Revisiting Formula Options with Child #3

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Kabrita. All opinions are my own.


 
 

I am writing this post within weeks of our third child being born. It feels so strange to be over two years past when I went through the experiences shared in this very personal post. Now, I am going into this next postpartum season with so much hope and yet so much unknown over some of the issues we faced then, like:

  • Will my son be able to breastfeed, especially if we catch a potential tongue and lip-tie early enough this time?

  • If I can’t successfully nurse, is exclusively pumping realistic a THIRD time around?

  • If I need to supplement with formula, do I know what options are currently on the market that the dietitian-mom in me can feel confident offering my own child?

 

As I know almost every mom in history can attest to, this season comes with some anxieties over what we can and can’t control. One thing I have come to embrace more now than when we had our first child though is that, as moms, we can only control the controllables.

When it comes to breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or a combination to the two, my dietitian mom pride has already been shot down, heart torn, and body ravaged over what I just couldn’t control (read more here). That’s why I am entering into my third postpartum season with more understanding, resources, and proactive approaches to promote the chances that things will go smoother with feeding our son than it did with either of our daughters.

Even still, I know that supplementing with formula might still be necessary.

 

This article will help to highlight three key considerations to evaluate if/when there is a need to supplement with infant formula.

 

In this post, I will share how personally and professionally I scrutinize the choice of which infant formula(s) might be best for my family. Specifically, there are three main arms I focus on when looking for an infant formula:

  1. The nutritional attributes and how it models those of breastmilk

  2. The quality and safety of the options available on the market

  3. The company’s transparency and mission to supporting both moms and babies with making the best informed decision available

 
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Nutritional Attributes - what to look for!

As addressed in a post I previously wrote, “What is the Best Infant Formula” (shared here in January 2017), there are different ingredients in infant formula to compare and contrast. All baby formula is modeled after the nutrition delivered in breast milk but you want to be sure that your formula uses ingredients also modeled after important breast milk attributes.

Lactose

Lactose is the primary carbohydrate found in breastmilk and the optimal carbohydrate source used in infant formulas. In some formulas, parents may notice use of other less-expensive carbohydrate sources like corn syrup or glucose solids (used instead of, or in addition to lactose). Ideally, parents want to select a formula (like Kabrita) that uses lactose as the primary (and preferably only) carbohydrate.

Whey

Breastmilk has two main forms of protein: whey and casein. While breastmilk has a whey:casein ratio of 60:40 (more whey), cow and goat milk both have less whey than casein proteins. In order to best simulate the proteins naturally occuring in breastmilk, parents should consider a formula with added whey. Kabrita, for example, uses a goat milk protein as the base with added goat whey to make it closer to breastmilk and even easier to digest.

DHA

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid) are fatty acids critical for an infant’s brain, eye, and neurological development. Both are abundant in breastmilk and are added to many US baby formulas. While there is some controversy around the process by which they are extracted, a good article and video from Baby Formula Expert can be found here for families who might have questions or concerns about the fatty acids in formula. Given their importance for brain health, I look for a baby formula with DHA and ARA.

Digestibility

In the post “What is the Best Infant Formula,” I spoke at length about the digestibility of different infant formulas. One type of formula I did not include at the time was goat milk formula, like Kabrita. In a recent study,  goat milk formula digested at a rate closer to breast milk (when compared to cow’s milk formulas). Unlike most formulas made with cow’s milk, those made with goat milk do not need to be treated/hydrolyzed in order to be “easier to digest”.


 

 
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Safety and Quality

In terms of quality, many parents are opting to use European Infant formulas here in the United States (like HiPP or Holle). While European formulas do often using higher standards than many of those in the US. the concern is that they do not have their ingredients, vitamin content, nor shipping standards regulated by the FDA. Parents should heed extra caution when ordering such products from Europe, or consider a product like Kabrita that offers a European-quality product and is sold legally in the US.

Safety is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a formula for your little one. For safety reasons, I strongly advise against homemade baby formula. Breastmilk or a regulated infant formula are the best options during your child's first year of life. If you are curious about my recommendations for safe cow milk alternatives for toddlers, you can review them here

 
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A Company’s Transparency and Mission

Whichever formula you choose, be sure to research the company so that you can feel confident in your choice. Ideally, parents should feel that a brand is transparent about the ingredients and manufacturing processes they utilize, while also aiming to educate and empower parents in their decision of which formula to use.


Parents can find out a lot of information about a formula by searching their website, particularly for their About and FAQ pages, as well as information on the ingredients and research that the company has conducted. I find the FAQ page on Kabrita’s site particularly informative and a good resource for comparison's sake when evaluating what other formula companies are sharing (or not) on their websites. I also value that Kabrita is a women-run company, led by Moms!

 

 
 

 

In Summary

We already have standing appointments with a pediatric dentist (for a frenectomy evaluation), lactation consultant (who specializes in post-frenectomies, should that be needed), and a wildly-recommended breast pump (courtesy of our insurance company). Even still, it helps me to welcome this coming season of feeding a newborn with more ease to know that I am both educated and empowered about what options I have when it comes to infant formula - should I need to utilize it. I hope this post will also provide you with the same peace of mind over such a decision.

Thank you to Kabrita for sponsoring this review of milk alternatives for toddlers; if you'd like to learn more about their goat milk formula, click here.

Nursery Reveal

I know this has nothing to do with food.

But considering nesting has been so much of my life for the past several months, it is fun to share something not food-related for a change.

Plus, like many moms, I love hearing how families pick their children's names so I figured this would be a fun time to share a nursery reveal for Owen's room, as well as a bit of background on how we chose his name!

 
 

Owen Oaks

We have had this name as our top contender for a boy name since we found out we were pregnant with our first. Seeing that we have had two girls, it remained at the top of our list when we got pregnant this time. We went back to the drawing board and ultimately, still felt this was our favorite.

As with each of the girls names (Claire and Brooke), I had a clear moment where I sensed the Lord leading me to choose their names. I can remember where I was in the very moment with each of them that the confidence, clarify, and peace came to declare Claire as Claire and Brooke as Brooke. With each, we felt led by our faith, guided in prayer, and ultimately motivated by our life prayers for them to choose their names.

With Claire, I loved that Saint Clare of Assisi was known as a woman of prayer. I appreciated that while she was brought up in a life of privilege, she was concerned for the poor and put herself in a position of service to others. Our hope has always been that Claire would grow up to be a women of prayer, committed to serving others and positioning herself as a Light for Christ. It is such a joy to see already in her these traits coming true in how she prays for people and cares for peoples.

With Brooke, we chose her name in hopes that she would root herself in God, His word, and the security that comes from being anchored in His will - like a Brook or tree planted near water in Jeremiah 17:8:

"They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

We desired for her to both thirst for Jesus and find the most fulfilling satisfaction for such thirsts always spring forth from Him. We also prayed that both her name and her life would make evident to others what it looks like to not “run on empty” but rather to be deeply satisfied by the Living Water that comes from a personal relationship with Christ.

What I realized after having Brooke was that so much of the names we chose for our daughters was just as much something the Lord wanted me to learn through them as their mother as well. With Claire, I learned how fervent in prayer motherhood makes me. With Brooke, I learned quickly how much I myself needed to stay well-watered and planted near the streams of Life in order to ever pour into my kids. With Owen, it was no different. The only difference was when we got to name our child this and when God led me to recognize the meaning behind the name he had laid on our hearts almost five years ago.

