Meal Ideas for Moms After New Baby
Postpartum meals can help a family transition with a new baby at home.
One of the best ways to support a new family is by making them a deliciously nutritious postpartum meal and delivering it their doorstep. I can still remember almost every meal we were brought with both of our babies and who to thank, thank and thank again for bringing it. Our “babies” are now 5 and 3 so it’s been a while. But these nurturing gestures made such an impression.
I can still remember Ayschia’s incredible, home-made eggplant parmesan, Tara’s wood-fired pizza and massive salad of fresh greens and veggies, Amy’s ricotta cannelloni, and even one well-intentioned colleague who brought to our house of then-vegetarians a huge soup pot of broth with a sparse couple of chicken wings floating in it just a couple hours after the birth and invited herself to sit down and eat with us. (I think it might be handy to write a post about postpartum etiquette soon, too, actually.) Most of the meals people brought were fantastic and were substantial enough to last for several nights. We appreciated them all! Even the broth…kind of.
Beyond the very real need to be fed, new parents also have an equally real need to feel supported. Having a baby can be super exciting, but it can also be isolating. Staying home from work those first few weeks (or deciding not to return at all), healing from birth (and for longer if you’ve had a cesarean), navigating initial breastfeeding (and doing it around the clock), sleep deprivation, and a feeling that the whole world outside your cozy home has ceased to exist because OMG-look-at-what-kind-of-miraculous-perfection-you-just-made!!!
The weeks and months following the birth of a baby can be hard and we don’t often talk much about that. Even without having postpartum anxiety or depression, it can be really tough, and new parents need love just as much as that sweet baby. Having carefully selected meals show up at your door makes us feel cared for and supported. It helps remind us that we do have a community holding us up; that the world outside still exists and we don’t have to do this parent thing alone.
One website I’ve seen a lot of mamas using recently is mealtrain.com—you or a friend can set up a schedule for others to bring you meals. You can specific what you’d like and times that would be best for drop off.
There are a few parameters you should follow when preparing a meal for a new family:
- Always ask ahead of time if the family has any food aversions, allergies, intolerances, or even cravings. Make sure they’re into the meal you’re planning. That way you can avoid any awkwardness when you show up at your vegetarian friend’s door with a pot of chicken broth for supper.
- Make sure it’s loaded with protein! Mom needs lots of protein right now to help with her recovery as well as to produce high-quality milk for her baby. Foods high in protein for vegetarians are: eggs, cottage cheese, other cheese, greek yogurt, nuts, tempeh, tofu, split peas, lentils, rice and beans, etc.
- Aim for half of the meal to be veggies. It’s pretty common for friends and family to bring heavy dishes like casseroles or Italian food because they can easily be frozen or reheated. But what moms need postpartum is lots of fresh veg—especially those high in iron and vitamin C—so they can heal, keep healthy, replenish any lost blood, as well as producing lots of that nutrient-rich breastmilk. Keep the casseroles coming! Just include lots of veggies, too.
- Throw in some leafy greens! Make a salad to accompany the main meal. Here’s an easy recipe for ya: slice kale thin and massage with small amount of olive oil, toss in some orange slices, red cabbage or fresh fennel, toasted walnuts and dress with lemon juice, salt and pepper—voila! Quick and yummy kale salad.
- Make enough of whatever you bring to last for 2 nights. The fewer meals new parents need to worry about the better!
- If the new family has older siblings, consider making something they’re into too. If you don’t know what that is, just ask.
- I know it might sound wasteful, but consider taking the meal in a disposable (or recyclable) aluminum pan, reusable plastic containers or something else that you don’t mind never getting back. It can be burdensome for a new family to have to keep track of dishes and figure out how to return them. Do them the extra favor of not having to track you down afterwards! And be sure to let them know you don’t want the dishes back.
- Include baking and reheating instructions. It’s the worst when you overcook an amazing dish someone has brought you. Just throw in a note or write the instructions on the outside of the aluminum foil with a Sharpie pen.
- If you’re feeling extra generous, throw in a few bagels or muffins for breakfast, a gift card to Whole Foods (or soon in Tulsa: Trader Joe’s), a few paper plates so they won’t have to do dishes later, a bottle of wine, a box of popsicles for older siblings, trail mix or a bar of dark chocolate marked just for mom. The key is to be thoughtful. Let this family know they are loved.
And if you’re looking for a meal that hits all these points, here’s a great one. I’ve made this for several friends postpartum, all with pretty enthusiastic results. This is a great dish to make and freeze as you reach and pass full term (and a good project if you’re in prodromal labor!)—just don’t freeze the asparagus, it gets mushy. I originally found this recipe in the Washington Post, but I’ve made a few modifications over the years. Here’s my version:
Postpartum Mediterranean Chicken Dish
- juice of two lemons
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1/2 cup of honey (1/4 for marinade, 1/4 for drizzling)
- chopped, fresh oregano or sage
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (or 8 chicken thighs)
- 3/4 cup kalamata olives
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 12 ounces haricot verts, fresh green beans or asparagus
- 1/4 cup water
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine first 6 ingredients (making sure to just use 1/4 cup of the honey) in a bowl. Mix in chicken pieces, massaging marinade into skin. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for 1 hour (or longer if you have time).
- Arrange chicken pieces skin-side-up and lemon slices in 9”x13” baking dish or roasting pan. Try to keep as much marinade on them as possible, but discard the remaining liquid in the bowl. Scatter kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes around the chicken pieces and add the water. Drizzle chicken pieces with the other 1/4 cup of honey and season with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 45 minutes—chicken should be nicely browned and dark on top.
- If using haricot verts, add in bunches, nestling them into the pan juices, under the chicken. If using fresh green beans or asparagus, blanch or stream for 3-4 minutes and then do the same.
- Directions on card or package should say: serve each piece of chicken with plenty of olives, tomatoes, lemon slices (which are totally edible and delicious at this point), and pour a few tablespoons of the pan juices over it all. Keeps in the fridge for one week or in the freezer for 2 months. Reheat at 350, covered for 15 minutes.
To accompany this yummy dish, I like to include fresh bread, roasted potatoes or spinach rice (toasted basmati rice with caramelized onions, garlic and tons of fresh spinach cooked into it), a salad, and a bar of dark chocolate. This dish can become pretty kid-friendly, too: slice up the chicken, add green beans, and a slice of bread. You can always include a carton of strawberries, a few pears or something else that’s in season to fill the meal out healthfully for the kiddos too.
Now, tell me: What meals did you love/hate postpartum? What are your recommendations?