One of the hardest parts, of adjusting back into my regular routine after having a baby was managing meal time. I was so fortunate to have help at home for the first two weeks of my son’s life. I didn’t prepare a single meal! But at some point everyone had to go home and I found it hard to jump back into the role of primary meal manager. Over the next several weeks, I figured out a few things that helped me feel more successful, and less overwhelmed at mealtime. I hope some of these are helpful for you whether you’re still pregnant or if you’re reading this while snuggling your newborn.
Prep Postpartum Freezer Meals
If your baby hasn’t arrived yet I would highly encourage you to give yourself the gift of making some meals to put in your freezer. Your future self will thank you for it, I promise! Even making 5-7 meals that can be pulled out during your first week on your own will be so helpful as you get back in the groove. I recommend choosing meals that are either oven, crockpot or stovetop ready so all you have to do is pull it out and go. Nothing is worse than thinking you have a meal prepped and ready to go to only to find out it requires extra steps before cooking. Things like pot pie, meatloaf, lasagna, casseroles and soups are all great freezer options!
Use all the Gadgets
A crockpot will be your new best friend! It makes things so much easier to just toss your ingredients in and leave it till dinner. This means no more be scrambling to cook during what is often termed the witching hour. It also means less dishes..woohoo!! Grab these crockpot liners to make your cleanup even easier too! And don’t stop with the crockpot! An air fryer makes quick work of so many things like roasted veggies, crispy chicken or even delicious salmon! It heats up quickly, cooks food reliably well and doesn’t require you to awkwardly bend over while holding a sheet pan in one a hand and the baby in the other like your oven does.
There is no reason to be doing everything yourself! Hopefully your partner is willing and able to jump in at meal time. Find a way to tag team rather than having all of the meal responsibilities on your shoulders. Maybe one of you cooks and the other cleans up afterwards. Or perhaps they can be on baby duty while you take care of dinner. Even something as simple as taking turns holding the baby during a meal if they’re up and needing snuggles can be helpful. My husband cuts my food for me when I’m holding the baby so I can manage the meal one handed- a sweet and simple but oh so helpful gesture. But remember, people aren’t mind readers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or needing help with something- speak up! Ask for help when you need or want it.
Find ways you can simplify meal time! I used to really enjoy making more elaborate meals. In this season of life, I’m learning to find recipes that are simple and quick to cut down on stress. And we all know that managing meal time is more than just the cooking. Its the planning, shopping and cleaning too! Consider doing grocery pickup to simplify the shopping. I order groceries online and pick them up at a time that works for me – it’s a huge timesaver! Additionally, when our son was a newborn we used a lot of paper plates and even some disposable cookware. This made cleanup a breeze! Now, I don’t recommend this as a long term solution in respect to our environment but for a new mom they were a temporary lifesaver.
Use the Baby Gear
I had all the baby gear but for some reason in those early days of baby brain fog it was like I forgot they existed. I would be trying to do all the things while holding the baby because I felt like that was my only option. But then I remembered I had a bunch of other options and utilizing them immediately made things more manageable. The swing became a way for me to eat dinner with two hands, his play mat allowed him some independent play time or extra tummy time while I chopped vegetables or tended something on the stove. And the multiple baby carriers I had got a lot more use during the evening hours. The carriers offered a way for my baby to nap while I cooked or ate, or were just another way for baby to be close to me hanging out without me losing the use of my hands. If you don’t have a carrier you should absolutely get one! For mealtime or dinner prep I prefer a more structured carrier because I felt like it offered the baby more support while I was moving around the kitchen or using my hands for other things.
Don’t Be Schedule Obsessed
This was a hard one. I wanted to be able to say “We’re eating dinner at 6 tonight.” But then inevitably whichever time I picked that day is when the baby would need to eat or need to be bounced and rocked and my plans would be out the window. Over the first few weeks I learned to go more with the flow and to work around my baby’s “schedule”. Sometimes this meant keeping dinner warm in the oven while I fed the baby or it meant eating a bit earlier or later than I had planned because he was taking his pre-bed nap and I wanted to take advantage of it. But by not obsessing over when exactly dinner needed to be ready, I was able to work mealtime in whenever it was convenient and save a bit of my sanity in the process.
When in Doubt…Takeout
Takeout is for when you forgot to thaw the freezer meal, or you put it in the crockpot and baby brain forgot to tell you to turn it on. It’s for a date night at home before you’re ready to leave the baby. Takeout is for when the baby has been fussy all day and you just don’t have it in you to make dinner or for when your partner is out of town and cooking for one is too challenging. It’s for when you didn’t have time to pick up groceries or when you and the baby catch a cold at the same time. When in doubt… just order takeout!
Mealtime as a new mom can feel like a former mole hill that has suddenly turned into a mountain. But just take it day by day and find what works for you. You’ll be back in the groove in no time!