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notes from Amanda

Herbal assistance for breastfeeding

The arrival of a child in to our lives offers opportunities to awaken tenderness and love within us. A baby listens to his mother’s heartbeat while he is in the womb from very early on in the pregnancy. We could say his mother’s heart is singing to him continually. This sound becomes familiar and reassuring to the baby. Isn’t this wonderful? That no matter what is occurring in the mothers daily life her heart continues to sing to her child. After the child is born this familiarity and reassurance of listening to his mother’s heartbeat continues through being held close to the mother’s body and with breastfeeding. This tenderness begins to be expressed in other ways such as caressing, speaking soothing words to the child and of course with eye to eye contact between mother and baby. This eye to eye contact also encourages the release of the wonderful hormone of love Oxytocin, which is of great assistance with breastfeeding and bonding. Through all these actions tenderness begins to arise in the mother which is naturally extended to the child. So how do we continue to nurture this contact with what is real what is natural? How do we directly experience the truth that in the giving we receive? What does it mean to give of ourselves? To include ourselves in the giving and receiving, these are questions I invite mothers to ask themselves inwardly. So this period of time in women’s lives while they are breastfeeding the focus is on relaxation, nourishment and nurturing. When we view breastfeeding in this way it sounds so simple but of course it may not always be easy to rest back into what sounds simple and natural. So how does a mother include herself in the nurturing and tenderness she is offering her child?

For most of us sometimes we can rest back in the flow of harmony of what is natural and effortless. Other times it seems as if that flow is a distant memory and everything feels tiring. Those moments of not knowing how to respond are opportunities to stop for a moment and to ask inwardly to be shown, to acknowledge to ourselves we have become confused as to what the communication of love is. To recognise that love is not sacrifice in any form no matter how we try to disguise it. To ask love to reveal itself, to show us how to give to our child the nurturing and nourishment we want to know and receive for ourselves. Then we have come back to our true nature of recognising tenderness, happiness and nurturing is shared. That love includes everyone. My encouragement to breastfeeding mothers alongside these inner practices is to ask yourself what makes your heart sing with joy, to give yourself the time to offer this gift of love to yourself, to include this in your life no matter how busy it seems right now .Again I recognise resistances my come forward that it isn’t always easy to include ourselves. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t give it ago and see what occurs as the outcome of being kind and gentle with our selves.

As you know my craft is herbal medicine and producing herbal tea formulas makes my heart sing. The tea Mamas Nursing support is available in the counter area which many women have found helpful while breastfeeding. This is a formula i have used for years with breastfeeding mothers both in my clinic and in the welcome World tea range. This tea is formulated with herbs that nourish on many different levels and also gently stimulates the blood supply to the mammary glands ensuring a healthy flow of breast milk.

Herbs that assist with breastfeeding are Red raspberry leaf, fennel seeds, nettles, holy thistle, fenugreek seeds, goats rue. Raspberry leaf and nettles are both plants packed with nutrients and considered tonic herbs, we could think of these two plants as foods, so you can see why they would deserve a place in a breastfeeding formula tea. Holy thistle is the queen of plants for me in any herbal tea for breastfeeding mothers. Not only does it assist in stimulating blood to the mammary glands, it is a plant herbalist would turn to when energy levels need some support. Fennel seeds are wonderful for gently aiding digestion and stimulating milk supply. The following herbs may also be helpful to have in your kitchen cupboard or medicine bag.

Marigold flowers; useful for any inflammation of breasts when feeding e.g. with engorgement or mastitis. This plant is also very soothing for cracked nipples. If you go to the chalk board and click on notes from Amanda there is information about marigold. Ladys Mantle; this is a wonderful plant that can be used as an external compress for sore or inflamed breasts. Use the leaves to make a paste with a little oil i would choose castor oil, although olive oil would be fine. If you click on writings 3 herbs I would always have in my apothecary on the chalk board there is more information about ladys mantle.

There are of course many plants i could list here , my feeling is to keep it simple ,make friends with a few plants, get to know their benefits, keep them in the kitchen cupboard and make nurturing cups of herbal tea. Use the plants as compresses and washes when assistance is needed. Anything you would like to ask about breastfeeding your babies please go, to ask a question. Enjoy and happy mothering.

Summer Notes

I wanted to share my thoughts about the herb calendula as we can see this plant everywhere during these summer months.

Calendula officinalis

This is a plant not to use in pregnancy because it is believed it may stimulate labour. After the baby’s birth this plant belongs in our medicine bag for us and our children.

