Living foods that are locally sourced, free of harmful pesticides, and unprocessed with chemicals or preservatives provide essential nutrition while pregnant. Luckily, Hawai’i has an abundance of foods that can be excellent for pregnant and nursing mothers. In general, warm nourishing foods, and lightly cooked vegetables that are easy to assimilate, are all great options. “Roots and shoots soups and stews,” as Maui midwife Tina Garzero has shared with local mothers for over 30 years.  

 Local venison is an optimal source of protein that can be made into soups or stews. Add in a variety of fresh local herbs, root vegetables, and dark greens such as ‘uala, purple sweet potato with the leaves and vines added for iron and other trace minerals. These are especially good for breastfeeding moms.

 During the first two trimesters of pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume doubles along with the needs of her growing baby. Foods that build her blood and iron content are essential. A traditional Hawaiian diet including limu, fresh-caught smaller varieties of fish and seafood as well as poi and paiai are excellent sources.   

 After a baby’s birth, it’s important to recognize that they have never digested food before and their body must learn to process it. The mother’s first milk teaches her baby’s microbiome what to make of the complex microbial world outside the womb. The mother’s digestion also slows so that she can simplify the nutritional messages going to her baby. 

 Utilizing local ingredients when possible, start with broths, warm cooked foods, easy protein, and warm digestive herbs and spices. Limit anything difficult to digest such as raw or cruciferous vegetables, dairy products, and gassy foods. By the end of the second week, as the mother’s mature milk starts to come in, she can start to add in more complex foods slowly as she observes how her baby tolerates each food individually.  

 For the first six months of life, the mother continues to provide the best nutrients for her baby.  That also means that all the nutrients that were required to grow the baby on the inside are twice as necessary to meet their growing needs on the outside.

 Kiana Rowley, RN is the Vice President of the Pacific Birth Collective.