Pregnancy Place: from conception and pregnancy through morning sickness and birth


The Act of Nurturing

by Jaqulene Harper-Roth

This article is reproduced here with permission from the author.

As mothers, we are capable of providing our children with the most perfectly suited, natural nourishment available. Breast milk, macrobiotic or vegetarian formulas are not choices. They are elements of devoted nurturing, and as more and more women turn to mother earth for answers, they are learning to trust their maternal instincts to do what is natural and baby beneficial. Demand breastfeeding, child-led weaning, herbal and vegan parenting is at last becoming mainstream fashionable and recognized as the responsible way to nurture our babies into a healthful and emotionally sound, childhood.

Breast milk, as a main source of infant nutrition, (from birth to 36 months), is becoming more popular by the year. It is the purest, most natural food source that protects a baby from illness, and considered the best collective nutrition for her growing human needs. It contains at least 100 ingredients, essential to human growth (not found in formulas), the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids (for human brain development), water and amino acids for each stage of her growth and bodily needs. It is sterile, at the right temperature and uncontaminated, and there's no problem with digestion, intolerance or allergies. No baby is allergic to her mother's milk, although she can become intolerant to a certain food, drink or drug consumed by the mother, yet once this is eliminated, the problem will resolve itself.

Like other mammals, human milk contains two primary benefits - nutrition and protection. It is simply the mother's blood that has risen in the body and been converted in the breasts to a sweeter, less salty liquid. The first milk called colostrum is an intermediary food. Bio-chemically it is more like blood than milk and it contains numerous living cells (about 80 percent) called lymphocytes and macrophages which protect the baby's body from disease.

As a disease fighter, colostrum is especially rich in viral disease antibodies, not found in breast milk, which is one reason why it is essential for a newborn to be breast fed for at least 4-6 weeks after birth. Colostrum is also believed to promote constriction of the villi in the intestine walls through which digested food particles are absorbed. This allows for more complete digestion of body building proteins. More importantly, if receives complete nourishment from her mother's milk from birth to at least the age of two, she becomes naturally immune to diseases and doesn't require doctor administered immunizations.

The quality and proportion of nutrients in human milk are compatible with the baby's digestive and excretory systems. No mimic formula can match human milk, neither are they suited to a baby's physiology, because the composition of human milk changes throughout the period of lactation, adapting to the baby's growing needs and conditions, formulas don't. Although breast milk contains smaller percentages of calcium than cow milk formulas, it is ideally suited to the development of a healthy, bone structure. Babies fed cow milk formulas tend to develop larger, heavier bones, have a tendency towards obesity, contract more allergies, have low IQ, and experience an acceleration to the onset of puberty.

Women who chose to breastfeed begin preparing the quality, and quantity of their milk during their pregnancy evolution. It is during fetal gestation that the breasts ready themselves for nursing by becoming fuller and larger, and this is where herbs can help. There are herbs that help the breastfeeding process, by increasing milk production. There are herbs to treat clogged ducts, engorgement and cracked nipples. There are also herbs to cease milk production. There are herbs to soothe a colicky baby, induce a restful sleep and relaxation in mother and baby.

Most medicinal herbal remedies are completely safe for both mother and baby, but it is always wise to check out the facts and consult with your physician or health caregiver before using or applying home remedies. Once you know the basics, and use the treatments and cures with knowledge and respect, you'll be able to assist Mother Nature in aiding your body's natural processes.

A nursing Pharmacy
Make an iced or warm brew (unless otherwise stated) of the following lactation herbs.

Alfalfa, dill and fenugreek (tea)
will keep your infant colic-free
Alfalfa and red clover (tea)
Encourages rich milk, relaxes mother
Borage fennel, marshmallow, raspberry
Promotes quantity and enrichment of milk
Parsley and sage (tea)
Dries up milk secretions and protects mother from Nutrient losses during early motherhood
Aloe (gel)
Soothes cracked nipples
Comfrey and Marshmallow (poultice)
Heals cracked nipples
Comfrey root (ointment)
Heals cracked nipples
Yarrow leaf (compress)
Relieves pain from engorgement
Barley (compress)
Relieves engorgement
Barley and fennel (tea)
Ceases after birth pains, settles digestion
Comfrey leaf (Hot-poultice)
Increase milk, mild laxative, soothes frazzled nerves, encourages a restful sleep
Grated raw potato (poultice)
Unblocks ducts, tubes for easy milk flow
Marshmallow (breast soak)
Draws heat away from inflammation of blocked ducts, or engorgement
Soothes tender breast tissue, and powerfully brings out infections, opens clogged ducts

Poke Root (tincture)
Clears up mastitis quickly by stimulating lymph gland activity
Sage (tea)
Soothes sore, swollen breasts after nursing ceases milk production.

