preparing for postpartum with Leila from village for mama.
Meet Leila. Mama of one (and currently pregnant with twins), author, postpartum doula and nutrition consultant. When Leila discovered she was pregnant, this became the catalyst for her journey into postpartum nutrition and nourishment – dedicating her time to researching and exploring pregnancy, birth and beyond. What she discovered was a lack of dialogue around the postpartum period and how to support mothers during this transformative time.
With her own positive experience of birth and the fourth trimester, being supported and cared for by loved ones in those early months postpartum, Leila made it her mission to ensure other mamas have the opportunity to experience what she did. She set about re-writing the cultural narrative and educating mamas on the importance of the fourth trimester with the release of her beautiful book Village for Mama - a collection of wholesome recipes (designed alongside a naturopath) to help replenish mothers post birth, and recipe cards to help the modern village organise homemade meals for this period.
Since releasing a second version of the book, Leila has furthered her studies in holistic pregnancy and postpartum nutrition through Oh Baby, and now works as a nutrition consultant and postpartum doula.
Let’s begin our conversation with the passionate and ever inspiring Leila…
Tell us a little about you and who is in your beautiful family?
I’m married to my incredible husband Ross, we have a beautiful three and a half year old daughter Billie and I’m currently 35 weeks pregnant with twins. We live by the beach on the Southern Gold Coast.
Can you share your journey of why you wrote Village for Mama?
Absolutely! The day my first business sold (a little yellow Mexican cantina) I found out I was pregnant and my life suddenly changed course. Because I found myself unemployed and somewhat unemployable, I had a lot of free time during my pregnancy. I dedicated this time to reading and learning about pregnancy, birth and postpartum. As a result I think I managed to create quite a unique postpartum for a first time mama. I was well supported with family close by, I had a two week confinement where I stayed at home on my bed and in the lounge and didn’t leave the house. I ate lots of warm nourishing food and surprised myself at how well I recovered and how great I felt.
A lot of my experience was down to reading ‘The First Forty Days’ and sharing it with my mum who lived close by. It was during my postpartum that I realised how much of a luxury it was to have a mum so close by and a mum who was open to learning something new and supporting me in a different way to how she was supported.
With a passion for food and cooking, and a realisation that more mothers need to ask for this kind of help and support, Village for Mama was born. The idea came to me one morning whilst listening to a podcast with Dr Oscar Serrallach.
“I was four months postpartum, feeling inspired and creative and the idea grew from there. “
We know that you’re very close to meeting these beautiful twins. Can you tell us what you learnt from your first postpartum period and how you are preparing this time round for postpartum with twins?
Despite having quite a unique postpartum for a first time mama with Billie, with all I have learned over the last three years through creating the book, studying and working with new mothers, there is so much I will do differently this time round.
Last time I outsourced all of my support to my mum, and she was incredible in her role of daily meal deliveries, changing bedding, holding the baby and holding space for me. However I genuinely believe that it isn’t a single person role. I think there is such power in having a village of support.
This time I have hired an incredible postpartum doula who will support, nurture and nourish me for six weeks postpartum. She provides in-home support, treatments and traditional postpartum meals.
I have set an intention for a four week confinement where I will remain at home and use the time to rest, recover and establish a good breastfeeding relationship with the twins. I have connected with practitioners who will support me in the home during this time should I need acupuncture, massage, chiropractic and/or lactation support.
Finally a Mother’s Blessing! This might seem like a bizarre part of postpartum planning but last time I had a baby shower. Don’t get me wrong, the baby shower was lovely but it was just an afternoon of fun with friends and excitement over the baby. A Mother’s Blessing is an opportunity to acknowledge the rite of passage that is becoming a mother, an opportunity to gather your village of support and talk about how you hope to be held during this transition. It was a chance to bring together those who I wanted to support me through my postpartum, hand out recipe cards and prepare for birth and postpartum with love and wisdom from other women and mothers.
We would love to hear how you’ve found this pregnancy compared to your first pregnancy. Are there products or tools that you’ve continued to use in this pregnancy, which worked really well for you in the first pregnancy?
