There are only so many things a newborn needs: sleep, shelter, and food. New mamas may need a few more things to stay comfy (frozen maxi-pads, anyone?), but one of them is most certainly food. Good food. Food that replenishes her body after the marathon of birth. Food that helps her body heal and make milk. Food that she can eat one-handed while feeding the baby with the other. Unfortunately, no one in the house is going to have the energy to make delicious, nutritious, five-star meals every night when they’ve been caring for a newborn all day (and all night). You’ll want some easy meals ready to go, which means you need to start prepping now.
What to Eat
The first thing to know is that some foods are better for your postpartum body than others. After 40 weeks of growing another human, labor, birth, and maybe even surgery, your body needs some serious replenishment. Many mothers are still nutrient deficient years after giving birth, because so much of their body’s iron, calcium, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fat stores were sent straight into that cute little baby. You may notice that different cultures have traditional foods meant especially for new mothers: new Vietnamese mothers may eat a papaya and pigs’ feet stew; Korean mothers down bowls of seaweed soup; those taking care of Cambodian women may prepare caramelized pork belly with ginger. All these foods are meant to help mama regain her strength and stay healthy. Proteins, good fats (from nuts, olive oil, or eggs), and real fruits and vegetables are a good place to start. Warm foods and well-done vegetables (like in a stew) are going to be easy for your system to digest; raw foods, sugar, and caffeine are going to be harder on your belly. Your postpartum foods don’t have to be fancy, just try to keep the food as “real” as possible.
Make room in your freezer
When it’s the “witching hour” and baby hasn’t stopped crying for the past two hours, you’ll be grateful for that casserole in the freezer. Think about some of your favorite meals and see which ones hold up well when frozen. In the weeks leading up to your due date, try making double batches of dinners — one for tonight, and one for the freezer. Things like soups and casseroles usually freeze pretty well, and Pinterest is full of ideas for slow-cooker meals that can be prepped and frozen ahead of time. Things like pasta bakes or meat pies can be divvied up and frozen in single-serving portions, which will be easier for preparing a quick dinner for two or a one-handed lunch. And don’t forget breakfasts! Prep some egg and cheese wraps, muffin-tin-sized omelettes, or single-serving oatmeal cubes and freeze them for some great microwave-friendly breakfasts. Even if you don’t love cooking, you can enlist your friends and family to help stock your freezer — ask everyone coming to you baby shower to bring a meal that can be frozen (in a container that does NOT need to be returned).
The price of a baby snuggle? Dinner.
Ok, baby has arrived, and your freezer isn’t as well-stocked as you’d like. Or maybe defrosting things is just not going to work for your household. Meal Trains and Care Calendars are a great way to feed your family and to answer your co-worker’s plea of “Just let me know what I can do.” Websites like MealTrain.com and LotsaHelpingHands.com let others sign up to make a meal on a certain day, so you know that dinner will be on its way. You can specify food preferences and dietary restrictions, and send updates to everyone at once. MealTrain.com also allows friends to see what others are planning to make, so you don’t end up with four vats of chili in the same week. LotsaHelpingHands.com even has options for other kinds of support — childcare for older kids, rides to appointments, house cleaning, etc. Far-away friends and family can even get in on the action by ordering take-out for you. Make a list of your favorite restaurants and your go-to orders, and post it to your Meal Train page. Friends can sign up for a day, call the pizza place, and have your favorite pie delivered to your door.
Oh, no, no, I couldn’t possibly
Please, don’t be bashful about telling people exactly what you need — they WANT to help! There isn’t much your Aunt Sue can do to take care of this baby, especially in the middle of the night, but she CAN feed you. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend for family member staying with you after the birth, be very clear — your job is to feed the baby, and their job is you feed you. Any new mama friend is going to remember how rough those first few months really are, and how valuable it is to have good food that you don’t have to cook yourself. You will (hopefully) hear over and over again “Is there anything you need?” or “Let me know how I can help.” I give you permission to say “YES!” It might be hard in the moment to think of what would be helpful, so you may want to keep a list on the fridge or on your phone, so when someone asks, “Can I pick up anything for you?” you can say “Why, yes! We desperately need paper towels, milk, and dino-nuggets!” If you’re feeling awkward about asking someone else to pick up the tab for groceries, grab a gift card to your local supermarket and keep it on the fridge with your shopping list. If someone offers to do your weekly grocery run, they have the option of using the gift card.
The first days and weeks after a baby arrives are all about the necessities — resting, nesting, and digesting. Meal prepping for your postpartum will ensure that while you’re focussed on your hungry baby, someone else can be focussed on your hungry belly.