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Milk + Seed: How A Cali based Shamanic Healer is Nourishing Postpartum Moms

| April 24, 2019

New mamas looking for a holistic and mindful nutrition support that caters to your changing postpartum needs, look no further than Milk + Seed, a beautifully branded, spiritually grounded, postpartum meal delivery service, grounded in the principals of self-care. Founded by author, shamanic practitioner, and Certified Health Coach Sophie Ward Koren, Milk + Seed services postpartum mothers in the Ojai, Santa Barbara, and Malibu, regions of California.

Koren is a former model, self-published author, initiated shamanic practitioner committed to connecting mothers with Mother Earth through healing comfort foods, sustainable life practices and meaningful motherhood ceremonies informed by her study of Andean cosmology. She lives in the Ojai valley with her family and is grateful to spend each day  in the kitchen listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast, playing and nourishing families with medicinal food.

The idea to start Milk + Seed came to Koren in what she describes as “droplets”. “First, the name arrived while I was nursing my son to sleep one pastel dusk in Ojai. It was going to be a cookbook. Then, whilst in my kitchen on the permaculture farm, the idea – it was more of a command! – to create a postpartum delivery service dropped in like lightning.” Koren, who loves to cook and feed those around, her felt a deep calling to serve women and families at this powerful and vulnerable time.

Milk + Seed recipes are perfect for any new mother experiencing anxiety, depressive tendencies, overwhelm, rapid mood swings, joint pain, digestive issues, and rashes or skin conditions.

Milk + Seed Porridge – photo courtesy of Milk + Seed

Pregnancy takes an enormous toll on a women’s body and recovering from birth takes time, patience and nutritious support. Sarah Rueven, MS, RDN, CDN of Rooted Wellness, states, “Food is important to all new mothers, but especially those experiencing anxiety, depressive tendencies and other changes in mood, because food at the most basic level helps our bodies to heal from the inside out, and this also includes our minds. Many studies have demonstrated that there is a strong link between food and mood. When we are nourishing ourselves in the postpartum period through a combination of lean protein, whole grains to provide sustained energy, plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables and healthy fats, we are feeding our cells and creating synaptic pathways that promote healing.”

Mama Glow recently sat down with Sophie Ward Koren to get her take on nutrition for babies and new mothers.

Sophie Ward Koren, founder of Milk + Seed

MG: Why is postpartum nutrition so important to new mothers? 

SWK: Whenever we are hungry, tired, or depleted we do not function at our best. Our thinking narrows, our bodies tire easily and we are unable to show up in the fullness of our potential. For a postpartum mother, the time immediately after birth is prone to plenty of hunger, fatigue and depletion! Giving birth takes a huge amount of energy from a woman. In Traditional Chinese medicine it would be said that birth is a very yang experience –  active, hot, energetic and outward. After birth, the mother’s body, mind and soul require extra special care. Both pregnancy and birth have called on her physical and mental resources probably in ways she has never experienced before, so postpartum needs to be a time of rest and recovery.

In Japan they call this time ansei which loosely translates as “peace and quiet with pampering,” and in Traditional Chinese Medicine the period following birth embraces the energy of yin – slow, quiet and substantial (or grounding.) Traditional cultures around the world recognize that new mothers need plenty of nutrient dense soups and liquids to replenish their energy, promote lactation, facilitate rest and digestion. In the West, we are so accustomed to the message that we must ‘bounce back’ and ‘do it all’ that we forget to take a moment (ideally forty days) to replenish.

The most important things for a woman to remember during postpartum are: Is it warm/warming, and can it be served in a mug or a bowl? If she can live by these principles for a month, her body will not be as depleted as if she raced around eating fast food. I recommend women focus on these three principles of postpartum – warmth, bowls and mugs – so that they drink and eat lots of warming foods and drinks. You don’t eat stew on a plate and you don’t drink broth out of a champagne glass! The warmth factor is very important as it promotes energy conservation and free flowing ‘chi’ or life force, rather than depleting her organs by putting unnecessary demands on her digestion.

Kitchari with avocado and black sesame seeds – Milk + Seed

MG: Why is Milk + Seed a great choice for new mothers?

SWK: I believe that mothers are the greatest leaders in the world. If they are rushing, depleted, stressed, tired or overburdened, how can we expect them to show up to the most important job in the world, that of raising wise, conscious, healthy and happy children?

One reason why women feel the need to do it all is the cultural messaging of our time, but also the fact that we feel incredibly isolated from our physical communities. Globalization, fear and the Internet have led to increasing remove from our human communities especially during the vulnerable time of postpartum. So many of us have left our home towns or countries for opportunity elsewhere, and in doing so have also left behind our own mothers, aunts and grandmothers, who in centuries past, would have shown up to take care of you with a ladle of soup and some warm milk.