Owen means "young warrior."

The confirmation of Owen's name came when I continued to feel the Lord nudging me to recognize that in this season of welcoming our third child, I needed to have a quiet confidence to stand strong, like a warrior. I continued to sense this in my quiet times to the point that one day I asked myself, "Doesn't Owen mean warrior or something?" As soon as I looked it up and saw that indeed it did, my husband and I agreed that we would happily settle on that name with certainty.

Initially I thought of a warrior with tenacity and toughness, but God kept leading me to see that acting as a warrior in this season wasn't so much physical toughness as it was spiritual. In the woes of motherhood, God has reminded me that this is as season both for myself and to pray over Owen that we will find strength in the armor of God. Not that we will fight using fear or aggression, but rather that in a calm, collected confidence, we can face whatever comes our way. I so pray this over my son and am thankful God led me to this as something I too will pray over myself in this season of transitioning into life as a mom of three.

As for Oaks, it is my husband's middle name and one that we wanted to pass down. I love the visual of an Oak tree though and how Oaks is used in Scripture as it is here in Isaiah 61:1-3:

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."

Although this is not how my in-laws came up with the middle name for my husband, it adds that much more meaning for us as we pass down the name to our one and only son.


Nursery Reveal

Not to shift things to a superficial front, but just for fun, I wanted to share some of the details for Owen's room as I have gotten questions about where we got certain items. Below each image I have tried to share the information for where we found each item, as I shopped around to combine good deals and a few splurges with favorite pieces.

My favorite piece in Owen's room might be the football quilt that hangs center on the blanket ladder. I bought this while pregnant with Brooke from a neighborhood resale site (before we knew she would be a girl) as it was one I just gravitated towardds. I opted to hang onto it in case we ever got pregnant again and had a boy, which made it all the more special when we found out we were with Owen!

Blanket ladder: Wayfair
Blankets: gifted from assorted and unknown brands
Crib Bedding: RH Baby
Name Letters: Hobby Lobby

Side note/OCD Mom Moment: These images make me realize his crib wasn't shifted back to center of the O-W-E-N since raising the height of the mattress. Ha!

Rocking Chair: Land of Nod
Mounted Book Rack: Hobby Lobby
Lamp: Walmart
Blue Toy Basket: Wayfair
White Linen Black-Out Curtains: Target
Curtain Hooks: Amazon
Hello Handsome Sign (in Jack-n-Jill): Hobby Lobby

 
 

Hamper: IKEA
Diaper Genie: Amazon
Dresser: Pottery Barn Kids
Mirror: Walmart
Changing Table Pad: Amazon
Mounted Diapering Supply Rack: Hobby Lobby

 
 

Plush Football: RH Baby
Football Holder: RH Baby
Wall Art: Hobby Lobby
Shelf: Hobby Lobby
Weathered White Picture Frames*: Etsy
*We first ordered these frames for our oldest's nursery and have since used them in several rooms, most recently the guest room. The images will be replaced with Owen's newborn photos once we get those printed but for now, they are still ones from when Brooke was an infant with friends and family.

 
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Sleep Sheep: Amazon
Raccoon: Jelly Cat
Wooden Truck: Bannor Toys (purchased at the Magnolia Market)
Bedding: RH Baby

 
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Diaper Bag: Fawn Design
Closet Organization (white bins): IKEA
Closet Organization (clear bins): Walmart


That's A Wrap!

Thanks for entertaining my mom heart and letting me share on a more personal front about some of the ways we prepared for Owen, beyond freezer meals and healthy foods! It is such an honor to be his mom and to have this space to share with you all both the meaning behind his name as well as the room where he will call home for many years to come!

Must Haves for New Moms in 2018

Before my oldest daughter was born, I was one research-obsessed first time mama. I literally recall dedicating myself to researching one item per night as "we" created our infant registry. My husband is not much of the analytical type when it comes to this type of stuff, so we never did the walk around a baby store and shoot the registry gun at all sorts of cute stuff type.

Instead, I felt much more confident in my decisions by researching EVERY. SINGLE. ITEM I put on our registry. We didn't want to walk through a store and arbitrarily pick this car seat or high chair or nipple cream. Nope, I wanted to read all 1,237 reviews on Amazon about it and fact check the product on ConsumerReports. So "we" spent many nights sitting together on the couch as I slowly but surely made my way through our baby registry checklist and selecting the items we would entrust our little one in/with/on.

Since I was one of the first of my friends to have kids so at the time, I didn't have a ton of people to ask their opinions of when it came to what items mattered most. A few valued friends sent me over lists of their favorite items and some insight on what items were actual essentials versus more useless in the end. For the most part though, I learned the most about what items we could have gone without and which ones were core to surviving that first year of motherhood just by being a first time mom.

That's why it is interesting to me how much has changed over the past five years since I first made a baby registry. Some of the products that we received or purchased with our first are still those we will reuse again now with our last (Praise God - not even our infant car seat has expired yet!). I have created a special list on my Amazon shop with all of those favorites from over the years you can reference here:

I am amazed though by the number of items that are totally new to both me and the market of "new mommyhood" though. That's where this post comes in.

As on my Instagram (aka where I share an obnoxious number of photos of our new baby), I want to share some of the products that are newer to the market and particularly new to my babe, me, and our home here. I hope this post will be helpful to you as you research and sort through the "must haves" of motherhood as well as the latest and greatest products for new moms in 2018.

 
 

 

10 Must Haves for New Moms in 2018

Please note: some of the links on this post are affiliate links. These do not cost you extra to use, but will provide Veggies & Virtue with a small commission if/when you purchase through them. I appreciate your support!

The following are shared in no particular order. A more comprehensive list of all the items on my registry can be found here.


1. DockATot

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Disclosure: I received this product for free, but all opinions are my own.

A few things have happened over the past 2.5 years since I had our last child was born.

One, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated it's policy on safe sleep practices to include the recommendation that infants should, "Share a bedroom with parents, but not the same sleeping surface, preferably until the baby turns 1 but at least for the first six months." Going on to state that room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent, many parents have begun to look for safe options for how to comfortably room-share with their infants - especially in those early months.

Another big change to the infant sleeping scene is the DockATot. I had never heard of this product until pregnant this time with our third, but I have since had many of my fellow mom friends swear by it as a multi-functional option for sleep, playtime, tummy time, and lounging around in any room of the house. While made in Europe, I was grateful to see it also meets US safety standards so we can allow Owen to lounge in it safely (when proper precautions are taken to it's overall surroundings). With this being our first summer baby, I also appreciated seeing that the DockATot has been tested for breathability to ensure it provides a safe, cool micro-climate for infants!

So far, we have loved having the Deluxe size DockATot as an option for easy transport room to room around the house. It has been so helpful to have one universal item that I can move around the house in one hand with Owen in the other, without needing to rely on a swing, rock n play, boppy, or other items in each room.


2. Infant Sleep Courses

Disclosure: I received this product for free, but all opinions are my own.

