While Ebeth Johnson has ten years’ experience as a nutritionist and wellness educator, it wasn’t until the birth of her daughter, Cayenne, that she found her true calling: to help breastfeeders-to-be and new nursing moms to use whole foods to increase their milk supply and address issues like colic, cradle cap, eczema and allergy prevention. In an interview with Ebeth Johnson, the Breastfeeding Chef, Examiner.com talks with her about her mission to educate moms about the benefits of mindful eating for breastfeeding.
Healthy Chef becomes the Breastfeeding Chef
Examiner (EX): As the Healthy Chef you were eating a nutritionally healthy diet, but when you began nursing your daughter, you struggled to sooth your baby's constant crying. You experienced concern when you prepared to go back to work and had trouble pumping enough milk to store. Tell us about what you learned and the suggestion your Naturopath colleague made that might help.
Ebeth Johnson (EJ): I learned that the foods that we as nursing moms eat can have a significant impact on our milk, which in turn can affect our baby, potentially preventing or addressing issues like colic, cradle, cap, eczema and skin irritations.
EX: You eliminated the top 8 allergen foods and more. What are these foods and why did you eliminate them?
EJ: The top 8 allergens are dairy, soy, corn, wheat, nuts, peanuts, shellfish and eggs. I eliminated them because at the time I had no idea what was causing my daughter's skin rashes, itching, colic symptoms and problems sleeping. These common allergens can cause a host of problems for people who are allergic or sensitive to them, including some of the symptoms my daughter was experiencing. So, it seemed a good place to start.
Two things are important to note. First, an elimination diet like the one I embarked on is a common practice when trying to determine what foods may be causing a negative reaction. After completely avoiding these foods for 14 days or so, you add them back in one at a time checking for reactions, until you determine which food(s) is causing the problem.
Second, in my book and in my workshops, I don't advise breastfeeders-to-be or new nursing moms to eliminate these allergens from the beginning. I share this information so IF their child experiences a negative response, they have a place to start to give them some idea of what might be at the root of the problem.
Key ingredients to improve breast milk production
Along with elimination of foods another question to ask is whether or not any foods were added to your diet. Often times when I post on my Facebook page or talk to moms about what I do, the assumption is that it's all about what moms CAN'T eat. That is not primarily what I'm about. Yes, there are some foods I encourage women to avoid or eat less of, but my primary intention is to celebrate, and in some cases introduce, the delicious nutrient rich foods that: 1) help their body produce more milk, 2) are least likely to cause a negative reaction in baby, 3) that improve moms overall health, and 4) encourage mom's safe return to her pre-pregnancy weight.
Some of the key ingredients I added to my diet were:
- Hemp milk (this greatly improved my milk production as well as the richness of my milk due to its high omega 3 and omega 6 fat content)
- Blackstrap molasses (because of its high iron and calcium content it both increased my energy and my milk supply)
- Oats (I ate oats prior to the birth of my daughter but not regularly, but because oats are incredibly good at increasing milk supply I ate a lot more oats)
- Nutritional yeast (this flaky condiment tastes a bit cheesy and salty and is a good source of B12 which supports the energy needs of nursing moms. It is also known for its ability to increase milk production)
Benefits of mindful eating for breastfeeding
EX: What kind of changes did you see in your daughter after you made your dietary changes?
EJ: You have to understand that my daughter cried about 90 percent of her waking time. So for starters she cried a lot less. Also her skin began to clear up, she itched less, she slept longer and went to sleep more easily, her eczema cleared up. She was a happier baby. I was a happier mama.
EX: Along with those changes you discovered a surprising benefit. Tell us about that.
EJ: The most amazing thing that came out of this was the discovery of my Passion Work. I've always been interested in food, wellness, cooking and creating judgment-free, meet-you where-you are, fun learning environments about these subjects. But when I realized that I, even with 10 years of experience as a food educator under my belt, did not have a clue how to eat for my Breastfeeding Season. If I didn't know, I knew most moms probably didn't know either. In that moment I recognized what would be the next chapter in my career: to work with breastfeeders-to-be and new nursing moms teaching them what I wish I had known before my daughter was born.
About Nutritionist Ebeth Johnson
Ebeth Johnson is the author of Nursing Mama Power Foods, a speaker, and nutritional instructor who will be an exhibitor at A Baby Affair on March 17th for DC/VA/MD moms who want to meet her, learn more about her work and sample her soon to be released MamaSnacks: an alternative lactation cookie the whole family can enjoy. Her next Mindful Eating for Breastfeeding class will be Saturday, April 27. For more information visit her website, breastfeedingchef.com, or stop by her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter @breastfeedchef.