In the past month or so, three of us in the Eat Well, Spend Less group of bloggers have had babies! Tammy and Aimee and I all welcomed little girls to our families recently, so it became pretty clear that this month’s theme would be all about babies!
I’m so excited for this month’s posts – Aimee is sharing great tips about the postpartum diet, Mandi is exploring making your own baby food, and there’s a lot more to come (stay tuned for a wrapup of all the posts).
I chose to share some tips about taking meals to a new mom – and tips for being on the receiving end of meals, too! I love having babies, but I have to admit that cooking is not something that I am inspired to do when I’m pregnant, and I’ve heard an awful lot of other moms share the same sentiment.
I actually get really inspired to cook quite quickly after giving birth, but still really appreciate the huge help of people bringing meals during those newborn days when you get little sleep and are wondering why on earth you’re still in pain (shouldn’t that be over after labor?).
So, here are some tips I’ve learned from both taking – and receiving – meals after the birth of a new baby.
: : : Tips for taking meals to others : : :
Inquire about food allergies & preferences.
It doesn’t do a lot of good to take a meal that no one can eat. It can be difficult to work around food allergies, but what a blessing when you have a friend who will do so! Make sure to ask about food allergies (and ask if they have any big dislikes) before you start planning the meal, and include a list of ingredients when you deliver the meal if there are allergies.
Also, keep in mind that some moms try to avoid foods that can cause gas or discomfort in babies, like food from the broccoli family, garlic, dairy, or spicy foods. I’ve never had an issue, so it’s not a big deal to me and sometimes I forget that it can be a problem for others!
There are probably at least a few meals that you are used to making that work well for special diets. Most people know how to make chili, for example, and it’s easy to make gluten-free.
Think of the meals that you make that would be compatible with certain diets and then make at least a mental note of that so that you don’t stress out when you need to take a meal to someone with allergies.
Find out how many people will be eating.
It’s important to ask how many adults and how many children you’ll need to bring food for. Keep in mind that some people have extended family that come to visit – and sometimes stay at their house – after a new baby. Even if you know how many people are in the family, it’s a good idea to ask how many people will be eating there on the day you’ll be bringing food so that they don’t end up having to make a whole other meal to feed everyone.
Make sure to include enough food for everyone, especially if you’ll be cooking for a larger family than you are accustomed to.
Don’t stress out about making it yourself.
Homemade meals are great, but if you never take a meal to someone because you think that you’re not a good enough cook, or just don’t have time to get a complete meal together, relax. If you don’t like to cook, order pizza or takeout. Or give Dad a gift card and tell him to pick up takeout when Mom has a bad day.
I’ve taken meals to people where I fixed the main dish at home but bought a couple of frozen side dishes because I didn’t have time to get it all together. Don’t think you have to cook a five-course meal to be a help to someone! Hey, most of the time even a rotisserie chicken from the deli would be well-received.
Serve your meal in disposable dishes.
If you can, it’s nice to deliver the meal and not leave behind any dishes that the new mom will need to wash and return. In my opinion, washing the dishes isn’t even that big of a deal, but it’s sometimes hard to get the dishes returned promptly. So, especially if you don’t live near or see the meal recipient very often, try to use disposable dishes.
I know some people don’t like foil pans or plastic containers for health reasons or because they are so flimsy, but you can even go to the thrift store and pick up glassware for almost as cheap as disposables. Just assure the mom that you bought the dish specifically to give away, so she doesn’t have to return it. Encourage her to bless someone else with a meal when she feels better and pass along the dish – or keep it if she needs that size herself!
Be flexible with delivery times.
There are lots of different times that people at supper. Some eat at 5 PM sharp, others eat at 6:30 PM, and still others (like me) are used to eating, well, whenever Dad is home and food is on the table – anywhere from 5 PM to 8 PM!
So, when you’re delivering a meal, be sure to ask what time they usually eat if you are bringing a meal that will be hot and ready to eat right away.