Speaking of getting our little ones to sleep (or a lack thereof!), I am so grateful to have been generously gifted this newborn sleep course from Cara over at TakingCaraBabies. Admittedly, I haven't opened a book on pregnancy, postpartum, or newborns since we had our second daughter. Even then, it was a pretty weak crash-course refresher that I am pretty sure I did when we hit 40 weeks and ultimately were just waiting until she was induced at 41.5 weeks. That means it has been more like five years since I really did much of any study on newborns, sleep habits, and all of the necessary information on early survival with them.

While I know some parenting tactics and tools have changed since then, one reality still exists: figuring out how to get a newborn to sleep can be exhausting. That's why I reached out to Cara to learn more about newborn sleep habits as I approached the arrival of our third. I wanted to know how to best ensure we were doing what we could to promote healthy sleep patterns from the start, especially since I knew it would be a bit of a juggling act between two older kids, their schedules, and the demands of my trying to work at home (something I only did minimally during my last postpartum). Even though we are still early on in adjusting to life with a newborn, this online newborn sleep course has been a huge help at giving me the confidence, understanding, and scope of what steps to take to make sure we are getting as much rest as we can.

Cara also shares tons of informative posts on the DockaTot and the Ollie Swaddle so I better know how to use them more safely and successfully. I encourage you to check out any of her sleep courses as well as her Instagram (@takingcarababies), as she is constantly sharing helpful swipe ups and posts to promote better sleep for your child (and you!).


3. Ollie Swaddle

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Disclosure: I received this product for free, but all opinions are my own.

There will probably always be parents who use bumpers versus don't, put their infants down on their tummies versus backs, and co-sleep versus start their infant out in the crib. Some will swaddle, others will use sound machines, and many will use sleep sacks. But one universal truth that ALL of us parents are aiming for is babies who sleep better stat.

That's why I was a bit surprised to learn from @takingcarababies that the Ollie Swaddle was one of her favorite sleep products on the market. Not being around when I had either of our daughters, the Ollie Swaddle was a totally new concept to me going into life with Owen.

Since all of our sleep sacks and PJs from the girls were pink, flowery and with frills, I had debated how many new sleep aid items I would reinvest in for Owen. Thankfully, Ollie World sent me this smarter swaddle in stone color. Not only is it a cute option for our first boy, but even more so I am loving how functional it has been to help get him to sleep! I have already noticed a big difference in how Owen sleeps in the Ollie Swaddle versus the other handed-down sleep sacks we received or even the swaddle sleep sack hospital gave us. He went from waking often throughout the night the first several nights to consistently going 3-4 hour stretches overnight in the Ollie Swaddle. No mom needs convincing - this been a BIG blessing in making sure we are all getting as sound of sleep as possible in these early days!


4. SollyBaby

 
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Disclosure: I received this product for free, but all opinions are my own.

Something I borrowed when we had our second daughter that I told myself I would never forget (should we have a third) was a sollybaby wrap. Sure enough as soon as I knew we were pregnant this time, it was one of the first items I ensured we had ready in our infant survival arsenal.

With our oldest, we had the Ergo (with infant insert), BabyBjorn, and another wrap. The wrap was never one I was particularly fond of and thus ever really used though and the more traditional baby carriers weren't my favorite options in the early infancy stage. That's why knowing I would need my hands free all the more in this postpartum season, I wanted to have a Solly Baby wrap we could use again to ease the transition.

I find the fabric on this wrap more breathable than others (which is key with having an August baby in Houston!), but also much MUCH easier to put on (even in a highly sleep-deprived state). It also seems to keep Owen much more snug and safely situated on my chest than I felt other wraps, slings, or infant carriers have offered. I wear it around the house, when at the park with the girls, on evening walks with the family, and whenever I need my hands free to do tidbits of work. Thankfully it is easy to wash as well (since I seem to spill on it a fair amount too when trying to rush around and feed myself).


5. Binxy Baby

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Disclosure: I received this product for free, but all opinions are my own.

I have not yet figured out how I am going to grocery shop with three littles. I know there are tons of moms who manage this each week, especially before curbside pick-up or grocery delivery was available. It still feels like kind of a crazy operation though unless my oldest walks, my two year old goes in the seat, and I baby wear our youngest.

That's why in trying to navigate how to make this work in a way that is manageable, comfortable, safe, and "convenient" (or as convenient as shopping with three kids can be!), I was stoked to see this new option available from Binxy Baby.

It is no surprise that I love going to the grocery store, so I don't want to rely exclusively on picking up our groceries after our third little one arrived. Instead, I love the idea that I will be able to take our oldest two to preschool two mornings a week and use one of those days to also swing by the store and shop with our little man in this. Since we frequent everywhere from HEB to Sprouts to Trader Joes to Target, I love that the Binxy Baby fits most standard grocery carts and can be used pretty much all the places we shop. It is nice to not have to haul the infant car seat inside the store, since it 1) makes me cringe when people prop it up on grocery carts, 2) takes up the whole basket when you place it inside the cart. The Binxy Baby will instead let me engage with my little guy as I shop in a way that is safety tested and ideal for the first 6-8 months of life when he can't yet sit up in the seat on the grocery cart.

I am excited to take Owen along on grocery trips to come soon, and will be sure to show us in action as we put this Binxy Baby to use.

Shop here to get 10% off your Binxy Baby purchase!


6. FawnDesign

 
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The item I think I spent the most on when we had our first child was splurging over $200 on a Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag backpack. At the time, I thought it was everything I wanted in a diaper bag. I soon discovered though that the design of the bag was less than awesome (in my opinion). I started favoring a simple, embroidered backpack we had for our daughter instead, but it truly wasn't intended to handle the wear and tear of a diaper bag. It got dirty very fast and still didn't function totally as I needed it to with her or especially once we added our second daughter to the mix and I needed to pack all the more.

That's why one of the items I knew I wanted to get before baby brother arrived was a new backpack. After surveying you all on my stories, it was quite clear that a new favorite diaper bag for new moms came from Fawn Design. I immediately fell in love with the style, so when this backpack went on sale, I jumped on it and ordered one. I am so excited about how simple yet stylish it is (especially now as a boy mom, too) but also how it has plenty of room to tuck essentials I need myself (like a laptop on occasion) or other items for the girls as well. I plan to organize items inside with the pockets, as well as with additional bags as needed (like those below).


7. Bumkins

 

With my daughters, I was notorious for having bags inside of bags inside of bags with our diaper bag. The pockets often felt frumpy and lacked the actual organization I wanted out of a bag, so I often resorted to using Ziplocks instead for whatever I was putting inside. This go around, I am excited to have these bags from Bumkins to help sort the items in our diaper bags with.


8. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

 

I first heard of MilkSnob nursing covers on Shark Tank, back when I wasn't pregnant nor nursing. Since, I have seen them on several friend's registries and heard so many great reviews about this style of nursing cover (slash later grocery cart cover or restaurant high chair cover). I had a more traditional nursing cover with both of our other kids, as these are what were more mainstream when I registered five years ago. Now as I hope for the "third time to be the charm" with being able to successfully breastfeed our son, I am excited to put this cover to use when I need a bit more privacy while out and about.

There are several brands of these that look great. Shown on the left and linked here is the one I registered for this go around as it seemed to be the most cost-effective without compromising great reviews on Amazon.


