary to promote wound healing, improve circulation, and act as a mild antiseptic make it an ideal remedy for cradle cap, a common newborn skin condition. When combined with soothing herbs such as lavender or chamomile, this assists in the healing process by reducing inflammation and providing additional nutrients such as vitamin E (1,2,3).
For internal or external applications, use 1-2 tsp of rosemary per 8 ounces. You can also use the essential oil, but I'd caution as it's quite concentrated compared to an herbal infusion. Rosemary should be avoided during pregnancy due to its emmenagogic property, however, no research has deemed it unsafe postpartum and whilst breastfeeding.
1 Tbsp of rosemary (fresh or dried)
21 ounces of water
Brew the rosemary into hot water and steep for 15-30 minutes. Cool and store in the fridge for a week.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) + Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Fennel is an effective digestive aid that is also a galactagogue. Due to its diuretic property, it's best for mama to ingest fennel so baby may also reap the benefits. Fennel is also antispasmodic, thus reducing painful spasms and cramping in the abdomen.
Chamomile is a subtle digestive aid, but this does not negate its efficacy. Found in medical texts from ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, chamomile was used to heal dry skin, condition attributing to the nervous system, amenorrhea, colic, teething, and many more conditions. Ancient healers found it to be a rather safe herb for women and children in all stages of life. As mentioned earlier, it's a mild digestive aid, also assisting with sleep and inflammatory conditions pertaining to the skin and digestive tract (10).
Fennel and chamomile work symbiotically as an optimal concoction before bed to assist with stomach upset and restlessness. Topically, a salve or poultice utilizing chamomile will address cracked nipples, thus easing the pain of breastfeeding. The oils of each herb may be diffused to introduce a sense of calm into the atmosphere.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) + Lavender (Lavandula spp.)+ Hops (Humulus lupulus)
The entirety of the passionflower plant can be harvested, from the root to the flower, to the fruit itself. The Aztecs and Native Americans utilized the root and flower for cuts, earaches, inflammation. The fruit contains high amounts of vitamin B3, which prevents birth defects, supports healthy skin, improves brain function (i.e. memory recall), and assists with joint mobility. Passionflower is reputed for its sedative pertaining to the nervous system and hypnotic effects, thus assisting with falling asleep and staying asleep. It's extremely synergistic, which is why it pairs well with lavender and hops (6,7,8).
Restful Sleep Tea:
Brew 1 teaspoon of each herb (per 8 ounces) into a teapot and allow it to steep for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool and enjoy. This may be made into a tea infusion by infusing it for 15-20 minutes. It can be kept fresh in the fridge for a week.
Commonly used in cuisines around the world, garlic has powerful therapeutic properties and can be applied for medicinal purposes. Garlic is a potent antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, anti-parasitic, hypotensive, vasorelaxant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and immunomodulator, to name a few.
It's high sulfur and allicin compounds contribute to the majority of its properties. In regards to mama's and newborns, garlic may be used medicinally for different conditions such as yeast overgrowth, preventing immunity-related illnesses, and improving gut health.
Take 3 garlic cloves daily to prevent or treat yeast overgrowth. For vaginal infections, insert a partially sliced garlic clove in the vaginal canal to stay overnight over the span of 5-7 days, or until the infection has cleared.
This is a guide for mama's to use in preparation, durations, or aftermath of pregnancy and birth. Take this with you to doctor visits. Print a copy to hang in a designated space. Send it to a friend who may need it!
Make a fun activity with your partner to create the recipes listed above!
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2. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
3. Budavari, S. (ed.). 1996. The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals, 12th ed. Whitehouse Station, N.J.: Merck & Co, Inc.
4. Effects of Lavender Tea on Fatigue, Depression, and Maternal-Infant Attachment in Sleep-Disturbed Postnatal Women. Shu-Lan Chen, Chung-Hey Chen. Worldviews Evid Based Nurs. 2015 Dec; 12(6): 370–379. Published online 2015 Nov 2. doi: 10.1111/wvn.12122
5. López, V., Nielsen, B., Solas, M., Ramírez, M. J., & Jäger, A. K. (2017). Exploring Pharmacological Mechanisms of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Central Nervous System Targets. Frontiers in pharmacology, 8, 280. doi:10.3389/fphar.2017.00280
6. Medical Herbalism: Materia Medica and Pharmacy, Paul Bergner, 2001
7. Newall, C.A., L.A. Anderson, J.D. Phillipson. 1996. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press.
8. Purple Passionflower Fact Sheet, www.plants.usda.gov, 2008
9. Scudder, J.M. (1893). Specific Medication and Specific Medicines, Cincinnati, OH: John M. Scudder & Sons, Medical Publishers.
10. Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: a herbal medicine of the past with a bright future (review) [published online September 27, 2010]. Molecular Medicine Reports. 2010;3:895-901. doi:10.3892/mmr.2010.377.
11. Van Wyk B-E, Van Oudtshoorn B, Gericke N. Medicinal Plants of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa. 1998. 304 p. Online condensed version available at <http://www.african-medicines.com>.
12. WESGRO, Western Cape Investment and Trade Promotion Agency, Cape Town, South Africa, website: <www.wesgro.org.za>. Wesgro Background Report: The Rooibos Industry in the Western Cape. April 2000 (updated April 2001).