Breast infection remedies
Some nursing mothers experience a breast infection commonly known as mastitis. Mastitis is caused through the stagnation of the breast tissue, of a clogged duct. When this occurs, it can be very painful, while milk flow backs up and the breasts become overly full and thus, infected. The area around the infection becomes red, feels hot and a slight fever develops. For external home remedies try a hot gingerroot-infused, compress or freshly grated raw potato, placed on the infected breast to stimulate fresh blood circulation and thus relieve the stagnation of the breast tissue.

For an internal remedy, take Echinacea or goldenseal tincture. While taking these herbs, although both are safe, stop nursing. Place your infant or a natural substitute formula, and continue pumping to keep up a consistent flow and demand of milk - but discard it. Mastitis can also result from eating too much fatty foods (especially animal fats from meat, diary and poultry), also, sugar foods, spices and caffeine. Look for alternatives and increase your daily consumption of leafy green vegetables - kale, beet greens, diakon leaves and carrot or turnip tops. Reduce salt intake by substituting with seaweed condiments and broth's until the infection clears up.

Natural baby formulas
After nourishing my babies a pure natural diet while pregnant and nursing I wouldn't entertain the idea of introducing them to an unnatural, chemically altered food source, such as commercial formulas after breastfeeding. Here are some natural formulas that make excellent breast milk substitutes whether you are weaning, or need to stop due to sickness, or taking medication.

Yogurt formula

  • Half a cup fresh, homemade yogurt (use goat's milk for base starter)
  • 1 cup water, or goat's milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered spirulina mixed with, 2 teaspoons, pear juice
Make up the yogurt fresh the night before, save 1 tablespoon as the starter, and refrigerate. Combine with the other ingredients, whip, strain and bottle. Heat to body temperature before each feed.

Brown rice formula

  • 4 cups, brown rice (short grain)
  • 1 cup either oats, barley or millet
  • 5 cups water
Soak the cereals overnight. Pour grains and water into a saucepan; add a little Kombu, and another 10 cups of water. Bring to the boil, and cook for ten minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour. Remove from the heat and push it through cheesecloth to remove the bran. You can add a little barley malt for sweetness. Once prepared and sweetened, heat to body temperature and put into a bottle.

Soy Milk formula

  • 2 cups soy beans
  • 1 small strip Kombu
  • 10 cups water (soaking)
  • 2 quarts water (cooking)
Soak the soybeans overnight. Strain and discard the soak water. Place the soybeans into a blender to make a bean mash. Place mash into a saucepan with 2 quarts of water and the Kombu. Bring to the boil. Reduce to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add a little cold water to the mixture and bring to the boil again and repeat once more. Make sure the saucepan remains uncovered during the cooking procedure and stir continuously. Use a fine mesh and cover with cheesecloth, then strain the mash mixture through, repeat and squeeze out all the 'milk'. Pour the soymilk into a bottle. If the milk doesn't flow freely through the nipple, add more water and strain again. Store in a capped glass bottle in the refrigerator, and reheat to body temperature before each feed.

Zen formula

  • 6 cups sweet brown rice
  • 3 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 1 cup, sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup finely ground oatmeal
Mix and grind into a fine powder. Mix 1 tablespoon of grain powder with 1 cup of pure water; cook at a medium temperature until a milk consistency is reached. Strain through cheesecloth, and test the temperature before pouring it into the bottle for feeding.

Vegan formula

  • 1/2 cup whole (blanched) almonds
  • (Use organically grown nuts for recipe)
  • 1/4 cup, sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup, pine nuts
  • 1/2 quart water (soaking)
  • 1 quart pure water
  • 1/4 teaspoon, powdered spirulina (vitamin B12)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 small beet root
Place the nuts and seeds in a glass jar filled with half quart of water. Let stand covered overnight. Strain and place sprouted nuts into a blender. Add the water, maple syrup and raw beet root. Blend on high for 30 seconds. Strain through a fine mesh, sprinkle in the spirulina, and gently whip. Pour into a bottle and warm to body temperature. Make a fresh batch for each feed.

There is a natural development in newborns that can make a mother's job easier. Watch carefully and you'll notice that she will tell you when she wants to nurse, when she's had enough and when she's ready for something a little more filling or chewy! Mothers who have made an effort to educate themselves on natural pregnancy and nursing nutrition and have decided on what is truly important to life, and live within those principles, will make good parents, and their relaxed healthy infants will be a shinning reflection of that choice.

Jaqulene Harper-Roth, is a published author/freelance writer, an expert/contributor at, a holistic nutritionist, home-herbalist, color/meditation therapist and mom of 3 vegetarian children. Contact her: with any questions, or exchange stories of your own experiences and journey through pregnancy or nursing. Her new book, The Pregnancy Herbal (Three River Press/Random House 2001) is written from experience and brimming with ideas, that collectively expresses her love and respect of earth's healing pantry and pharmacy. She is also author of Beautiful Face, Beautiful Body, (Berkley Books 2000). Both of her books can be purchased at leading bookstores, or at

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