Calendula reminds me of summer sunshine. Also what doesn’t this wonder plant attend to? Let’s start with its signature sunshine, how can we not smile in response to this plant? So here is a clue, when we are smiling, laughing, experiencing happiness, our immune system is supported. As a result of this assistance to the immune system, bacterial infections, inflammation external and internal have the opportunity to be dissolved. So these are the main characteristics of calendula, the plant is an immune stimulant; it has anti inflammatory anti fungal and anti bacterial actions. This plant flowers arrive at the beginning of summer in abundance and continue right through into autumn. Use the flowers fresh in the summer time and also harvest some for drying. Marigold whispers of soothing and comforting sores that may be wounds that are tender, swollen or infected. Calendula is a useful herb to use after experiencing surgery. From this soothing and comforting reminder comes a sense of vitality. So this is a wonderful tea to drink if you are experiencing shock, trauma or restlessness. This plant speaks of dissolving the irritations, infections and swellings and for us to choose to rest back and recognise all is well. Why not try a cup of marigold tea or make a strong brew and add to bath water. (Check temperature for children). Dry the flowers and add to soups and stews during winter months (this is how calendula became pot marigold). Keep a few in the kitchen cupboard in a paper bag or jar to use for winter ailments. Calendula is a gentle safe herb just perfect to use with our babies and children. You will notice it is one of the ingredients in the perineum wash, soothing and repairing bruised skin. Also marigold can be the perfect choice for soothing and restoring cracked nipples. If a raised temperature comes with any of the symptoms a cup of marigold tea can whisper of healing. I feel sure once you get to know this herb there will be a place for it in your home. Some years ago i had the good fortune to spend time with herbalist / midwives from the rain forest, their teachings were powerful and yet so simple. Most questions as to which remedy to use were answered with marigold. When my sons were younger they loved to play football (they still do) any bumps, bruises, kicked ankles were attended to with wraps soaked in marigold brew. Enjoy this delightful herb and receive what it offers freely to us.

Barley Water

Bartrams herbal describes barley as an almost perfect food. I would always recommend having this great grain in your kitchen cupboard. Herbalists view it as a remedy for kidney disorders. I often recommend it to be included when supporting children through periods of bedwetting. It is packed with calcium and other minerals. It is said to have five times more iron content than spinach. So barley is a wonderful general all round food source for the family. I would suggest making barley water during periods of lack of vitality when children are experiencing ailments. The sprouted seeds [barley grass] can be used as a very concentrated drink if placed in a juicer. I use to make a jug of barley water regularly when the children were young and keep it in the fridge and use it to add to cooking eg I would make gravy with barley water, add it to mashed root vegetables and also add it into juice drinks. Of course barley water can drunk simply as prepared below .Also this grain can be used as a change from rice or pasta when cooking supper.

This is how I was taught to make barley water by Jill Rosemary Davies and have continued to use this recipe with great ease and success.

Use half a cup of whole barley sometimes called pot barley to five cups of water. Add a little cinnamon and ginger if your children enjoy these flavours. Very gently simmer for 15 minutes I find I need to keep my attention on it during cooking. Then after cooling, strain and add lemon juice if you desire. The taste can be rather bland without the spices or lemon juice.

A joining of friends

In the cafe area I have displayed the words a joining of friends. I would like to take a moment to share why these words are important to me. I have experienced the potential of healing from being deeply listened to, whether I am the one listening or the one being listened to, there is no difference. What I mean by being deeply listened to is to be heard from a place of lack of judgement. When we listen to another in this way it is as though we are listening to our own hearts. To listen to another and to be willing to hear what their heart is longing for. I can only listen in this way when I am willing to not know, in this humility of not knowing there is space for another awareness to reveal itself. This awareness is our true nature, our true self, this is what we are longing for, a connection with what is real and true. To know that we are loveable and capable of loving others is the shared yearning we are all seeking. This deep listening, as I am calling it, is one of the many ways I believe can be of assistance to us in resting back in to our true self. That we come together with the intention of assisting each other ,to choose to listen with an openness that offers space for what is natural, what is true to emerge. This silent listening for most of us requires practice, and we could say it is a remembering that is closer to the state of our natural true self. If I am still for a moment, and have a little willingness for the busy, fearful thoughts to dissolve then I can listen deeply. I do not always find this easy especially when i have investments in how I believe things would best be or I am holding on to a grievance. What I am experiencing through this practice is that when I am able to listen deeply that there is a connection with others where any feelings of being alone or something not being right or difficult dissolve in that moment of joining there is also a feeling of peace. I wanted to share this opportunity in the cafe area and also to invite us all to be willing to listen with openness and the humility of not knowing and to notice what occurs for you. So the words a joining of friends remind me to step back from all my preconceived thoughts of right and wrong ways, of all projections and to listen deeply from within to what the heart of the other is longing to know and to respond to this from our shared true nature. To recognise the blessing we receive when we offer to another the opportunity to be deeply listened to. For me this what joining with friends refers to.