Ayurveda for mother and child

- from conception to the first year of life

Article by Ayurveda nutrition expert Kerstin Rosenberg with an interview by Dr. med. Ludwig Kronpaß, Chief Physician of the Clinic for Gynaecology and Obstetrics at the Rotthalmünster Clinic.

Pregnancy is a very special time in a woman's life. It requires her full attention for her own well-being and the development of the child. A particularly wholesome and balanced diet helps the expectant mother to achieve physical and emotional well-being and to reduce typical pregnancy complaints such as nausea, vomiting, tiredness or loss of appetite.

The most important characteristics of a healthy diet during pregnancy include light, nourishing and rich in vital substances. All food should always be freshly prepared, support the body in its renewing tissue building (rasayana diet) and open and free the mind (sattvic diet).

In practice, this means that the pregnant woman needs at least three regular meals, lovingly prepared and taken in a relaxed atmosphere. In addition to plenty of fresh vegetables, grains and fruits, milk, ghee, honey as well as some chicken soup should be regularly integrated into the diet to strengthen the ojas and dhatu build-up.

Excess of hot spices like chili or mustard as well as highly heating fruits like papaya and pineapple are contraindicated and should be avoided.

From an Ayurvedic point of view, pregnancy is one of the most important times in a person's life. From the time of conception, the fundamental imprints of physical and mental constitution are formed and healthy development, intelligence and immune power are determined. Consequently, conception and pregnancy have a great influence on the unchangeable personality traits of our constitution and thus shape the whole of our later life in the most lasting way. In order to create optimal conditions for this, Ayurveda designates three stages of pregnancy treatment:

  1. Purvakarma- Measures for preparation

  2. Padhan - Care during pregnancy

  3. Paricarya - Aftercare for mother and child

Promoting development - from the first to the ninth month

Like western gynaecology, Ayurveda is aware of the development of the foetus in the womb and wants to contribute to an optimal development through healthy nutrition and lifestyle. Especially the first 3 months are crucial, because in this period all organs and functional systems of the body are formed and the Prakriti of the human being is formed. Afterwards only the growth of this takes place. The foundation for the mental constitution, which is responsible for the mental inclinations and dispositions, intelligence and consciousness of the human being, is also laid in the first 12 weeks. The feelings, actions and attitudes of the mother are directly transmitted to the child and influence the distribution and manifestation of the mental powers of tamas, rajas and sattva. The more love, protection, security and benevolent support the expectant mother experiences during the sensitive months of pregnancy, and the more relaxed, joyful and spiritual she makes her everyday life, the more positive and stronger the mental powers of the developing foetus can form. After this extremely sensitive initial phase, mother and child gain more and more stability in the growth process during pregnancy. If the pregnant woman now pays attention to a comprehensive supply of all necessary nutrients and adapts her lifestyle to her physical and mental needs, nothing will stand in the way of a happy, fulfilled and healthy pregnancy.

Recommendations for special needs and complaints during pregnancy Pomegranate is recommended for regular consumption in case of anaemia. Craving for acidic substances is also a symptom of deficiency of raktadhatu and should be satisfied with pomegranate. Gold water is a traditional remedy that nourishes the tissue metabolism of all dhatus, helps against pregnancy depression and is used to strengthen the immune system and promote fetal growth. Medicated water with gold is made by putting 2 litres of water in an open pot, adding a gold piece or gold ring and boiling the liquid down to 1 litre. Drink throughout the day.

Stages in pregnancy

Traditionally, Ayurvedic gynaecology divides the period of pregnancy (pradam) again into three phases, for which specific recommendations for dosha balancing apply:

In the first phase of pregnancy

the Doshas are in turmoil. The menstruation stops, general indisposition, tiredness, coldness and inner restlessness indicate an excess of Vata. Vata-typical complaints concerning digestion can also occur, such as loss of appetite, vomiting and aversion to smells of all kinds. A Kapha imbalance is signalled by a feeling of heaviness, an increase in saliva and tension in the breasts. An excess of pitta manifests as irritability and nausea. All recommendations for the first weeks of pregnancy are aimed at balancing Vata and Pitta and avoiding heating substances, as these can endanger the fetus. With plenty of rest, relaxation, balancing exercise and cooling, restorative, easily digestible foods, both mother and child will gain the necessary stability for the start of pregnancy. Excessive sexual practices, extreme sports or strong physical and mental efforts are expressly warned against.

Special dietary recommendations for the first phase of pregnancy

  • Avoid all heavy, hot and acidic foods.
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee and fish.
  • Include milk, honey, ghee, almonds, coconut, raisins, apricots, pomegranate in the diet.
  • Rice, wheat, yogurt, pulses and poultry are recommended for the diet.

The second phase of pregnancy begins at the 16th week of pregnancy. The doshas have calmed down and all functions are now focused on growth and building the dhatus. This requires a nourishing, restorative, powerful diet that provides mother and child with all the necessary restorative substances.

