Not everyone can hire a postpartum doula, nor has the family and friends able, willing or experienced to help during the postpartum weeks. Often, Dad must return to work within a week and Mom is left alone at home. Even with two parents home, taking care of one child, let alone multiple, can be an overwhelming task. Reality is, we just weren't meant to do so much on our own, despite the number of years the western world has been putting independence on a pedestal. Unfortunately, our culture is seeing the results of dispersed families, loan and credit card living, and lack of real community for the basic tasks of daily survival.
Nevertheless, this is our reality and tips to help us make it through the early parenting weeks and months are incredibly helpful. Preparing for postpartum can be super easy when you start around your 36th week of pregnancy. This gives you plenty of time to make freezer meals slowly while also getting you ready for if baby comes a little sooner than you might expect.
12 Tips for Prepping Postpartum Meals
- Keep postpartum meals wholesome. It is easy to make heavy casseroles and comfort food, which often freeze well, and then not feel nourished when you need well balanced nutrition for optimal hormonal balancing and breastfeeding nourishment. Comfort food is filling and yummy, and there's nothing wrong with this now and then - but remember to keep most of your meals nourishing and digestible to support a healthy milk supply, and emotional well-being. Eat food blends that cover all the colors of the rainbow, especially green.
- Double up postpartum meals. One of the easiest ways to prepare postpartum meals is to simply double your recipe for any meal and freeze half. This allows very little extra time spent prepping additional foods.
- Single serve frozen postpartum meals. It is common to freeze a big dinner for the whole family, but remember that Mom may be spending a lot of time alone in the house and may not need to heat up a whole meal - not to mention the extra time needed to thaw a larger meal. Freeze breakfast or lunch burritos that can be warmed up when you want something a little more than a sandwich but don’t want to thaw out a whole dish. If you’re a smaller family, get 3-4 meals out of your leftovers by packaging them in separate (disposable) containers. This takes us to our next point.
- Thaw your postpartum meals the night before. Once you have your calendar made, it will be easy to know what you're having and remember to set your meal in the refrigerator for faster cooking the next day.
- Meal Calendar Planning for postpartum meals. Make a calendar weekly (or even for the first 6 weeks) of at least dinner options so that you don’t have to use energy to think about a wholesome meal which means you also save time (and likely money) when making a grocery list and shopping.
- Love your crock pot for postpartum meals. Crockpots are great for large pots of soup, casseroles, whole chickens and vegetables, and leftovers.
- Splurge on organic and preservative-free processed foods. Everyone loves pantry items for convenience, but don't let convenience trump quality. Spend some time canning your own soup or spend a little extra on higher quality brands in the health"ier" food sections to be sure you don't get bogged down with clogging chemicals when you need to feel your best.
- Make snack platters and fill bottles. A great job for the birth partner, or anyone stopping by to help, is to prep the snack platters by opening any packages, washing any produce, and getting things ready to go for quick eating throughout the week. Make a fruit and cheese tray. Prep a veggie and fruit tray. Do this every 2-3 days so you always have something fresh to eat while Dad is away, or when not even heating the freezer meal is an option. Don’t forget to fill up reusable water bottles that can be tossed anywhere without spilling and placed at all the nursing places throughout the house. These quick prep options also encourage mom to get out and get some sunshine and social time as the weeks go by because packing healthy snacks takes only seconds for you and any siblings.
- Keep snacks and drinks reachable. If you have older children that aren’t quite at the independent stage, prep snacks for you and them at a reachable height. This means they can go into the pantry or the refrigerator and easily grab healthy snacks and foods for themselves without your help for those marathon nursing sessions. Don’t forget to include your own snacks at this height so they can bring you food or drinks when getting up is a little difficult. Don’t forget items that they can make themselves to occupy their mind and hands, too, like lunch meat and cheese, roasted chickpeas, peanut butter, or pesto which makes an amazing dip or sandwich spread.
- Use an eCalendar planning service for postpartum meals. Don't forget baby showers, blessingways, church groups, and any other network you're affiliated with for their desire to help postpartum. A simple online web search will provide you with many options for meal calendar sign up aps and services to share. These not only allow date sign-ups, but also provide options for take-out, gift cards, and sending meal boxes by mail for loved ones far away to lend a hand (not to mention house cleaning and yard work). You can alternate these between your freezer meals and you can save your meals for when the help stops. Don’t forget these postpartum help cards to hand out when you write your baby shower thank you notes.
- Cool meals completely before freezing. Don’t forget to let your meals to be frozen completely cool before packaging to reduce sogginess when reheating and prevent thawing out foods when you put them in the freezer.
- Be conscientious about food storage. Disposable trays are wonderful when avoiding the extra task of cleanup during postpartum but unfortunately these options are often limited to aluminum (which is a neurotoxin) or BPA or other chemically-lined paperware. When possible, use glass for storage. Bake in glass dishes and then store in something else, and where you’re able reheat in glass.
Looking for a few postpartum meal options? Check out these recipes:
- Apple Squash Soup - Wonderfully nourishing to the immune system and an excellent cool weather comforting meal.
- Wild Rice Casserole - Casseroles are both easy to make and filling, and this one is doubly nourishing without all the heavy starches typical of casserole dishes.
- Nettle Lasange - Twist up your lasagne dish with nutrient packed nettles - great for nourishment for the whole family, and for breastmilk. (Don't have fresh nettles? Sub 1/2 the amount the recipe calls for with dried nettles and a little water to reconstitute and blend in your sauce).
- Broccoli Parmesean Vegetarian Meatballs - Excellent for a meatless meal, a snack, a side dish, or a main course.
- 10 Crockpot No Cook Freezer Meals - Here is a great list of meal prep without the need to cook-ahead and all it requires is opening the bag and pouring in a crockpot for an easy peasy fresh dinner. Excellent for the postpartum doula bag, too.
What was your favorite postpartum meal?