As I think back on those precious and fragile months of early motherhood, many of them remain a blur of overwhelm and fatigue combined with euphoria. While I started to sort out my new reality, the greatest gift was the friends who lovingly brought us meals. I may not remember how often I showered (it wasn’t much) or what my tiny baby wore those days but I can still recall most of the meals we ate, nearly all provided by a generous friend or family member.
If you are at a loss about how to help someone who is having a baby, ask if you can set up a meal calendar for them and then share it on social media or by email. Just having someone take the lead on this was so helpful. There are many websites out there that are easy to use for this purpose. Some examples are:
Top 10 things to keep in mind if you decide you want to be an angel and help a new mom:
Consider allergies and food preferences.
Remember that not everyone likes what you like and many people have food allergies. If there are other young children in the house, it is likely that they are picky eaters. Select something that won’t be overly spicy or strong. This is another way the meal planning websites come in handy. They allow you to ask the family once what their preferences/allergies are so they don’t have to tell each person who wants to bring a meal. If they don’t have a website though, be sure to ask.
Focus on healthy energy foods that are good for breastfeeding moms and tired parents.
Super foods like sweet potatoes and green veggies are terrific. I try to stay away from meals with a lot of dairy and instead go for whole grains and lean proteins.
Bring extra so there will be leftovers.
There might be a day or two before another meal arrives and it’s likely that these new parents might want to eat lunch the next day. If you bring a dish that will produce extras you keep them stocked for several meals. That is excellent!
Pack a special treat.
I have quite a sweet tooth and it was never stronger than when I was breastfeeding. When friends packed an extra little chocolate treat for me, I loved it! Consider bringing a bottle of wine since many breastfeeding moms indulge a little and a small glass of wine can foster relaxation and stimulate milk production.
Home cooked food is preferable but NOT a requirement.
Don’t skip out on providing a meal because you can’t make the meal yourself. I often end up buying an already-prepared meal because I just haven’t gotten the groceries I need or I don’t have enough time to make dinner for my family and the new parents. Sometimes I’ll buy an already prepped main dish and make the sides myself too. We had some people bring us meals from local restaurants and that was very welcome.
Bring meals in dishes that don’t need to be returned.
The last thing new parents need is another task like washing your dishes and tracking you down to return them. Keep it simple. Grocery stores sell lots of recyclable foil pans that are perfect for preparing and transporting meals.
Don’t stay to share the meal and don’t stay too long!
I recently dropped off a meal to new parents with my husband and he asked what we should do if they invited us to stay for dinner. NO! This is a gift for them and we do not want to interrupt their flow with our presence.
Pick a time for drop-off that is best for the family.
New parents are struggling to figure out their schedules post-baby and we all know that new babies have no schedule so try to be flexible and find a time for meal drop-off that is best for the family, yet works for you. Confirm in the morning that you are still coming and text 30 minutes before you plan to arrive to check that the time doesn’t need to be adjusted slightly. If you drop off in the evening, you can bring your dish hot so it just needs to be served and there is even less for mom to do.
Offer to help with other tasks while you are there.
By all means, offer to take out the trash or start some laundry. I recently heard a doula say that there should be a do something to hold the baby rule. You are already bringing a meal so I think that totally counts but why not wash some dishes while you’re there and able? Try to ask without pressure or judgement since I know I would feel bad if someone thought my house was such a wreck that they needed to step in. Make sure mama knows you just want to be helpful.
Don’t ever take a baby from a new mother.
Always ask first and be sensitive to the baby and mama’s state. Is the baby asleep? Don’t touch it! Is mama overwhelmed and teary? Ask if she wants a break but don’t assume.
So what should you bring?
I received multiple lasagnas during the early days of my daughter’s life. Trust me, I’m not complaining! I froze a couple and thawed them later, but we just couldn’t eat that much lasagna all at once. That really influenced what I bring to new mamas though. I always try to find something a little different, but still easy. This is something else to keep in mind when looking at the meal planning websites – do they allow you space to share what you plan to bring? If so, other food gifters can see that too and plan something different. Pasta is great but try to mix it up if possible. Below I’ve included some ideas to get you started. If marked, recipes can be adjusted to be: gf = gluten free; df = dairy free; v = vegetarian.
Top 5 Meal Ideas for New Families:
- Rotisserie Chicken & Sides (gf, df): This is my favorite thing because it means I don’t have to do much (or any) work and it is delicious and nutritious. You can pick up a rotisserie chicken from pretty much any grocery store along with a couple sides and maybe a small loaf of freshly baked bread.
- Quinoa, Chicken & Broccoli Casserole (gf): This is an easy and fast meal to prepare and is packed with nutrients that parents need. You can even make it gluten free by using a gluten free thickener in the sauce and omitting the breadcrumbs. Make sure to include re-heating instructions. Here is the recipe.
- Enchiladas (gf, df, v): We are in Texas after all and a casserole dish full of enchiladas that just needs to be tossed into the oven is always a winner! You can find recipes to make them for all dietary needs through a quick Google or Pinterest search.
- Easy Chili Mac (gf): This recipe is super easy, filling and yummy. It includes meat (use ground turkey for a healthier version), macaroni noodles, beans, and cheese. What could be better? Make it with gluten free noodles, if needed. Check out this recipe.
- Eggplant Parmesan (gf, v): A healthier variation on lasagna, eggplant parmesan is still heavy on the cheese but fits the bill for those vegetarian friends and adds some important veggie nutrients in the mix. Add a nice loaf of ciabatta and a salad to complete the meal. Here is a recipe to try.
All new moms can use a little help. They will greatly appreciate this wonderful gift!