9. Spectra S2

I asked over on my stories about which breast pump you all used and would recommend the most and hands down, the Spectra S2 was the most wildly recommended favorite.

I used the Medela pump in style with my first and again with my section, in tandem with the hospital grade Medela pump when at home. The Pump in Style was free from insurance and helped do the job while exclusive pumping, but I would never say I "liked" it. That's why it was a bit of a surprise to hear SO many of you share that this pump was a "game changer," "SO much better than the Medela" and "a lot quicker and quieter" than other options.

I am still new to using it but I can already tell I enjoy the Spectra more so than the Medela (which is still tucked in my two year old's closet). While I hope to not have to exclusively pump this time, I am grateful for insurance giving me this as a good alternative to use when needed!


10. Banner Toys

We have had a lot of toys pass through our home over the past several years and babies. When I went on a girl's trip to the Magnolia market though this past spring (while pregnant with our first son), I admit the first baby toy I just couldn't help but get for him was this toy truck from Bannor Toys.

We have plenty of bright, obnoxious colored kids toys that require minimal self-manipulation to spin or make sounds. The beautiful simplicity of these wooden toys by Bannor though makes the boy-mom in me seriously swoon.

I secretly want to get Owen the Texas (where we live) and Washington state (where I am from) wooden toys by Bannor too...good thing Christmas isn't THAT far away!


In Summary

Figuring out what "must haves" to get as a new mom can be overwhelming. So first and foremost, remember that you likely already have what you need most: enough love to go around with your infant. That said, should you find yourself wanting a few other items to register for, I hope this list gave you some ideas based off of items I have been excited to discover myself.

For more ideas of Tried & True Favorites as well as Must Haves for New Moms, be sure to hop over to my Amazon shop to see ideas list on each!

Gardening with Kids: September 2018 edition

We are in a season of new beginnings here.

A new baby, the start to a new school year, and an emptied out garden from most of our summer plants.

We opted to empty out most the garden beds right before our little boy was born in order to minimize yard work in those early weeks with an infant. Plus, with how hot it gets here in Houston, we were getting very little in the way of the tomatoes, beans, squash, and cucumbers that we pulled up.

So instead, we have been focusing on adding compost, feeding the soil, and will soon do a crop rotation and plant our Fall vegetables. This is a nice "slow season" of gardening as everything else is, well, a bit crazy!


Areas of Growth in the Garden

Garden Yields Update

Total seasonal yield to date: 
103 baby tomatoes (the final 21 tomatoes picked while still green since we couldn't get them before the squirrels)
10 cucumbers
19 bell peppers
45 beans (but honestly, we didn't pick them all as the fava beans were immature inside the pod and thus inedible/not worth the effort)
7 yellow squash
4 zucchini

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New Feeding Wins or Progress via Food Play

Dirt. There is something so wonderful about it with kids.

By clearing out the actual crops in three of our four raised beds, it has given us the perfect place for free play in the soil. We look for worms, talk about how gardening works, and the girls get to use their hands and imaginations to "garden" even before the real seeds are in.

I think for this Fall, we might let each of the girls have a garden bed all for themselves. With this, they will be allowed to pick the seeds, plant them, and til to "their" soil to their hearts content. We might not grow anything or it might be wildly successful. The point is, it will be theirs and I think their ownership of having a bed to tend to (while my husband and I work on the other three) would be so empowering to their little gardener's confidence.

Although I am not too strict about anything they do to the garden as a whole, I am hoping this initial dirt free-play will spur on all the more desire for them to put on their little gloves, get their shovels, and garden as we move into Fall!


Veggie of the Month: Sweet Potatoes

I am honored to be a monthly contributor to Veggie Buds Club. Intended for children ages 3-6, Veggie Buds Club offers activities that empower kids to Learn + Cook + Play + Create + Grow with a monthly vegetable. Through fun, pressure-free ideas, Veggie Buds Club helps expose your child to a variety of vegetables in age-appropriate and engaging ways.

If you are interested in checking out Veggie Buds Club for your family (or to gift a friend!), I encourage you to hop on over today! Monthly registration closes at midnight on the first of the month, so be sure to sign up so you get this month's box - complete with a tip sheet featuring the advice I share below!

Images from past month's Veggie Buds Club.

Tips shared in this month’s Veggie Buds Club:

As Summer comes to a close and we get into Fall foods and cooler temperatures, it is a great time to talk about a root vegetable with lots of nutrition: SWEET POTATOES!

For many children as infants, sweet potatoes are an obvious first food that parents roast and serve as a puree or in soft, finger-like strips. As children get older though and begin to exert more opinion and independence around the foods they eat however, many kids shift away from sweet potatoes to preferring white potatoes in the form of french fries and tater tots.

While all potatoes offer some nutritional value in their natural form, sweet potatoes provide an added nutritional punch and more antioxidants than their white, yellow, or red counterparts. In order to get such carotenoids in your child's diet (the antioxidants that give sweet potatoes that beautiful orange color!), consider the following ways of keeping them a staple Fall food for your family:

  • SHOP: Compare and contrast potato types. On an upcoming shopping trip, let your child help pick the potatoes. Encourage them to select a couple from each potato type or color category, as most stores will offer white Russets, yellow Yukons, Red roasters, orange sweets, and sometimes ever purple potatoes as well! This helps them to see there are lots of different potato types, not to mention sizes and shapes!
  • CLEAN: Allow your children to scrub potatoes in the sink or a water table (like the one leftover from summer!). This helps to get them to touch the vegetable before it ever is offered on the table.
  • TASTE: If your child is used to only white potatoes, consider comparing white with sweet potatoes in a taste test. Bake, roast, or mash both kinds and offer side by side. Talk about how they look, smell, and taste different and allow them to rate their preferences to either. This helps kids to identify differences in foods with an inquisitive approach that emphasizes "learning to like" the attributes of a (potentially) new food instead of pressuring them to eat something that is still unfamiliar.
  • CHAIN: Consider food chaining your child's preferred type of potatoes to include sweet potatoes! You can do this by making subtle shifts to offer sweet potatoes in the same same and preparation as the preferred potato, then gradually working to include sweet potatoes in other shapes or serving methods.
  • COOK: Talk about ways you can cook each of the vegetables that you bought at the store: baked whole, roasted in cubes, sliced as fries, pureed for baked goods, mashed as a side, or in a hash at breakfast! Let your child sit with you to look through recipes and help plan which way you will prepare them for a given meal. This helps them empower their voice in meal time decisions while also piquing their curiosity around how potatoes can be offered.

Remember to check out Veggie Buds Club before 12/midnight on the first of every month if you aren't already a subscriber. Then you can still order this month's box and veggie in time to participate!


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Managing Meals as a New Mom

My husband is hard-working. My mom is a natural Nana. My nearby sister-in-law has survived to share what it’s like to mother three amazing kids. Yet despite a solid support system gathering around for the birth of our third child, close family and friends are still left to figure out the innards of our kitchen.

Consider the feeding basics that are intuitive to us but likely unknown to others:

When do we offer our daughters milk versus water?

Do we give snacks whenever the girls ask or is there structure around what, when, and where food is offered?

Are there foods we can or can’t send to school in the girl's lunchboxes?

What kind of bread do we buy?

