By Shira Boss
Zero Cost Kids
Of all the ways to prepare for having a baby, I think one of the most important is to make a gameplan for postpartum meals.
You will be tired, preoccupied, possibly alone after a few days or weeks…and hungry. The need to put meals on the table (or at least into your one free hand!) keeps on coming, every few hours, day in and day out.
After-Baby Menu Plan
So make a plan! There are precious months during pregnancy to map out a menu gameplan, stash some provisions in the freezer, gather take-out menus, save up some money for prepared foods if that’s in the plan, and line up help.
My Experience with Meals after Baby
Before we had our first baby, I did practically nothing to plan for how to eat after the baby was born. I spent more time reading about and shopping for cloth diapers. Kind of dumb.
What followed was pretty much a disaster. The labor was super long and exhausting (I was up for 60 hours, too nauseous to eat or drink much). Then the baby was too tired to breastfeed, which led to a fulltime pumping regime along side breastfeeding and feeding by dropper.
We gave birth at home, which was splendid, but meant we gave up the support staff – and meal delivery! – of a hospital.
In addition to the needy newborn and my being essentially bedridden for weeks, we had three dogs that needed to be walked constantly, one by himself because he was such a handful. My husband got pretty worn down.
Seven weeks after the birth, the baby ended up below his birth weight and the same week we had to rehome our dog who had never been happy in the city. My husband was especially crestfallen. (That’s code for depressed to the point of dysfunction.)
I ended up ordering delivery from neighborhood restaurants by trying to read their menus on an iPod. We had not budgeted for restaurant meals. I’d only thought of diapers, doulas and even postpartum depression – I had prepared for that, but not to eat!
A year later, I was pregnant with baby #2 and went into Armageddon mode. We made room for a deep freezer and stocked it with Trader Joes entrees. I also froze my own lasagnas, quesadillas, muffins, baked oatmeal, cookies, postpartum fenugreek bars, smoothie packs and even mason jars of postpartum tea already brewed.
For the pantry, I made up mixes for easy cornbread, oatmeal and cookies.
I made up a binder with take-out menus from all of our favorite places, and coupled that with envelopes of cash to cover the cost.
We had a lovely postpartum doula who came regularly for six weeks to take our older boy to the playground and also help shop for and prepare meals.
Now. Which scenario would you choose for your own family?
The Need for a Postpartum Meal Plan
If you haven’t had a baby, or haven’t had a baby who’s especially needy, and you don’t have a lot of friends and family nearby to help out, maybe it’s hard to see why it can be so hard to put food on the table in the weeks after a newborn arrives. I don’t entirely get it myself, and I’ve been through it twice. But take it seriously: MAKE A PLAN!
5 Ideas for Postpartum Meals
Here are 5 ways to get started planning how you – and the rest of your family – will eat after the baby comes:
1. Friends and Family
Some of us are blessed with nearby family and friends who are happy to help out after the baby arrives. Awesome! This still involves some planning. Recovering with a newborn is no time to discuss the minutia of menus, ingredients, or even what to pick up at the store.
Be specific. People want to be helpful, so make it easy for them to provide what you want or need. Make a list to help them. Include homemade items you love, favorite take-out meals with the restaurant’s phone number, and even groceries you’d like to have appear at your door (e.g. prepared produce, snack foods, or favorite salad bar choices).
One of the most helpful things our postpartum doula did the second time around was to get a bunch of produce, clean and chop it and put it in containers in the fridge. Heaven.
There are also online services that friends can use to coordinate who’s bring you what when – in my opinion that would make an amazing shower gift.
Avoid this scenario:
Friend: “I’m coming to visit you. What can I bring?”
Tired Mom: “Oh. Just anything, thanks!”
Even if you mean it, anything, because that’s how you’ll feel, a good friend will press you to tell them what to bring. You can’t think straight. You don’t care. And you need to get off the phone.
This happened to me:
Shira: “Can you please bring me two vegetarian soups either from Hale and Hearty or from Zabars?”
Well-meaning friend: “What kind of vegetarian soup?”
Shira: “Whatever they have. Anything.”
Well-meaning friend: “So… bean? Vegetable? Noodle?”
Shira: “Yup, really, whatever.”
A half-hour later:
Well-meaning friend: “I’m at Zabars. They have…”
Shira, in head only: OMG, just get soup and get here already!
You can’t be too specific. Help your friends help you. Give them a gameplan.
2. Take Out
Collect menus, or line them up electronically. Write out your favorite orders so someone else can order for you if need be. It helps to have money set aside, cash or prepaid credit card or just money in the budget.
3. Frozen, from store
This is the easiest preparation of all. Go to the grocery store’s frozen section and raid it. Stuff your freezer. Include entrees and also bags of frozen fruit – those can be defrosted and eaten straight up or with yogurt or for smoothies.
4. Frozen, by you
The easiest way to set aside homemade meals is to start doubling or tripling whatever you’re cooking now and freezing some for later. Chili, casseroles, lasagna, quesadillas, burritos, soup – you know what I’m talking about. Stock the freezer! Not enough room? Recruit help from a deep freezer or even neighbors!
This is no time to get fancy. You don’t need to dig up new recipes – just make your family’s favorites and set them aside in the freezer.
You’ll also greatly appreciate some breakfast and snack items after baby comes. Muffins, quick breads, cookies, pancakes, oatmeal, or whatever you like to eat (obviously I like carbs!)…prepare and stash.
5. EZ Prep Menu Plan
Finally, especially for the long haul after the first month or two, you might want to map out a very simple menu plan of easy-to-make meals. If you write these out on notecards with the ingredients/shopping list, all the easier.
Why can’t you just do this on the fly? Because it takes energy. Save your energy – plan ahead.
A plan of 5 or 6 meals can be repeated indefinitely. Planning for about 10 meals that can be repeated every 2 weeks is even better.
I’m a huge fan of a monthly menu plan, but the months after baby are for survival mode. You just need to eat, as efficiently as possible, with the least amount of thinking and fuss.
I hope this makes your life go more smoothly after the baby comes. Please share with any expectant ladies in your life! And please add your own tips or experiences below.
You can do this!