Cravings or cravings for sweet or sour foods are typical symptoms of deficiency symptoms caused by poor food breakdown (Manda Agni) or due to anaemia. In both cases, pomegranate, milk with ginger and pippali as well as supplementary herbs, vitamin and mineral supplements help.

Starvation and fasting cures should be strictly avoided, as well as Ayurvedic treatments (Pancakarma) and oil massages. Exceptions are Ayurvedic massage techniques, which are specially adapted to the needs of pregnant women.

The woman should enjoy a pleasant and happy lifestyle, wear beautiful and light coloured clothes, pearl jewellery (cooling) as well as daily care with fragrant oils.

Special dietary recommendations for the second stage of pregnancy

  • Always eat freshly cooked meals and eat few raw vegetables.
  • Prefer sweet fruits such as mango, apricots, grapes and sweet apples.
  • If desired, lunch of poultry, meat broth or eggs can be taken 2 to 3 times a week.
  • Rice pudding and ginger milk are especially recommended.
  • Food supplements like Amalaki, Ashwaganda, Shatavari with milk nourish both mother and child.

The third stage of pregnancy

prepares mother and child for birth. From the 32nd week of pregnancy, the Apana-Vata can be stimulated more with oil massages, yoga exercises and gentle sex. Warm baths, swimming in warm water and quiet walks relieve the body and psyche. Warm oil enemas act on Vata, soften the pelvic floor and uterus and prepare for birth. These are recommended in the last 2-3 weeks of pregnancy.

Special dietary recommendations for the third stage of pregnancy

  • Do not eat flatulent and cold foods.
  • Eat light soups with vegetables, rice or mung beans in the evening.
  • Eggplant, hing, black pepper and fenugreek seeds stimulate apana-vata.
  • Rice pudding with milk, cardamom and ghee support the ojas transformation process in the 8th month of pregnancy.

"No gift surpasses the gift of life" CaSa, C1,4,61.

Paricarya - the aftercare

With the birth begins the aftercare for the mother (Paricarya) and at the same time the first phase of Ayurvedic pediatrics (Ksirada), which lasts until the 6th month. Here mother and child learn everything they need for a good start into the new life.

The birth is very stressful for mother and child and both need strengthening support immediately afterwards in order to cope with the stress of the birth. The Vata system is completely out of balance and the Agni is very weak. With a lot of rest and Agni-strengthening formulas, the mother gains new strength and stability, which she passes on to the newborn.

The mother's nutrition is crucial for the physical and emotional well-being of herself and the baby. All nutrients and active substances are transferred to the child through the mother's milk. What the mother eats transfers directly to the breast milk. A balanced diet with lots of freshly prepared food containing all six tastes and lots of nourishing liquids (soup, stews) are nutrition and medicine at the same time. In case of illness, all therapeutics for the baby are administered through the diet of the nursing mother. The healing powers of food, spices and herbs can be passed directly through the mother's milk, which serves as an optimal carrier substance.

If the mother is not able to pay sufficient attention to her health and nutrition, typical Vata complaints such as exhaustion, fever, joint pain, overweight, loss of appetite or insomnia can result. Now an easily digestible diet with fresh, nutrient-rich and moisturizing foods help to balance Vata.

Do ́s - particularly recommendable foods. Dont ́s - particularly harmful foods.
Fruits Apple, banana, cherries, coconut, dates, bread tree fruit, figs, grapes, limes, orange, papaya, pomegranate, peach, raspberries, strawberries. sugar cane, star gooseberries, mango, bread tree fruit, water chestnuts, mulberries
Vegetables asparagus, cauliflower, celery, drumsticks, spinach Bitter cucumber, Cucumber, Black beans, Pumpkin, Okra, Soybean, Beetroot, Carrot, Onion, Potato, Sweet potato, Yams


Barley, millet, corn, rice, amaranth, oats


Legumes Mung beans chickpeas, urad dal, brown lentils, red lentils
Nuts Almond cashew nut, peanut, pistachio, walnut, water chestnut
Oils Peanut oil, sunflower oil, castor oil Sesame oil, olive oil, safflower oil
Spices Hing, black mustard seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander seeds, cumin, fennel seeds, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, ajwine, nutmeg, black pepper, turmeric, garden and water cress, mint, coriander leaves, fenugreek, curry leaves Chili
Other Cow's milk, buttermilk, plain butter, honey Yogurt, sago, yeast, vinegar, hard cheese, buffalo milk, fish, meat, salted butter, fermented foods

Recommendations for mother and child during breastfeeding

Interview with Dr. med. Ludwig Kronpaß

Ayurvedic physician, head of gynaecology and obstetrics and director of the WHO/UNICEF-certified "Baby-Friendly Obstetrics Clinic" in Rotthalmünster, medical director at the European Academy of Ayurveda

Question 1: Ayurvedic pediatrics recommends small amounts of ghee, honey and spices to strengthen the agni of the newborn already from the first days after birth. Can you agree with this recommendation?