Do we have anything ready for dinner?

What happens if the girls choose not to eat what's offered?

These may seem like overly simplistic basics to even address to some. They may be too obvious or totally unnecessary to answer to others. However no matter what your family dynamic is when entering into this exciting new season with a newborn, recognize that these little nuances in each family are what make us who we are.

They establish normalcy, create ease, and maintain security, especially with young ones whose eating habits may not be as clearly established or easy to articulate as with older kids or adults. They are also the key details that redirect the stress of making meals into the more-efficient process of managing meals as a new mom-- among as many hands as you have available to help.

 
 

For this reason, I think we can best prepare ourselves, our children, and our family's generous helpers in the upcoming season by eliminating the need for others to ask us seven-hundred questions  about food/feeding (or the tendency to always wing it when they can't!) and rather equipping them with helpful info for how to handle all things meal- and snack-related on their own.

 

This post will outline how to plan ahead for managing meals as a new mom.

As shared on previous posts about the Division of Responsibility in feeding, the more you can maintain the adult's role in feeding versus the child's amidst the "newness" of having a newborn, the less stressful it will be on everyone. Use the following links and guides to help you and whomever you have helping to assume your/their role as the adult while still encouraging your child in their roles as well!


Resources on WHAT to feed

Meal Plans

If you didn't catch my post on Freezer Meals to Make Before A Baby this month, be sure to check out those meal ideas here. In the post, you will have access to a download with the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack ideas I actually used to prep ahead some freezer meal (and snack) favorites for our family!

You can also look back to the first half of 2018 and the family meal plans I included via the thumbnails below. While these posts only share ideas for the main course (as all the sides were already shared with newsletter subscribers (become a subscriber here!), they may help you think of some recipes you might want to make (or ask a friend or family to make on your behalf!) when in a tired-of-ordering-pizza-every-night rut. Some recipes are more involved while others are ready in under 15 minutes, so scroll through to see which ones sound both tasty and practical to you and your family!

 

Snack Ideas

While I have some favorite "go-to" snacks with my kids (and for myself!) shared on the freezer meals printable (available here), below are a few older blog posts that also might help give you some ideas for healthy snack options - be it at the pool for the final push of summer or non-perishable favorites to send as your children go back to school.

 

Love it, Like it, Learning it Meals

For FAQs on Love it, Like it, Learning it and a FREE download you can use as your template to writing out what foods your child loves, likes, and is still learning (with 150 suggestions for kid-friendly foods to categorize), visit this post. Having a list of foods on hand to help others know what your kid "does and doesn't like" makes figuring out what combinations of foods to offer at meals easier on everyone while still emphasizing the importance of ongoing exposure to new, "learning it" foods!

You can also coach caretakers on how to use a Love it, Like it, Learning it approach at meal times by sharing this article on How to Feed a Toddler at Meal Times.

 

Meal Planning Templates

This postpartum, I have a calendar of our whole first month penciled in with what dinners we are making from our freezer stash, some easy, ready-made options, when I anticipate meals will be made for us, and the occasional takeout too. For breakfast and lunches, I have seven ideas penciled in that we will use on rotation each week using the templates available here, modifying as needed (but hopefully not much until I have my bearings a bit more). Having these templates filled out helps me to already have ideas for what we will eat, so in my sleep-deprived state I don't have to also think about what to make nor if we have the ingredients on hand to make these menu ideas!

 

Grocery List

I plan to rely heavily on grocery pick-up in the postpartum window. In general though, I keep a magnetic grocery list up on my fridge so I can use that as my reference when I go online to place our grocery order. While magnetic lists are not currently available (will re-order and begin shipping again after maternity leave), you can access my free grocery download using the link below.

 

Costco List

Instacart does not yet service our zip code yet, but for many regions, you could order from Costco online as well. I created this guide as a visual grocery list for my 55 items I most heavily rely on getting at Costco. I can print, circle, and send this list with my husband to reference on his way home from work when he swings into Costco or while my parents while they're in town. Either way, they know the items to look for when I request a given item (without having to call or FaceTime me every 17 seconds to ask, "Is this the ________ you buy/want?").


Resources on WHEN to feed

Daily Routine

Life needs to always remain flexible with kids, but there is something to be said for consistency and routine that makes the "newness" of seasons like having a new sibling easier for everyone to handle. That's why even if my kids aren't eating as many homemade nor well-rounded meals as our usual (during this postpartum period), I would say I care just as much (if not more!) that they are fed on as consistent of a routine as possible. I find with kids, it is easier to get "back on track" with the WHAT we feed after a season with more convenient foods than it is to reset their stomachs and appetites to a meal and snack schedule (after a season when grazing could easily become the norm!).

To help keep their meals and snacks happening around the same time each day, I use this daily routine template. This allows me to pencil in what they have from the moment they wake up through bedtime, but two sheets could also be used if you are including an infant feeding schedule with overnight bottle feeds.


Resources on WHERE to feed

At the Table

I hear parents, grandparents, and virtually all caretakers struggle with how to keep kids seated for meal times. So while these tips and tricks can be applied in a variety of places where food might be offered, the aim is that indeed we are conditioning our children to sit at the table for long enough for them to fuel their bodies until food is offered again. Rather than battle your child to "just sit still," read this article for Seven Ways to Keep Your Child Seated Through Meals (and share it with those who will be feeding your kids after baby comes too for added reinforcement!).

 

At School

Whether you have a child in Mom’s Day Out only a couple of hours a week, a preschooler in daycare full-time, or a school-aged child needing packed lunches for elementary each day, packing lunches takes an extra bit of effort and attention - especially if being packed by a caretaker who isn't used to owning this role.

To help them out with "what to pack," review these Five Secrets to Lunch Packing Success that I share over on the Super Simple blog [sponsored post]. Then, be sure to share any pertinent specifics for your child and/or their school with anyone who might be helping you pack lunches in the postpartum period. You can also download the a printable that runs through similar steps using the button below.


Resources on IF/WHETHER to eat

Family Food Rules

Handling how to have others feed our kids (when we are away/unable to) is constantly a topic of conversation and often an area of tension within families. While we might not always be able to get family members or friends to adopt our approach to what, when, or where they feed our children, something we can continue to articulate is our desire for HOW they feed our kids in terms of a pressure-free approach.

Just as you would respectfully share your approaches to discipline or sleep routines with a caregiver, consider discussing what some of your "family food rules" are before your new baby comes. Then, practice role modeling what this looks like to caregivers BEFORE baby is here with whatever meals such caregivers might be around to observe and engage in. Use this time to allow them to ask questions about What is the Division of Responsibility and How to Establish the Division of Responsibility. Furthermore, consider posting a list of feeding expectations up on the fridge for all to reference (like this 7 Steps to Feeding Success one). While this doesn't ensure that everyone will feed your child just like you would, it can help to redefine the boundaries you desire around the feeding environment.


In Summary

Remember it is just a Season

No matter what happens after a baby is born (or any time of major transition, really!), remember that children are adaptable. They will go with the flow often more easily than we as moms do and they can adjust back to healthy old habits or create new ones (when necessary) with consistency and reinforcement as things settle down. So even if mac and cheese is on the menu for the first month straight, remember there is grace in motherhood that will also cover some of the shortcomings in a season where our children might have nutritional voids or less than ideal eating habits.

