Meal Solutions for New Parents

As a new parent, what’s for dinner is probably the last thing on your mind. But, planning and organization go a long way when scheduling meals around recovering from childbirth and caring for your newborn.

Picture this: You’ve arrived home from the hospital with your new bundle of joy. You and your husband set your bags down, place the baby in the bassinet and head over to the couch for a few minutes of much needed rest. Almost immediately the phone rings, your in-laws show up to see how everything is going and the dog needs to be walked. Three hours later the visitors have departed and the baby has been fed and changed. You and your husband then realize the grumbling sound you’ve been hearing for the last hour is coming from your own stomachs. For the past few days you’ve had the hospital staff taking care of your every nutritional need, and suddenly you’re on your own.

What you are going to eat after you return home from the hospital or birthing center often gets left off the pre-due date checklist, particularly for first-time parents. They don’t realize the first few days are going to go by in a blur of catching up on sleep while the baby is napping, entertaining visitors, trying to keep the house straightened and nursing the baby or preparing bottles.

“The hospital really spoils you and it’s not until you get home that you realize it’s a coordinated effort to take care of a baby. Even though I have an amazing husband, it’s still hard to get in a decent meal,” says first-time mom Michele Weir.

Here are a few tips and quick meal ideas that will enable you to still eat nutritiously without having to call for take-out every day.

Let Them Do the Shopping
Many new parents don’t realize how hard even a quick trip to the grocery store can be with a little one, and parents with more than one child know it can be near impossible to shop efficiently in the first weeks with the new baby in the house. Many grocery store chains are now offering to do the work for you for a small flat fee.

The North Carolina-based Lowe’s Foods chain offers “Lowe’s Food To Go,” where a customer can set up a standing shopping list online — with a fax or over the phone — and a store employee actually picks out the groceries, bags them and brings them out to your car at a scheduled time.

You can set up your list with all the staples that you usually buy on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and let them do the work for you. It will be worth the extra $5 or $6 the store charges for the convenience. More and more grocery stores are adding this feature for their customers — a real perk for new parents.

When setting up your grocery list, stock up on fresh fruit, instant oatmeal, dry cereal, frozen waffles or pancakes, milk, yogurt and bread for toast. With the fruit and milk or yogurt you can whip up smoothies for either breakfast or lunch as well. For lunch, look no further than your favorite sandwich fixings or tortilla wraps. And if you plan your dinners ahead of time, you should have plenty of leftovers to eat for lunch as well.

Catering To You
Many markets, restaurants, and catering businesses offer meals for carryout, but franchises such as Let’s Dish, Switchin’ Kitchens, Super Suppers, My Girlfriend’s Kitchen, and Dream Dinners take that option one step further.

Dream Dinners, for example, allows customers to prepare an assortment of dinners at the company kitchens and store them back at home in their own freezers, ready to heat and serve to their families. Dream Dinners provides everything from easy-to-follow instructions to pre-measured fresh ingredients. Customers put together the meals at the facility, then place them in boxer or coolers for the trip home. Costs for the dinners are based on six- and 12-dinner sessions, with each dinner providing a family with four to six servings.

Each month the company, which currently has 140 locations across the United States, has 14 different entrees for customers to choose from. Popular meals include the Herb Crusted Flank Steak, Dreamy Enchiladas, Arroz Con Pollo, Salisbury Steak and Potatoes and Chicken Mirabella.

According to Gen and Endo Jezek, who own a Dream Dinners, Inc. franchise in Charlotte, more and more women are abandoning traditional baby showers in favor of meal preparation ones.

“A group of ladies will come in to make meals, then each of them will donate a meal to the mommy-to-be. This gives all the ladies a fun night out, but at the same time they are making meals for their own families, and it’s a win-win situation,” says Jezek. “We even had a group of ladies having a baby shower set up a Dream Dinners session for the husbands. While the ladies were at home having the baby shower, all of the husbands were in making meals, then each of them donated a meal to the parents-to-be.

Stork Clubs
A recent trend in mother’s groups and communities are “stork clubs,” where women sign up to make meals for each other when a member returns home from the hospital after the birth of a new baby. You can join a mom’s group in the months before your due date, and get yourself on a list. You will have to return the favor regularly, but most women feel it’s worth it. If a stork club has seven or eight people in it, that’s at least a week’s worth of meals for you and you’ve made some new friends to help share in the joys and hard work of parenting.

Janine Nikkel, a mother of three who is expecting her fourth child soon, knows how hard it can be to keep a household running smoothly after the birth of a new child. “For everyone I know who has a baby, I make two meals and freeze them in disposable dishes and take them a week after the baby arrives home,” she says.

If you are planning to nurse, you’ll need about an extra 500 calories a day to help keep up your milk production. Stock up on quick snacks you can eat while you’re nursing and if you get hungry after a night feeding. Good snacks include individual containers of yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit mixed in, string cheese, fresh or dried fruit and nuts. And be sure to drink plenty of water.

“Nursing requires extra nutrition and a lot of mothers get so caught up in taking care of their baby that they forget to eat,” says Sharon Birdseye, an R.N. and IBCLC with the Lactation Consultants of Atlanta. “Poor diet, while it may not affect the production of milk, causes fatigue and weakness which can affect let down. Nursing mothers should eat frequently throughout the day,” she says.

Plan Ahead Now
If you plan ahead and organize your grocery lists and meals — and maybe make ahead some freezer meals, too — the transition from hospital to home with a new baby will be a lot easier. If a friend or family member tells you to call them if you need anything, tell them you’d love a meal, even if it is just sandwiches from a local deli.

Be sure to keep a list of everyone who brings you meals so you can send thank-you notes once you get a spare moment, and so that you can return the favor when the time comes.