In the bustling world of motherhood, where tender moments intertwine with the chaotic symphony of parenting, Leila Armour, mother of three, Nutrition Consultant, Postpartum Doula and creator of Village for Mama, found solace and empowerment in educating herself around the power of supporting women following birth.
Guided by a desire to optimise her own postpartum, Leila’s unwavering passion for normalising the gathering of a village to support new mums, educating friends and family around the importance of support and nourishment during the early weeks of motherhood, and the impact this has on recovery, breastfeeding, maternal wellbeing and mental health— all lead to her creation of a heartwarming and essential project, Village for Mama. Village for Mama is a recipe book that combines the goodness of nutrition, ease of preparation, and the warmth of a mother's love, thoughtfully designed to support women during the fourth trimester.
With this year's themes of World Breastfeeding Week highlighting the link between breastfeeding and good nutrition, we share a moment with Leila—amidst her current postpartum tandem-feeding twins—to gather her insights around breastfeeding and the importance of nourishing and supporting this phase of motherhood.
Leila wears the Kyra Midi in Dress Sumac
Tell us a little about your journey of motherhood and the creation of Village for Mama.
Five years ago I had a grand vision to trade my Mexican cantina for a boat and set sail for a few years with my now husband. I didn’t expect motherhood to be on the horizon!
The day I sold my business I found out I was pregnant and my vision for the foreseeable future suddenly changed course. With little to no understanding of pregnancy, birth or motherhood, I dedicated my (unemployed!) pregnancy to exploration and research.
While I found an abundance of resources helping mothers through pregnancy and birth and countless books dedicated to raising children, there was very little dialogue around what follows birth for the mother. There was very little information on honouring new mums and ensuring they prioritise rest, recovery and nourishing food like other traditional practices around the world. There seemed to be an overwhelming expectation for modern mums to bounce back and get on with it.
With only a handful of voices championing the importance of the postpartum period and the essential role loved ones play in shaping a new mother’s experience, I felt it was time to re-write our cultural narrative and begin educating those around expectant and new mothers.
Four months after my daughter was born, I gathered my own village of local, creative women and mothers to bring my vision to life. A new kind of recipe book was born that invites friends and family to cook and deliver home cooked meals for mothers. Each book includes 30 recipe gift cards with a pre-written letter kindly explaining the importance of the postpartum period and the essential role loved ones play in shaping a new mother’s experience.
After writing the book I started working as a postpartum doula, supporting mothers through the early weeks of motherhood with in-home visits and nourishing food. Food is a love language - there is something special about eating a meal someone else has prepared for you, regardless of how simple. It makes you feel loved and cared for when you need it most. I absolutely love cooking and caring for new mums.
I recently gave birth to twin boys Noah and Joey and I’m currently in a new season of slow following my fourth trimester. Adjusting and adapting to life with twins and a four year old. It’s so easy to fall back into the rat race of life as your little ones become older and more independent. It has been such a treat to reset and embrace a slower pace while I take some time off work and watch these little people grow.
Leila wears the Jasmine Midi Dress in Charcoal, an upcoming style
How do you feel breastfeeding supports good nutrition for newborns?
* Unfortunately this has become somewhat challenging to openly discuss without upsetting or offending women who were unable to or chose not to breastfeed. So I share this information acknowledging that not all babies are breastfed. However I do really believe that by sharing this kind of information, we can help empower women on their breastfeeding journey.
It was learning about the magic of breastmilk that inspired and motivated me to push through the challenges that arose on my own feeding journey. Support is essential for helping mothers successfully breastfeed and for me it was necessary to seek guidance and support to breastfeed my daughter for 2 years and now the twins. *
Breastfeeding provides perfect nutrition for our growing babies for multiple reasons.
It has the optimal nutrient composition as it contains the right balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for a baby's growth and development.
It is a living substance that contains antibodies, white blood cells, stem cells and healthy bacteria. It is constantly changing and evolving to meet the needs of your growing baby.
Our bodies are constantly in communication with one another adapting to meet our baby’s needs. When we kiss our baby we are sampling pathogens on their skin and our breastmilk will adapt in real time to support our babies immune system.
The backwash effect is similar to this too, the baby’s saliva is sucked back into our nipple as it contains valuable information about their immune status. Our body, in real time, can alter the breast milk immunological composition and help support and nourish our baby with what they need most.