If it gives you more peace of mind and helps your child to meet their daily nutritional needs better, you can also consider adding in supplements for the nutrients in food groups you know tend to be harder to reinforce and re-expose. My friends over at Feeding Littles have an excellent round-up of recommendations on Supplements for Infants and Children that might be worth reading and investing in.

Otherwise, I hope the above tools will help you to feel a bit more prepared and at peace about how to handle meals as a new mom. You got this!

Favorite Meals to Bring New Moms

We have all been in those early days after giving birth when the sleep deprivation is real and the ordeal to make breakfast, lunch, or dinner just seems beyond our abilities. We are starving 24/7 and yet we don't even have two hands free to open a wrapper let alone to put a meal together that extends beyond a protein bar.

That's why you need a #MomSquad to step in.

For some, this is made up predominantly of family. For others, it is a solid group of friends. Either way, every new mom (or mom to a newborn+other littles, especially!) needs a little love postpartum by way of good nutrition. And although there is lots to be said about the nutritional demands of a new mom, I'll save that for another post. Today, we are talking about the meals that we moms can bring other moms to support them and their families in those early, sleepless days. 

Because the best meal for a new mom is one she actually gets to eat!

 
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In this post, I will share some tried-and-true recommendations on:

  • What makes a great meal for new moms

  • Favorite meals to bring new moms

  • What you can do if you live too far to bring a new mom a meal


What makes a great meal for new moms

The obvious, sentimental answer is the fact that you are just seeking to support this new mom so pretty much any item she doesn't have to make will taste amazing to her! But beyond the emotional aspect of offering to bring someone a meal, here are some practical tips to consider:

Cost

This is obviously an added expense, so consider up front how much you are willing/able to spend. This will likely help guide what and how much you choose to bring (homemade vs takeout; a single batch vs extras).

Time

If you find yourself short on time, consider which items are easier to assemble and/or order to bring a new mom. While everyone appreciates a home-cooked meal, there are plenty of quick, ready-made options or elements to a meal you can effortlessly add on.

Effort

If you are bringing a meal to someone, it is often easiest to plan for your family to have the same meal. By making twice as much of whatever you intend to bring, you add minimal effort on to what you would already be preparing for your family alone.

Add-Ons

If you are going to bring a family a meal, do everything you can to bring not only enough but also some add-ons. Whether this be to help the picky eater in their home have something to eat, or to make sure the mom has enough to snack on later when her appetite spikes again, I don't think any mom has ever let food go to waste. Adopt the mentality that if you bring it, it will get eaten.

Versatility

Consider if what you are bringing is something that may sound good any hour of the day. This isn't an essential, but it is a nice added mention. With new moms having such a messed up internal clock, they may be eating what you bring in the middle of the night or right after their morning feed. Consider if the main meal or one of the add-ons (like rolls, fruit, etc.) may hold well to also be had later on at a less official "dinner time."

Allergen-Friendly

Whether it be a known allergy (in mom or baby) or just an intolerance for either, it is always smart to ask the new mom before bringing her and her family a meal if there is anything she or her family members can't tolerate.


Favorite Meals to Bring New Moms

Beyond the freezer meal ideas I shared in last week's blog post, I previously asked a few fellow dietitian moms to chime in on what their favorite meals to bring new moms are. Here is a round-up of our top faves, with some suggestions for things to keep in mind that make them favorites for good reason!

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Simple MyPlate Pairings

As dietitians, we often live our lives with an innate need to build "MyPlate" at almost every meal. So by including a tasty protein with simple plant-based sides, bringing a meal that includes protein + veggies + whole grains + fruit for a family will help to not only satisfy their cravings for a complete meal but also help them to meet their nutritional needs from ALL food groups by giving them an assortment of options to build their plate with.

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs

Courtesy of Lindsay Livingston, RD of TheLeanGreenBean.com

I love Lindsay's add-on ideas of bringing this dish with brown rice, steamed broccoli (or just send broccoli in a microwaveable steamer bag!), and washed grapes!

 

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Foods that Make Nutrient-Dense Breakfasts or Lunches (Especially Those You Can Eat with One Hand!)

Some of my favorite meals I have received as a new moms aren't actually "dinner" per say. While sometimes we have gone ahead and eaten these breakfast and lunch items for dinner, I often save these for mornings and mid days as those seem to be the hardest meals to get in (especially once a spouse returns to work!). Consider bringing frittatas, healthy muffins, sweet potato hashes, or even deviled eggs, chicken salad with crackers, or cold quinoa salads. These work to eat any time of the day and can be a nutritious way to help new moms, especially those breastfeeding, to get in a lot of nutrition outside of just at dinner time.

Cranberry Quinoa Veggie Saute

Courtesy of Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RD, LD at Milk & Honey Nutrition

A recipe I have enjoyed eating on several occassions myself (including as a new mom!), this is one of those versatile meal options that makes a nutrient-dense lunch, dinner, or any time in between!

 
 

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Delicious Leftovers

Cook once, eat twice. I am pretty sure that is a mantra of motherhood, but especially in the early days. For that reason, consider dishes you could make a larger portion of so it serves the family not just on the night you deliver it, but also for leftover lunches or another night's dinner as well. This doubles the blessing of you bringing a meal well beyond just one night's worth!

Salmon Noodle Casserole

Courtesy of Megan McNamee MPH, RDN of Feeding Littles

This one sounds fancy but is an awesome, affordable option. Packed with great nutrition, I love how this one takes care of the protein, fat, starch, and veggie for a meal by putting them all in one! This is one of the best "one pan" meals you could pop on by with!

 

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Dishes with Added Veggies

We all struggle with getting enough veggies in not only our kids but also ourselves. For this reason, bringing family favorites that you have added veggies too can be a welcomed surprise to mamas who want to eat healthy, wholesome favorites outside of just adding raw or cooked veggies on the side of any given entree.

Zucchini Lasagna

Courtesy of Emily Rose Samuels, MS, RDN, LD

Some of my all-time favorites dishes are those tried and true by fellow dietitian friends, and this one from skinnytaste.com is no exception. I love how this recipe could be whipped up the night before, held in the fridge at work, and dropped off at a friend's on the way home without being a big mess nor hassle!

 

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Healthy Toppings and Sides

If you are short on time to cook up a bunch of options or know this new mom maybe has another apprehensive eater at home, bringing a dish with lots of added toppings and sides can help to ease her anxiety around "what else to offer" her other family members when you bring the meal. Some easy ideas are to include kid-friendly sides that you either make or quickly pick up at the store on the day of delivery. Such ideas as tacos or tortilla soup where you make the taco meat or soup, than add on a bag of shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, avocados or guacamole, fresh pico de gallo, whole grain tortilla chips and/or tortillas, and a can of black beans or cook-in-the-bag brown rice can make it an easy to execute meal on both you and the new mom!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Courtesy of Me at Veggies & Virtue

This is such an easy recipe to make a double batch of then split to serve out to your family and another. Then just buy doubles of: cheddar cheese, whole grain chips, avocados or guacamole, sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt!), and any other fixings you fancy!