No, especially if the newborn is breastfed. Breast milk is perfectly adapted to the needs of an infant, all nutrients are present in the right amount, including vitamins and minerals. Breast milk is exceptionally easy to digest and does not require any significant digestive strength on the part of the baby. The finely balanced dynamic coordination of the baby's gastrointestinal tract and the composition of breast milk is a control loop which does not require or even tolerate any external intervention. Thus, the administration of additional nutritional and taste stimuli would lead to suction confusion and sensitively disturb the control loop of demand and production of breast milk. Breastfed infants are seldom ill and usually do not show any adjustment disorders. Breast milk protects them from allergies and is always available, germ-free, properly tempered and adapted to the child's development.

Question 2: How long should the baby be fed exclusively on breast milk?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and, after the gradual introduction of complementary feeding, further breastfeeding until the child reaches the age of 2 or beyond, as long as both mother and child enjoy it. With the beginning of the complementary feeding phase, an Agni strengthening according to Ayurvedic aspects can be sensibly integrated for the first time.

Question 3: Do you have any special health and nutrition tips for the mother during the breastfeeding period?

During the breastfeeding period, the mother should eat a varied and wholesome diet. The calorie requirement is increased by about 200 kilocalories per day. Breastfeeding requires a high energy consumption for the mother. Therefore, fasting should not be undertaken under any circumstances. Other diets are also not indicated. The fat deposits that were put on the hips and thighs during pregnancy serve as energy reserves for the breastfeeding period and therefore melt away quickly anyway. From this point of view, a long breastfeeding phase is also the best guarantee for a rapid restoration of a slim and attractive figure. The myth of breastfeeding-induced sagging breasts has no tangible basis. On the contrary, the activity of sucking strengthens and tightens the connective tissue of the mammary gland. During the breastfeeding period, care should be taken to ensure a balanced diet on a (partly) vegetarian basis, certainly in accordance with the criteria of Ayurveda. During the breastfeeding period, alcohol should be avoided, smoking should be avoided and drugs should be avoided. All these substances pass through the blood into the mother's milk and to the baby.

Question 4: If the mother cannot or does not want to breastfeed, what do you recommend as an alternative to breast milk as suitable food for the baby?

So-called initial or pre-feeds are best suited to the child's digestive capabilities. They have a low protein content adapted to the newborn. This adaptation helps to reduce the risk of infant obesity. Initial formulas also contain only lactose as the only carbohydrate most digestible by infants. They are adequate throughout the 1st year of life, supplemented by complementary foods after the first 6 months.

Milk foods with the number 1 are also initial foods, but they contain starch as well as lactose and are therefore more filling. However, these forms place a greater burden on the baby's digestive tract.

Question 5: What should we pay attention to in order to strengthen the well-being of mother and child after birth?

The new life situation, the hormonal, physical and psychological change as well as breastfeeding and caring for the baby is a huge challenge for the young mother. As a rule, she is in a 24-hour continuous operation. For the child the birth means a first existential threat experience, which must be processed afterwards first of all carefully. The renewed bond between mother and child must first be initiated and nurtured after the "delivery". The mother-child relationship should therefore remain free of all additional stresses and demands. Fathers or other caregivers have a great deal of responsibility here. All babies enjoy the language of love, eye contact and cuddling. Love can never be spoiled! This requires a great deal of time and emotional investment from the mother. The mother needs a lot of skin, eye and body contact with her baby, through which the baby experiences security and closeness. Continuous rooming-in and bedding-in help to recognise the baby's signals earlier and better. Physical contact, skin-to-skin, should accompany a large part of the communication with the baby.

Question 6: From your point of view as an experienced gynaecologist and Ayurvedic doctor, what can Ayurveda contribute to the optimisation of the postpartum period, breastfeeding and early childhood development?

From our experience at the AyurSan Clinic Rotthalmünster, the following concepts are recommended for pregnancy, birth and postpartum:

  • Pregnancy massages from the 24th week onwards to strengthen, promote circulation and flexibility of the tissues.
  • Pregnancy yoga for mental preparation for birth and motherhood.
  • Ayurvedic herbal preparations for a variety of pregnancy-associated problems and complaints.
  • A combined concept of manual therapy and phytotherapy for the natural induction of labour.
  • Herbal preparations to increase milk production and to prevent inflammation of the breast.
  • Manual therapy in the postpartum recovery phase (udvartana, garshana, abhyanga with tissue-reducing medicated oils).
  • Ayurvedic newborn massage.
  • Nutritional counselling, adapted to the specific needs of the nursing mother and the newborn.