Justene O’Connor lives and breathes Aryuveda. She’s a mother, naturopath and yogi who’s average day reads like a health retreat…plus baby. Her 20 month old Jazim feeds like a newborn during the day, sleeps in her bed overnight and has a role model for self-care like no other
This other worldly woman chats with us about the 40-day Aryuvedic post birth ritual, the value of surrendering to how you feel (and responding), and why new mums should throw out the books and follow their instincts.
We know you’re passionate about Ayurveda. Can you tell us what Ayurveda is, and how you apply the principles to your daily life?
It’s a practical and comprehensive body of knowledge that focuses on restoring balance within your mind, body and emotions ultimately resulting in an increase in overall consciousness. Through the use of food, herbs, breath, movement, body rituals and mindfulness, I’ve been able to stay nourished and grounded and also nourish my babe with plenty of milk.
Only eating when hungry is also a big part of it - this has the power to transform your body and mind.
With the guidance of my doctor from India, I have established daily rituals that keep me centred. On rising I have a warm oil rub and shower, drink warm water before practicing yoga and exercising with my family, followed by a light breakfast of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger porridge with dates. Lunch is the biggest meal- spiced organic vegetables, coconut fish curry and basmati rice and dinner is light.
Thought the day I try to tune into my body — surrendering to how my baby and I feel and then acting accordingly. If we’re tired, we rest whenever possible. If we’re sluggish, I make some chai and get outside.
It’s essential that mothers become attuned with their own needs. That way their ‘grace’ tank is full and ready to give to their children. Listening to your body models self-care to your baby, and I think that’s really important.
As a naturopath, do you have any specific advice on how women can nurture themselves while breastfeeding?
If a mother’s intake of certain nutrients is low she may become depleted and exhausted. Key nutrients to consider including in either increased dietary form or supplementation include: folate, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, selenium, vitamin E, vitamin D, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, B12 and K.
Additionally, anxiety, fatigue and stress can negatively effect milk production and let down; ask for help where needed and practice relaxation techniques or sleeping whenever baby is sleeping.
Having healthy treats on hand that help with milk production is excellent. Lactation cookies were lifesavers for me during mammoth newborn feeding sessions.
Keeping jars of nut and seeks high in essential fatty acids in rooms where you breastfeeding, as well as flasks of warm spiced organic milk or water, means you will stay hydrated and nourished — and your milk will be of high quality.
Ayurveda is big on drinking milk during the postpartum period. Not all people can tolerate milk, but I find raw milk heated and spiced with turmeric and cinnamon to be more agreeable. Other great choices are homemade almond milk, coconut water and herbal teas that include fenugreek and fennel.
Do you have a strange or funny breastfeeding moment to share?
The first time we took Jazim on a plane he was nine months old. We flew to Bangkok and prior to the trip I had been nervously researching flying with a bub. Every resource suggested breastfeeding during take off and landing.
I anxiously ensured he nursed while landing and felt proud of my calm baby as the plane hit the tarmac. I then stood up to exit the plan and as I walked down the aisle a kind lady let me know I had left one breast out!
Tell us about your early experience breastfeeding.
I felt humbled and small watching my baby boy latch on and breastfeed with such intent within minutes of his birthing journey.
This tiny little being with innate confidence and knowledge in his role on earth sparkled, while I stumbled and settled into motherhood and my new full-time role as milk maker extraordinaire!
This is common practice in most yogic and Asian traditions and it is not considered a privilege, but an essential passage for mother and baby.
I remember feeling like my sole purpose in life at that time was to nourish my baby - he was a little premature and I took breastfeeding on demand to the next level; anxiously trying to fatten him up and offering him the boob at any slight noise.
As my babe has grown into toddlerhood I am much more relaxed and often look forward to the escapism of breastfeeding my babe and self to sleep.
I won’t over glorify breastfeeding on demand. At times I’ve beens o exhausted from sleepless nights during teething, but I do believe it has helped create a secure attached relationship between my son and I.
Why is breastfeeding so special to you?
Breastfeeding my son has brought so much growth into my life; I’ve become a more patient, selfless, attuned, relaxed and compassionate woman.
I couldn’t imagine how I, or my husband, would have coped without breastfeeding.
Every time Jazim has been in discomfort from teething, travel, illness, an unsettling schedule or a small mishap I’ve felt empowered to help ease his pain by offering him the breast.
Beyond the emotional wellbeing benefits, I am passionate about the health and wellness benefits of breastfeeding for mother and babe.
How old is your bub now, and how often is he nursing?
Jazim is 20 months now, and honestly still breastfeeds as often as a newborn during the day — toddlers can be quite the boobie monsters!
Nighttime feeds are also pretty regular. I am not sure how often though - I’ve mastered the art of ‘sleep feeding’ thanks to co-sleeping with bub.
I’m finding that as his toddler world expands, his feeds are shorter and more for comfort or to wind down than hunger.
Do you have plans to wean him, or are you just taking it as it comes?
No plans to wean him at this stage. I trust my intuition that he will self wean when the time is right.
A couple of months ago I attempted to reduce the feeds slightly in order to stimulate my body to be more fertile - it is a delicate balance between lactating hormones and fertility hormones. It didn’t feel right for our family and we let it go quickly.
What’s the best advice your mum ever gave you? Regarding motherhood, birth and breastfeeding, my mother said not to read too much information — that it’s unnecessary.
She explained that women already have everything we need within us. If we trust and accept this it will feel natural.
Unfortunately, I did over-read and this left me bewildered and full of expectation. Shortly after Jazim was born I stopped reading all the baby developmental stage ‘should be doing’ advice and settled into a more free-range approach to all aspects of motherhood.