 

DIETITIAN MOMS LOVE: Desserts with Added Nutritional Benefits

Lactation cookies understandably get a lot of attention with new moms but there are lots of delicious and nutritious dessert ideas to consider adding on to a meal you plan to bring a new mom. Think about adding avocado or zucchini to a batch or brownies, or wholesome ingredients like cashews, almond meal, and oats to something like a yogurt berry tart.

Yogurt Berry Tart

Courtesy of Yaffi Lvova, RDN at Baby Bloom Nutrition

If you are looking for a healthier option of dessert, this would make a delightful addition to any dinner that could be enjoyed around the clock. Plus, what newly promoted big or little sis wouldn't love to be told they can have dessert for dinner?!

 

What you can do if you live too far to bring a new mom a meal

See what options exist in the region of the new mom. There are lots of ways to send edible support even when you can't physically stop by with dinner.

Set up a meal train for them

There are a lot of websites out there that will organize this for you, but one that I have used several times is MealTrain.com. This allows you to set up a care calendar for the new mom/family with all the information one would need to bring them a meal.

Order delivery or takeout

Between UberEats or a takeout order for the dad to pick up, sometimes ordering delivery or takeout is a great alternative option when you can't bring something homemade. Just pick a place (or two), shoot over a web link to the menu(s), and ask her to give you the order for her (and her family). Then, agree on a pick-up or delivery time with her, and you take care of calling it in and covering the bill.

Think outside of dinner

Whether it be ordering from Great Harvest Bread Company's delivery options (a personal favorite to send people; free delivery available for orders over $35) or sending someone a cart full of groceries via services like Instacart, she is sure to appreciate any food she doesn't have to fetch during her round-the-clock feeding and out-of-whack eating schedule. This is a great way to help stock her up on some goodies that may serve for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.


What will you make for your #MomSquad?

There are so many ways I have been blessed by way of food in the postpartum season. I hope these ideas above help give you some ideas on what you could do to support fellow moms in their postpartum season, knowing there is a good chance they will gladly reciprocate if/when you too find yourself needing a meal you don't have to make yourself! If you want more ideas of freezer-friendly meal ideas for new moms, be sure to see last week's post sharing my Favorite Freezer Meals to Make Before a New Baby.

Freezer Meals to Make Before a New Baby

If you have ever been a first-time mom, I would bet that in all of your nesting activities, baby-prep book reading, Pinterest searching, and conversations about survival with fellow moms, you have probably seen or heard the terms "make ahead meals," "batch-cooking," and/or "freezer meals" at least once or twice. If you are an expecting mom with other children, this topic has likely come up either with gladness that it was something  you did do before a sibling was born or with regret that it wasn’t you didn't do before delivery.

That’s because whether you endured the marathon cooking spurts before your baby was born or have just heard from moms who have done this, you can imagine how that "my freezer is full of healthy staples" feels. Just thaw, cook, and serve with little stress nor sweat amidst the newborn season.

Sometimes just starting that process to stock your freezer with food for postpartum is the hardest part though.

That’s what this post is here to help with.

 
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Before our first daughter was born, I literally spent an entire weekend "batch-cooking" while my mom was in town to help. Although it was totally exhausting to spend several days on my feet cooking towards the end of my third trimester, it was oh-so-sweet when all I had to do was thaw and cook our pre-made meal post-pregnancy. 

I have repeated this marathon meal prep with each pregnancy since and am here to share some of my tried and true staples. Because although there are several websites, blogs, and pin-worthy recipes to give you ideas for bulk recipes to batch-cook and easily freeze for future use, I have a few thoughts and ideas to share of my own.

In this post, I will share:

  • What are Freezer Meals?
  • How to Turn Favorite Recipes into Successful Make-Ahead Freezer Meals
  • My Favorite Supplies for Making Freezer Meals
  • Favorite Freezer Meal Recipe Ideas for New Moms

What are Freezer Meals?

Freezer meals are meals that have been assembled ahead of time with the intent of being cooked (or reheated) in the future. These are frequently touted as a time-saving, cost-effective technique to any meal, as freezer meals provides you with already assembled easy, healthy recipes to have on hand.

Many meals can be converted into a freezer meal with a little modification to the ingredients needed (multiplying the batch to make more) or by shifting the time in which the instructions are done (some in advance; some saved for after the meal has been frozen).


How to Turn Favorite Recipes into Successful Make-Ahead Freezer Meals

1. Pick one of your family's favorite recipes

I have prematurely made several make-ahead freezer meals using recipes I have never even tried before.

It still makes me upset when I think of how much time, energy, and money I wasted on what just boiled down to being a recipe I loathed having to eat again.

Instead, freezer meals should make you want to do a happy dance when it comes to dinner time because they are just that easy. You invested little extra effort to get the meal assembled and on to the table. Otherwise, that anticipated disappointment of going into dinner for a meal you didn't even like the first time totally defeats having freezer meals at all.

That's why, it is key to figure out how to convert your family's favorite recipes into make-ahead freezer meals.

Think through what types of recipes your family tends to gravitate to. Instead of assuming the lists of "freezer meals to make before a new baby" fit your family's taste preferences, make a list of your own family favorites and sort through the steps below to see which ones might be able to be converted to a freezer meal.

2. Identify which step in the instructions is the best "stopping point" to prepare a freezer meal from.

For recipes prepared on the stove-top or grill, this is often done after the step of making a marinade or sauce. Marinades/sauces can be made in a large batch and then portioned into small freezer-safe containers in the amount needed or you can put the marinade in with the meat to be immediately frozen. The latter will take more space (for those who might be more limited for freezer space), so you can always make just small jars/bags of marinade and keep them labeled to be added to the meat or dish later on.

If multiple but separate steps can be prepared in advance for the freezer meal, plan accordingly. Prep and store these items separately until the meal is cooked and assembled. An example includes:

  • Kung Poa or Orange Chicken: both call for chicken breasts to be cubed or thinly sliced as well as a sauce. Cut up all the raw chicken for as many batches worth as you made the sauce, and then freeze it in batches so it is ready to toss in the pan with no more raw-chicken-prep-nastiness required. Prepare the sauce separately, and store it in a container alongside the raw (but ready-to-cook) chicken.

For recipes prepared in the crock-pot, majority of the meal prep can occur in advance. All steps can be completed and combined into a freezer-safe container and later added to the crock-pot when it's time to cook. Exceptions may be when a recipe states to layer a fresh ingredient first (like onion slices) before adding the meat on top. If this is the case, just note that detail on the freezer bag/container so you remember to add that item prior to cooking (without having to go back and reference the recipe itself).

For recipes prepared in the oven, the freezer meal may include every step up to actually putting it in the oven. Preparing these freezer meals in oven-safe and freezer-safe containers makes this a one-pan way to prepare, store, cook, then toss away the dirty "dishes" when done!

3. Evaluate the total yield for the recipe as it is written.

Before deciding on how many batches you plan to make and freeze, ask yourself:

  • How many servings does the as-written recipe yield? What is the assumed portion size for each? If this isn't appropriate for your family, adjust up or down as desired.
  • Do you prefer to make a large batch and have leftovers, or to prepare enough for only one night's worth? Make a double or single-serving accordingly.

