This post was first published in 2011. I’ve updated it with more ideas shared by readers.
A friend of mine gave birth recently, and a few families in the community made meals for her. While it’s possible to order out nowadays, home-cooked meals are often tastier and more nutritious. Providing meals shows the family that they are cared for, and it’s a wonderful way to welcome the baby to the neighborhood. I’ll never forget the friend that called me up every week. starting in my last month of a difficult pregnancy, asking what she could cook for Sabbath dinner.
I’ve compiled some tips for making meals for families who have just given birth.
Updated to add: A foster mom suggests: “Perhaps add a newly adopted (or foster) child as well. The often sudden addition means the family had zero time to prepare.” Point taken!
- Don’t wait until after the baby. Sometimes friends make a “casserole shower,” with each guest bringing a frozen casserole for the new parents, that can be saved for when needed.
- Make sure the meals are wanted. They could have enough food already. Don’t say, “They’ll just put it in the freezer,” because they might not have room. Remember, even after a few weeks or months life is still hectic with a baby—you can always keep the food in your freezer or offer again another time.
- Find out what they like to eat. Check that they don’t have allergies or other food restrictions. If you can’t accommodate, you can help in other ways (see below).
- Use containers that you don’t want back. You don’t necessarily have to buy disposables—try reusing a food container you already have. Wrap it well so it won’t leak.
- Coordinate. Do you know other people who are supporting the family? Appoint someone to offer help at different times and brainstorm for other ways to help.
- Label containers with your name and phone number, type of food, and instructions for heating or defrosting. And state whether or not you want the container back! If you do, arrange to pick it up.
- Choose foods that are ready to go. Lasagna in a foil tray is better than a container of soup that has to be reheated in a pot. A fruit platter is better than a whole watermelon. Cut-up vegetables and fresh salads are almost always welcome.
- Arrange a convenient time to drop off the meal. Life with a new baby is often unpredictable, so call in advance and stay only a minute unless you are sure the mom wants company.
- Suggest other ways to help. Support from friends and family is critical, especially in the early weeks. New parents often can’t think much past the next diaper change. An occasional phone call can help a lot, but don’t take offense if mom can’t talk. Offer to buy groceries, take older children to the park, run errands, throw a load in the machine, or make necessary phone calls.
- Keep an eye on the family. Sometimes a caring friend is the first one to notice that something is wrong. The addition of a baby can range from smooth to traumatic. The latter is more likely when the baby, mother, or another family member has even minor health or psychological issues, or even if the baby is particularly fussy. This article explains symptoms and treatment for postpartum depression.
- For breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding mothers rarely need to restrict their diets to ensure high quality milk, but breastfeeding problems can interfere with enjoyment of the new baby. Help the mother find a local La Leche League Group, or professional breastfeeding support if necessary.
Here are a few ideas for meals for new parents:
Have you ever cooked for a family with a new baby? What were your favorite meals to receive? Share your tips in the comments!
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