For my final project, I will be volunteering with the Newborn Enhanced Support Team (NEST). NEST offers free postpartum support for mothers and their families in everything from breastfeeding to finding community resources. This program takes an active part in decolonization by promoting breastfeeding as a social justice tool that can help address many facets of poverty, racism, geographic isolation, indigenous sovereignty and community food security. One of their main grants, Hawaii Island First Foods Initiative, aims to promote eating locally grown foods throughout pregnancy and infanthood, including breastmilk.
The First Foods Initiative is rooted in the understanding that ‘ai pono is a proper foundation to a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. Exclusive breastfeeding is not only a baby’s first food, but also its medicine and a connection to our ancestral ways. It aims to promote life-long health habits in seeking out local and healthy food sources for everyone in the family but especially for when a baby starts eating solids at six months old. Decolonizing our food sources is of the utmost importance on a remote island. If shipping were to ever be disrupted, we only have a few days of food supply and waste capacity. Breastfeeding is not only good for our food security, but for our disaster preparedness, economic self-sufficiency, and environmental stewardship.
With NEST, I will be working on two main projects. The first will be a “first foods baby board book”. I will help design and create a little book that highlights local first foods including coconut meat, ulu, and kalo. Our intention is to mail this book out to everyone in the program when the baby is around four months old to get families to start thinking about foods they will be feeding their baby at six months. My second project is to incorporate culturally-relevant feeding anecdotes in the text messaging platform, Mosio, which reaches all of the postpartum families in the program. This text messaging system currently sends out breastfeeding information at designated points throughout the postpartum period from zero to six months. Our aim is to continue that support beyond the first half year to provide complementary breastfeeding and eating support for baby.