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
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!
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!
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.
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
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!).
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.
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!