How to Stay Well-Fed While Caring for a Newborn (Plus our Favorite Easy Meals for New Moms)
Stay well-fed while caring for your newborn with the tips and easy meals for new moms below!
Are you a) totally exhausted, b) cycling through an uncontrollable array of emotions, c) wondering when your next shower will be, or d) all of the above? If you answered d) all the above, welcome to the newborn phase!
We know trying to get a handle on this totally new way of life — feeding, changing, crying, sleeping, repeat — can be tough. So when community members reached out to us about how to stay well-fed while caring for a newborn, we jumped at the chance to offer up some advice.
Below, we walk you through how to find time to eat and what foods to keep on hand postpartum as well as what to bring a new mom (hint: it’s not casserole!).
Postpartum Diet: What Should New Moms Eat
First, let’s cover the basics: what should a new mom eat?
The postpartum diet isn’t much different than a normal healthy diet — even if you’re breastfeeding. According to La Leche League International, an organization dedicated to supporting woman who are breastfeeding, “good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet with foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.”
Although you don’t need to eat anything special postpartum, according to Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, some new moms may need to take in an extra 500 calories a day to support breast milk production. However, if you don’t need to worry about adding additional calories, simply listen to your body’s cues and eat when you’re hungry. In general, Philadelphia Children’s Hospital suggests:
- Eating two to three servings of protein a day.
- Eating three servings of veggies a day.
- Eating two servings of fruit a day.
- Eating whole grains like whole wheat cereal, oatmeal, and pasta daily.
If you’re on a restricted diet like vegetarian or vegan, you’ll want to keep an eye on your intake of B12 and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is critical for your baby’s brain development. You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting enough zinc and iron in your diet from plant-based sources like nuts, seeds, and beans.
As long as you’re eating a healthy and varied diet with lots of whole foods, you should be getting the nutrition and energy you need. But if you have any concerns, we recommend talking with your nutritionist or doctor to make sure all of your bases are covered.
Let Go of the Concept of Three Meals a Day
Now that we know what to eat, it’s time to get into how to structure mealtimes.
One of the best ways to ensure you stay well-fed is to, at least at first, let go of the concept of “three meals a day.” While this may seem counterintuitive, waiting to eat until a certain time of day can actually stop you from eating when you need to, i.e. when you’re hungry. So rather than trying to fit this unpredictable phase into a pre-baby structure, adapt. This means sneaking in food breaks when you can like when your baby falls asleep or when he or she is feeding.
“Don’t feel obligated to eat a ‘proper’ dinner every night. Healthy snack-type meals are easy and nutritionally sound.”
— Rebecca K, Cook Smarts Community Member and Mom
Have a Steady Supply of Healthy Snacks
If there’s one secret to staying well-fed as a new mom, it’s probably snacks — lots and lots of easy, healthy snacks. Granola bars, muffins, oatmeal cookies, trail mix, and pre-chopped vegetable crudite don’t need to be cooked and can be eaten one-handed. By the way, Thrive Market has a great selection of healthy snacks and maternity-specific items like prenatal vitamins, lactation support tea, and belly butter lotion.
“[Keep] a big snack box next to the rocking chair (or wherever you feed the baby) with easy-to-grab food.”
— Amanda B., Cook Smarts Community Member and Mom
Freezer-Friendly Meals for New Moms
Another way to make sure you stay well-fed while caring for your newborn is to be proactive during pregnancy. Preparing a variety of freezer-friendly meals before baby arrives is a great way to ensure your food needs are covered once you’re in the thick of it. (By the way, the Cook Smarts Facebook Community is full of new and veteran parents who love discussing food and family, click here to join in!)
“I was able to make about 20 freezer meals before each baby — easy comfort foods like lasagna, shredded chicken for tacos and burritos, breakfast burritos, etc. To make this easy, I would double recipes I was making pre-baby, and then freeze the second half of the meal; that way you’re only cooking once.”
— Sara K., Cook Smarts Community Member and Mom
To make the freezer meal process quick and easy:
- Store freezer meals in individual serving sizes so you don’t have to heat up the entire batch.