  • How often do you foresee your family eating this over the next 3+ months? Note in freezer-safe containers, most freezer meals can be stored for 3+ months in a regular or deep freezer. Depending on how often you want to include this meal in your rotation and how much freezer space you have, make that number of batches for the given recipe.

  • How much freezer space is available for this meal, while still leaving ample room for other freezer meals and staples? While a deep freezer may not be realistic for all families or in all homes, a chest deep freezer is an economical, efficient storage option (space wise) that can often be found at places like Costco for around $150. This is often less than families would spend on eating out or ready-made meals after a baby and may be an investment to consider before a baby arrives.

4. Modify the amounts of the ingredients in the as-written recipe based on the yields you desire.

Note: this depends on your answers to the questions in step #3.

  • Multiply the ingredients to be included in the freezer meal (those to be cooked and included before the stopping point) by the number of batches for each recipe you desire to make in advance.

  • This will give you a large-size batch for the X number of meals you are wanting to make ahead. Divide this into X number of freezer-safe containers to store.

5. Make a note of the items to be added later (and in what amounts) when only preparing part of the meal in advance.

These ingredients do not necessarily need to be multiplied by the full amount of ingredients needed at the time of shopping for and making freezer meals. Instead, you may want to write that these items are still needed directly onto the storage container so you see what else is needed when you pull the otherwise prepared item from the freezer. Examples include:

  • Broccoli for broccoli beef that is added later on in the recipe

  • Shredded cheese that is to be added at the end of cooking a baked dish

  • Garnishes like nuts, seeds, or fresh items (like green onions) added after cooking

6. Try it Out!

If you feel a bit overwhelmed initially, experiment and gain experience doing this approach before it is time to actually make these meals as freezer meals for a new baby. The next time you plan to prepare a family favorite anyways, walk through the above steps. See how easy (or not!) it is to prepare this meal idea not only for that one night, but also as a freezer meal option. Make any notes and modify accordingly so when you are ready to make freezer meals for postpartum, you know if this is one you want to include or not.


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Want a list of links to:

My 30 Favorite Freezer Meals to Make Before a New Baby


My Favorite Supplies for Making Freezer Meals

This post contains affiliate links, though all opinions are my own. When you purchase anything using these links, it will not cost you more to use. It does, however, give Veggies & Virtue a small commission to help me further pursue my mission of helping other achieve less meal time stress and more meal time success. Thank you for your continued support, both with your affiliate purchases and interest.

Foil Pans

These are available at any grocery store, but by far the best deal I have found is at Dollar Stores. Often, you can get 2-3 smaller pans in a single pack for only a dollar! Similar items are easily $3-4 per 2-pack at the store. Stock up on these before planning a big freezer meal making session, or buy extras so you can use to bring meals to new moms in these too (so that they don't have to worry about washing and returning your dishes!).

Disposable Pan options (from Dollar Tree)

Freezer-Safe Ziplock Bags

I try to be conscious of the environment and prefer to use glass over plastic when possible. But when it comes to marinading meats and making efficient storage of freezer meals, I truly love using freezer-safe Ziplock bags. Whichever size you choose, simply fill; remove the air (manually); seal; lie flat to freeze. Then, once frozen, all meals can easily be stacked on top of the other or upright in a row in the freezer. This both helps to save space and find items easily.

Freezer-safe gallon-sized Ziplocks  (for chilis, soups, fajitas, etc)

Freezer safe quart-sized Ziplocks (for quinoa, rice, and spaghetti sauce)

Plastic Food Storage Containers

For these, you want something sturdy and reusable and yet disposable (in case you don't want to deal with any dishes). My favorites for these are the following:

8 ounce (for frozen marinades)

16 ounce (for frozen sauces)

32 ounce (for extra chicken stock, leftover soups ready for lunches)or 

Costco also carries a very economical option that serve as perfect leftover containers for lunch the next day (similar to these). These are not my favorite for liquids and sauces, but they work well for grains, a muffins, taco meat, beans, and other items you may only need 2-4 cups worth of per container.

Mason Jars

I love mason jars for a lot of things and prepping freezer meals are no exception. Mason jars can be great for storing marinades or making smaller batches of soups, say to pull out and have for a serving or two worth of soup. Just be sure to leave a little space at the top when storing liquids in mason jars so there is room for the food to expand (when frozen).

Mason jars (2 cups)

Mason jars (4 cups)


30 Favorite Freezer Meal Ideas for New Moms

Many of you have been asking for the latest list of what meals I prepped ahead for this postpartum period. So as promised, you can score the complete list of links to the following meal ideas on the download linked below. There are SO many more I could have included from family recipes as well as some Fall favorites (like chili, soups, and stews). But since I don't have electronic recipes for all of these and personally wasn't craving a lot of "cold weather" meal ideas (having an August baby in Houston and all), I opted for the following 30 freezer meal ideas instead! I am excited to enjoy these in the coming months as we welcome our newest member!


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Food Prep for New Baby

There are over 200 MILLION hits on google for “what to do before baby is born.”

Between buying bottles and washing all those adorable little garments in gentle detergent, there are a lot of tasks, to do lists, and items to tackle before the big day. You can find lists that simplify it to the "Top 10 Things to Do Before Your Baby is Born" to more comprehensive lists covering all the ins and outs of planning ahead before your baby’s arrival depending on the degree of OCD you are.

One thing I don’t always see amidst the lists of “what it pack in your hospital bag” though is the wide list of what to pack in your kitchen! If the nursery is picture-perfect but we fail to plan what food will keep us and our families fueled postpartum, the saying rings true:

Fail to plan and plan to fail.

Now I recognize we can’t always (slash never!) get as ahead as we would like as moms, be it our first kid or our fifth! Here I am prepping for baby number three and just had the bomb dropped that they might have to induce me three weeks early ... Wait, WHAT?!?!?!

Thankfully the pause button was pushed on that for now, so that as I write this post in anticipation for my maternity leave, I have a bit more peace. My point is though, life happens. As much as we want to get "everything" ready before our precious little one arrives, we aren’t always able to do it all - in or outside of the kitchen.

As a dietitian mom, many of you could probably assume that food prep for postpartum is an area I prioritize heavily at the end of each pregnancy. It has evolved and honestly expanded quite a bit from what I did when planning for our first child. That’s why I want to take the next four weeks to share with you my TOP tips. This isn’t an end all be all list (since no list ever is), but if you have the time and are looking for the tools for how to prep for your next baby’s arrival as it relates to all things food:

 

This is Your Guide for Food Prep Before Baby

Over the month of August, you can expect posts on the following:

Freezer Meals to Make Before a New Baby

How to Manage Meals as a New Mom

Meal Ideas to Bring New Moms

 
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Don't Miss This Info...

Once the above blog posts go live, I will come back and link them all above so this one post can act as your go-to hub for food prep before a new baby resources. But since our little one will be born sometime between now and then, I can't encourage you enough to sign up here for my newsletter! That way, even when I am up all night with our newborn in the coming weeks (and likely on social media and email a lot less), you can still plan to hear from me every Friday morning via a little note delivered to your inbox. In it, you will find an easy link to my weekly blog post for each of these topics above.

 

Whether you’re expecting another addition to your family or just want to tap into some of these ideas to make mom life in general more manageable, I know these upcoming few week's worth of posts will be as helpful to you as I know they have been to me.