This pregnancy has been a really interesting journey for me. Despite suffering from HG for the first 20 weeks, which was the most debilitating and testing period of my life, as a whole I have really enjoyed this pregnancy. More so than my first pregnancy. With my daughter I was in a strange transitional period of my life, I felt very hormonal and emotional and struggled with extreme fatigue and my growing body. This time round I have loved watching my body change and grow, I have felt really balanced emotionally and well physically. Everyone told me being pregnant in summer is awful but I have genuinely loved the sunshine and water immersion. I think you always feel healthier in summer which helps during pregnancy.
Can you briefly outline what the fourth trimester is and how expect mamas can prepare for it?
The fourth trimester is the three months following the birth of your baby. I love this term because typically the postpartum period lasts for six weeks and the fourth trimester acknowledges that it takes longer than six weeks post birth to rest, recover and replenish. It is the period of time where life for both mama and babe should be ‘womb like’ - warm, protected and calm. Where the focus is on adjusting to a new phase of life before emerging into the real world.
“Firstly, acknowledging the fourth trimester and setting an intention on how you and your baby intend to spend this time is essential.”
How do you envision the first three months of life with your new baby?
Secondly, gather your village. The journey into motherhood was never meant to be made alone. Surround yourself with people you can lean on and sometimes fall on. This is where that Mother’s Blessing comes in handy. A chance to bring together your village and share how you wish to be supported through this time.
We’ve all heard the saying “it takes a village”. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to supporting new mamas as they navigate motherhood. What are some practical ways family and friends can support the mother in her fourth trimester?
I don’t think anything beats a homemade nourishing meal during the fourth trimester. Nourishment is essential for supporting recovery, replenishing depleted stores and producing breast milk. Meal deliveries also free up time and space in the family so there can be more support and love for mama and babe.
Ideally a new mama should be spending the early weeks at home resting and this can be more challenging when there are other children to be looked after. A village can really help a new mama prioritise rest by popping to the supermarket to collect her shopping list, helping around the house with loads of washing or general tidying, doing the daycare or school run or even keeping the other children company at home or taking them out on a playdate.
Sometimes early motherhood can feel lonely and overwhelming and a warm cup of tea, a big cuddle and someone to listen can make the world of difference. Whilst visitors should always be mindful of how a new mama is feeling and not overstay their welcome, sometimes a little more than a drop and run is required.
Can you share the importance of nutrition and nourishment in the postpartum period and how it impacts recovery, maternal wellbeing and mental health?
“Nourishing food is one of the most important parts of postpartum recovery. Postpartum is about replenishing depleted stores from pregnancy, facilitating recovery and producing high quality breast milk.”
Balanced meals are essential as energy rich carbohydrates help build milk supply, protein repairs tissue and muscles, and healthy fats help produce breast milk, balance hormones and stabilise blood sugars.
Certain nutritional needs are higher for breastfeeding mamas than they are at any other time in her life, so incorporating ingredients rich in essential nutrients can help avoid further depletion.
What is your top piece of advice you would give to an expecting mama, in particular a pregnant mama expecting twins?
It is a bit of boring advice but I think it is so important to do your own research. It is really crazy how quickly everything becomes scary and high risk with twins and it doesn't need to be that way. Find care providers that inspire and empower you and invest in lots of self care! I have had regular acupuncture, massage and osteopathy this pregnancy and I think it has made a huge difference to how I feel physically which has a huge impact on how you feel mentally and emotionally.
We love to hear the different experiences of inspiring mums and mums-to-be. What are you most excited about birthing twins?
I honestly feel like the luckiest mama in the world having this opportunity to grow and birth two babies. It feels like such a privilege to experience twin mama life. I know there will be some huge challenges and there are some hard days ahead but it’s one of those things in life you can’t choose and I’m just really grateful I get to experience it.
And of course, we can’t wait to chat to you postpartum to see how you’re navigating motherhood and business with three little ones.
To wrap up, we have a very important question. What are your top 3 favourite biglittlethings?
Seasons of Mama Soothe Mama Postpartum Soak
You can follow Leila @villageformama
Photography of Leila & her daughter by @brit_degraaf
All other photos by Alicia Kapel for biglittlethings.store