- Freeze a variety of meals so you don’t feel stuck eating the same foods over and over.
- Store freezer meals in plastic bags to make cleaning up later as easy as possible.
- If you can swing it, buy a second freezer to store your postpartum meals.
If you’re not sure of what foods to prepare, we’ve created a recipe book of some of our most delicious make-ahead recipes, including one-handed foods like burritos and calzones. Download our free Top 10 Best Freezer Meals here:
Top 10 Best Freezer Meals
Our favorite freezer meals are simple and delicious, and will help you get dinner on the table even when life gets busy.
The Best Back-Up Plan
Stock your freezer with our Top 10 Freezer-Friendly Meals.
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Or better yet, send the recipe book to your friends and family and ask if they’d be willing to prepare them for you, which brings us to our next point . . .
Build (and Accept) a Network of Support
Family and friends can be a lifeline in the first few days and weeks after childbirth. Our advice? Take total advantage of all the help you can get! If you need food, ask. If you need someone to come take care of your laundry, ask. You’ll probably be inundated with offers, so take them up on it.
“I took advantage of anyone and everyone who offered to bring or send food to us. If I felt like we didn’t need anything at the moment and someone offered, I’d ask them to make or give us something we could freeze for another day.”
— Anna T., Cook Smarts Community Member and Mom
Here are a few tips to help you get friends and family involved:
- Don’t want lots of casserole? Help those who want to help you by providing them with a menu of preferences so they know what to make you, and so you end up with the foods that feel most nourishing to you when you need them the most.
- Use a service like Meal Train to let your friends and family organize a food calendar and delivery schedule for you.
- Share your groceries lists with an app like Wunderlist so others know what to pick up for you.
Sometimes support isn’t in the form of friends or family, it’s in the in the form of a delivery person. If you need fresh food, use a service like Instacart to get groceries delivered. If you don’t want to heat up leftovers, get your favorite food delivered. In other words, give yourself permission to get the food you need.
“Honestly, we did take-out a lot and got our groceries delivered. It really helps to outsource chores when you’re sleep deprived.”
— Mindy W., Cook Smarts Community Member and Mom
What to Bring a New Mom
One of the most common questions we get in the Cook Smarts Facebook community is, “What should I bring a new mom?” If you find yourself on the other end of post-baby food gifting, there are two things you’ll want to remember when deciding what to bring a new mom:
- Make it easy to eat (pre-chopped, pre-cooked, or one-handed foods)
- Make it easy to clean (stored in Tupperware, plastic bags, or throw-away ready)
One-handed foods like burritos and snacks are so important for a new mom because they allow her to hold or breastfeed baby and eat at the same time, which means she can eat when she’s hungry and keep sustained energy levels throughout the day.
Next, you’ll want to think about what she may not have access to, for example, fresh ingredients. Then, you’ll want to think about what types of food would make her life easier. To get you started, here’s a list of the best foods to bring a new mom:
- Chopped fruit
- Vegetable crudite and dip
- Breakfast and granola bars
- Energy bites
- Breads (banana nut, zucchini, etc.)
- Oatmeal cookies
- Freshly squeezed fruit juice
- Sparkling water with fruit juice
- Wine or beer (some new moms really appreciate the sentiment!)
“When a friend has a new baby, I like to bring a big bin of snacks rather than a dinner because lots of people bring dinners but forget that mom needs to eat all day when she’s alone with a new baby!”
— Jill S., Cook Smarts Community Member and Mom
If you’re still unsure about what to bring a new mom, our Free Top 10 Best Freezer Meals recipe book is a great place to start. You’ll get recipes for easy one-handed foods a new mom will love like Mexican meatballs, breakfast burritos, and spinach calzones.
Join thousands of other like-minded parents in the Cook Smarts Facebook Community! It’s been called “the happiest, most positive corner of the internet.”
How do you plan to stay well-fed post-baby? Any newborn phase tips you want to share? Let us know in the comments!
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