I personally prefer to deliver meals earlier in the day and have it just be something that they can put in the refrigerator and just heat up whenever they want, be it for supper that night or two nights from then. With five kids at home, it’s often difficult for me to cook a meal, get the meal and all my kids in the car, and arrive at my friend’s house at a specific time, so I’ve found it’s just easier to give a drop-off window time earlier in the day so I don’t have to worry about them sitting around the dinner table waiting for their food!
Include something for the other kids if you can.
This is definitely optional – but my kids have always loved it when someone brings something special for them, like decorated cookies. I’ll admit that I’ve never had my act together enough when taking a meal to do this for another family, but kids especially love getting something that they might not normally have.
Don’t expect a thank-you note.
I don’t think I’m the only mom in the world who sometimes forgets to write thank-you notes promptly. I know in the past, sometimes I’ve waited so long that I know that someone did something for me, but I can’t remember what it was!
If you deliver a meal to a family with a new baby, know that your gift was very appreciated and don’t expect the sleepless momma to write a thank-you note.
God loves a cheerful giver, right? Not “givers who are cheerful when they’ve been duly thanked”. :)
Don’t forget about the pregnant mamas!
I love taking meals to those mamas that are nine months pregnant! To be honest, I felt a lot worse when I was in my third trimester than I did a day after my babies were born. When my fourth child was born, I felt so good afterwards and was so ready to get back in the kitchen again that I started taking meals to my friends that were nine months pregnant – while I was still on the receiving end of meals!
If you want to bless a pregnant mom, text or email her at 2 PM one afternoon (don’t call, she’s probably napping ;) and tell her you’re bringing supper over. You’ll be an instant hero at a time when most people don’t really think about offering to help.
Just do it.
Moms have a hard time accepting help, and they have a really hard time asking for it. My advice is to just do it. Just tell your friend that you would like to bring them a meal and ask what day would work best for them.
Don’t ask if they need anything, you’ll get no for an answer. Deep down, most moms would likely answer yes.
*I admit that there are some families that because of food allergies or similar, they simply can’t accept meals from other people, but this is pretty rare. If they do have food allergies, be sure to inquire about how you could make a meal that everyone could eat.
: : : Tips for when you’re on the receiving end of meals : : :
Allow people to serve you.
Don’t be embarrassed to accept help when it’s offered. Sometimes the greatest blessing is on the person that’s bringing the meal – allow them to be blessed by blessing you with a meal.
I’ll admit that this can be difficult. I recover quickly from childbirth and sometimes it’s hard to accept a meal when you feel great. But, remember that no matter how fast you recover there will be days where the baby was up all night or you’re feeling particularly emotional, so don’t be afraid to accept someone’s offer of a meal.
Don’t be high-maintenance.
If someone offers to bring you a meal, try to make it as easy on them as possible. Don’t give them a ton of special requests. Obviously, if you have food allergies in your family, those are important – but if you just have picky eaters, well, you may be used to working around that but others might not be.
When someone asks if we have any meal preferences, I just say that we’d prefer no mushrooms (husband’s preference!). I could give a whole list of things that we really don’t like, but I’m not ordering at a restaurant, I’m accepting a meal from a friend.
And, it can be really discouraging to the person bringing meals when you tell them you’re bringing enchiladas and they say “could you bring something else? We’ve had enchiladas already this week.” You’ll survive, and those that don’t think they can eat enchiladas again can fix their own food. ;)
Try to write thank-you notes (but don’t stress).
I already admitted above that I don’t get thank-you notes written promptly sometimes. And sometimes they don’t ever get written! When you’re adjusting to life with a baby, sometimes you can barely get the laundry done, much less write a thank-you note and then also find a stamp and then finally get it to the mailbox.
I would definitely encourage you to try to write thank you notes when you receive a meal, but if you know it’s just never going to happen, even a thank-you email or Facebook message will suffice for most people!
: : : Share Your Tips : : :
Do you take meals to families with new babies? What have you found works best and is well-received?