How to Cook for a Family with a New Baby

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.

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!

  1. Don’t wait until after the baby. Sometimes friends make a “casserole shower,” with each guest bringing a frozen casserole for the new parents to pull out of the freezer.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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:

Egyptian Rice and Lentils

Chicken with Carrots, Sage and Black Lentils

Rice and Chickpea Casserole with Tomatoes

How to Make Patties from Anything and Everything

Universal Crustless Quiche

Winter Squash Quiche

Have you ever cooked for a family with a new baby? What were your favorite meals to receive? Share your tips in the comments!

You may also enjoy:

Feed Your Baby Frugally (Series)

Starting Solids the Easy Way

How to Cook with a Baby in the House

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Comments

  1. Just another idea that you sort of touched on up above…
    Having received meals twice, I have to say that although the casseroles and soups, etc. are amazing, we were really lucky to have friends who also threw in fresh things: salads, cut veggies, fruit salads – exactly the sort of thing that you a) can’t make ahead pre-baby and b) don’t have the time or energy to do when you get home from the hospital.
    I can always order take out, but you have no idea what a blessing it is to get a fresh fruit salad that you can eat with one hand while you’re nursing. :)
    Kelli recently posted..An Introduction to Facebook – Tips for the BeginnerMy Profile

  2. I agree with Kelli. One of the best items ever received after birth was a fruit platter.
    Another was a complete meal, including salad with dressing on the side. Not only was everything in containers they didn’t want back, but they supplied us with all the disposables needed for the meal. plates, forks, cups, napkins. it was fantastic and so thoughtful!

  3. A lot of people have started using google docs to organize meals – someone sends the document out to a number of people, and everyone adds what day they can cook and what they are making. Once you save the document, everyone sees the changes. It’s an easy way to organize, no one feels put on the spot if they can’t cook for whatever reason, and it also ensures that the family won’t get lasagna for 4 nights in a row, since you see what everyone else is making.

    Also, re soup, the upside is that it lasts a lot longer than a lasagna. The mom can heat up little bits at a time, either for herself or her family.

  4. These days when I cook for families it’s usually one with 2-3 older siblings. I know that lasagna or chicken with rice are common offerings, so I usually go another way and make “brunch for dinner”: pancakes from scratch and a vegetable frittata, with fruit salad or a pitcher of fruit-yogurt smoothies on the side. It’s a rare kid who rejects pancakes, and leftovers can be frozen for another meal (breakfast or dinner).

    I agree that fresh green salads are a nice thing to bring–if you use lettuce they can be really time consuming to make! If I had a new baby I don’t know that I’d bother at all…
    Kate recently posted..Dispatches from the endless summerMy Profile

  5. My 2 cents: label the food if it is dairy, meat, etc…
    Also, the link to sympotms and treatment for post…. didnt work for me.

  6. Mealtrain.com is a great website to organize meal giving. It shows a calender of what’s being made so again no lasagna for nights on end. It also allows you to put in food restrictions/preferences and sends an e-mail reminder. I’m expecting at the end of the month and plan of using it. Having brought meals before it can be sometimes difficult to organize.

  7. Caitlin says:

    http://mealbaby.com/ is a great tool to organize meals, you can invite everyone via email to view the calendar and select which nights they want to bring something. Also, it clearly says your likes, dislikes, and allergies. You can even select which restaurants people who don’t live near you can buy gift cards for right through the site, and are sent directly to the family!

  8. Jessica says:

    I am part of a mommy group and one of the things we do is meals for new moms. Since being part of this group i have gotten meals twice. we always do a week of meals. and i have taken meals countless times to new moms! always something healthy, delish., and easy to heat up! its deft. much easier, esp. when you do all the cooking in the house! I just have hubby pop it in the oven while i relax and rest.

  9. Kristine says:

    Don’t forget some sweets! Someone made us chocolate chip cookies with our first one. They were great for a snack in between meals. When you aren’t sleeping and you need a pick-me-up they are great. Also, dad loved them and we could offer to share with anyone else who stopped by!

    Also, I think everyone is scared to bring lasagna, but I’ve never received it with any of my kids. Bring on the lasagna! It’s yummy, filling, and great reheated!

  10. Great suggestions. When I got new-baby meals or coordinated them for others, I found that people often brought very large portions, enough for two days. So as coordinator I would try to arrange two weeks of every-other-day meals. Getting food every day tended to be overwhelming to the family.

    Someone once brought me fresh orange juice — wonderful! I still remember 8.5 years later.

  11. I like the idea of using Google Docs or some of those other meal websites for organizing the meals. Of course, that would mean that some of the women in our community would have to turn on a computer, so that may not be realistic. Sigh.

    I still remember the time my father unplugged our downstairs refrigerator, and the freezer was filled with meals people had donated. He didn’t know – he thought he was helping us (the fridge itself was empty). Another sigh.

  12. In the past if I didn’t have the time to make supper for a friend that had a baby, I took out her kids to the local pizza shop. She got an hour of quite with the baby and the kids came back fed.

  13. Faye Levy says:

    Sounds like you live in a very nice, caring community.

  14. I use lotsahelpinghands.com to coordinate for our community. It really helps to make it easier for everyone!

    I have a series of posts on this topic, starting here: http://organizedjewishhome.com/2011/09/14/chesed-meals-part-1/

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  2. [...] meals on hand for the early weeks. In some communities people make a “casserole shower” or have a committee to provide meals for tw… You can also start storing food when you are pregnant. Even after the early weeks there will be [...]

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