Milk + Seed exists to bridge the gap left by this modern dilemma, by embodying the energy of the grandmother with her traditional recipes, broths, soups and lactation remedies. Our menu full of the foods your grandmother would have made, but we have updated her repertoire to include some fun, frivolity and celebration  – chocolate bon-bons decorated with edible flowers, a chocolate reishi ghee-nache frosted “birthday” cake and saffron infused custard. Having a baby is beautiful event – we want it to feel that way.

Milk-Making Nut Butter Bombs – Milk + Seed

MG: That sounds so delicious….Can you describe how it works? How does one get to experience the Milk + Seed menu? 

SWK: Pregnant women may reach out to us through the website and have the option of choosing either a forty two day, twenty one day, or fourteen day meal plan. We have vegetarian options. We also offer a ‘pre-birth’ pantry package of non-perishable items including three medicinal latte powders.

When the woman goes into active labor, someone on her birth team reaches out and lets us know that baby is on the way. Then we begin to prepare her order. Deliveries are available throughout Southern California and pick up is free.

Sprouted Seed Bowl – Milk + Seed

MG: Can you tell us a little bit about the other spiritual services you offer?

SWK: A mother blessing is a celebratory day of pampering for the pregnant woman during her third trimester surrounded by her closest female friends and/or family. Our culture is remarkably devoid of meaningful ceremonies designed to honor life transitions, other than graduations, weddings, baby showers, and funerals. Motherhood is one of the most significant life transitions a woman can go through, and yet during pregnancy the focus is usually almost entirely on the baby. A mother blessing creates an intentional space for the pregnant women to feel acknowledged, admired, pampered and held in reverence like the incredible being she is. It takes a lot to grow a human, and yet sadly we spend such little attention on the mother. A mother blessing makes sure to remedy this! During the gathering the mother is adorned with a crown of flowers, her feet are soaked in a ceremonial foot bath before being scrubbed with cornmeal. The circle of women around her spends time acknowledging her and reading their prayers, reciting poems or singing songs that they want her to receive. Afterwards, a feast is enjoyed as with all good celebrations.

A despacho is a traditional Peruvian prayer bundle used to carry the prayers of the participants to Great Spirit and to honor the great mother Earth that we all come from. The shamanic ceremony is centered around a central altar set upon paper, comprised of various seeds, nuts, candies, chocolate, flowers, foods and other ritual symbolic items. After completing the adornment of the prayer bundle, the despacho is then folded and tied with string before being burned in a ceremonial fire, buried in the ground or given to a body of water. The despacho ceremony is particularly powerful for those experiencing fertility issues, IVF, birth trauma, pregnancy trauma, miscarriage or stillbirth. When we come into communication with the divine and externalize our intentions, prayers and feelings through ritual, we imbue our lives with meaning and process. Whether we believe in a benevolent cosmic force or not, the ceremony can assist in completing unresolved trauma, bringing couples together, and fostering a sense of reverence for all that is.

Dessert – Milk + Seed

MG: Beautiful, so grounding and so necessary. It’s important to have ceremony to honor the sacred passage from one phase of life to the next. How do you take care of yourself, feed yourself and your own family?

SWK: I have been on a personal healing journey for over ten years. I suffered from eating disorders and lots of confusion around what was best for me to eat during my time in the fashion industry as an international model. When I met my husband and we had our son, I dove into a yearlong study of nutrition and then another year of shamanic study of the Peruvian Q’eros lineage. What I learned over those two years informed a lot of what I do now, it grounded and connected me to the earth in a way I had never been before, and gave me permission to follow what felt intuitively right for me. During my own postpartum time I knew nothing of the postpartum philosophies and went on a three-month tour of the world with my musician husband eating whatever I wanted. Two years of breastfeeding later I was absolutely depleted, exhausted and burnt out. Looking back now I see how my actions during postpartum affected my subsequent health and energy reserves. These days with an active four year old, a thriving business, a marriage and plenty of projects in my day, I find that my body needs more TLC than I ever thought it would – and the shift is that I now allow myself to take care of it in ways I didn’t before. I also tend towards being a very ‘vata’ type dosha in Ayurveda – easily anxious, fast metabolism, dry skin and mentally overactive, so the philosophies that I teach postpartum women and their caretakers applies really well for me too, and anyone like me! The food is also very good for post-operative recovery, post C-section, children and the elderly. I find that eating this way definitely helps me – when I am warm, rested, and well nourished, I feel like I can do anything.


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