Do you feel breastfeeding is beneficial for mothers also?
Absolutely. We need our babies as much as our babies need us.
Breastfeeding provides bonding and emotional connection for mother and babe. It facilitates skin-to-skin contact and fosters a strong emotional bond between the baby and the mother, promoting the baby's overall well-being. When a baby suckles at the breast, sensory impulses pass from the nipple to the brain and secrete prolactin and oxytocin. For most mothers, breastfeeding helps them feel happy, calm and relaxed.
It is also important to note that breastfeeding can contribute to depletion and our body will take from our stores to meet our baby’s needs if we aren’t consuming the right nutrients.
Supporting a new mum nutritionally through the early months of motherhood can not only replenish their stores from pregnancy but also prevent further depletion through breastfeeding.
Do you have any advice for mothers who may experience a sense of overwhelm or disconnection with breastfeeding?
Just because breastfeeding is biologically normal doesn’t make it easy. It is still a learned skill and it is important to remember that it takes time to master it.
Be prepared to be a little clumsy and feel overwhelmed. Know that the early days and weeks can be all consuming at times with feeding around the clock. Be kind to yourself, and remember, with a little practice you will get there and it will be worth it.
Some mothers can really benefit from support from a trained professional. It can help to connect with a Lactation Consultant prior to having your baby. You can do an antenatal breastfeeding session to help you prepare or alternatively just make the connection so that you have a relationship with someone who can help support you once your baby is born. It can be hard to look for help when you are sleep deprived and overwhelmed but if you have already touched base, it makes it so much easier to gain the support you need.
Leila wears the Kyra Maxi Dress in Fuchsia Bloom
In what ways do you feel women, mothers and their communities can support awareness around breastfeeding?
We can teach each other so much as women and we can empower each other through motherhood. There is so much to learn that we can share amongst ourselves through open conversation and the sharing of stories.
Breastfeeding is a learned skill and for most of us, it isn’t until we have our own baby and breastfeed for the first time that we see it up close. Breastfeeding doesn’t need to be done behind closed doors. If you have pregnant friends while you are breastfeeding, show them how you do it up close. Share your experiences with other women and mothers. So often we see the ‘final result’ and don’t realise how much time, practice, and tears have gone into making that happen.
I would love to see more awareness around the importance of nourishing new mothers. Organising a meal train for a mother-to-be can make a huge difference to not only her recovery and postpartum period but also to her breastfeeding journey. Never underestimate the power of a home cooked meal for a new mum!
We love seeing you blossom in motherhood wearing our designs, what do you love most about our breastfeeding friendly styles?
There is an ongoing joke in my home that I’m wearing my ‘doula uniform’ when I put on a Daughters of India dress. But in a way it is true, I love floating in and out of mother’s homes in my DOI dresses. I love the versatility of them through all stages of motherhood from pregnancy through postpartum and beyond. There aren’t many breastfeeding friendly options that can be worn casually or dressed up and through all seasons. I will throw one on to go to the beach, pop to the shops or to feel beautiful at an event.
What is your favourite postpartum recipe for supporting lactation?
Whilst there are a range of ingredients and herbs that can support lactation called ‘galactagogues’, the best way to support lactation is to ensure the baby is feeding well and draining the breast and that mother’s are well hydrated and eating enough nourishing food.
My little loaded lactation cookies are a favourite because they are packed full of galactagogues and are a great source of healthy fats and carbohydrates which are essential for a breastfeeding mother!
Little Loaded Lactation Cookies
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup spelt flour
- 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
- 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
- 1 tablespoon flax seeds
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon brewers yeast (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts..)
- 1/3 cup Ghee, Butter or Coconut Oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
Preheat the oven to 180c fan forced and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
In a bowl combine the oats, flour, hemp seeds, cacao nibs and chopped nuts.
In a small saucepan on high heat, combine the ghee and maple syrup and cook until it begins to bubble (be sure to stir continuously so it does not burn). Add the bi-carb soda and mix with a spoon until it foams.
Pour the hot liquid into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Use a tablespoon to scoop cookie dough into little balls. The cookie dough should be sticky and ingredients should bind together well.
Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until golden brown but still a little gooey on the inside.
Discover more about Leila’s offerings on her website www.villageformama.com
Journal by Ella Josephine Archer