13 Tips for Taking Meals to a New Mom

I'm a brand-new mom to this stud. Yay! Being a mom is seriously the best, but it's exhausting. It takes every little bit of you to pour into that new little life. They are so helpless. They are also sleepless. As are you. This translates to you being shower-less, restless and food-less.

I recognize that many people aren't part of an organization, work environment or church that reaches out with meals during this huge life change. To be honest, I can't imagine not having the meals that were graciously provided by members of our church -- some who I had only briefly met once or twice. Of all the help I received, the meals were what I appreciated most. Honestly. We were bombarded with everything from homemade chicken pot pie to take-out. If we had not had that food, we would have either a) starved or b) gone broke from eating out, because there was no way either of us were cooking on a whole two hours of sleep.

If you're considering taking a meal to a new mom, or are looking to start a meal program at your church or organization, here are some firsthand tips on what I consider to be the most important things to keep in mind when doing so.

1. Get organized.
This is definitely the easiest part of the whole thing. There are several free resources available to organize meal-planning for those in need. Our church regularly uses Take Them A Meal, a site that lets you create a meal schedule with details about special requests. Participants sign up with their name, email address, what they are planning on bringing and their contact information. A follow-up email is then sent the day before to remind you about your commitment to bring them a meal. There's also Meal Train, Care Calendar, Meal Baby and Caring Meals.

2. Make a meal.
I know, I know. It's a given. But you'd be surprised how often I see someone duck out of a meal commitment for one reason or another. It's one thing if you have a legitimate situation, but please, if you've signed up to take someone a meal, be reliable. As I learned, that one meal might be the only thing they have to look forward to all day! 

3. Make it a full meal.
This isn't a call to go overboard. But don't forget the little things that are often overlooked, like dessert, or bread to go with a pasta dish. Go the extra mile and spend the extra $3-$5 to make sure they have something sweet to eat afterwards. And as a new mom who was desperate for caffeine, receiving a 2-liter of Diet Dr. Pepper with a meal was the best! That extra $1 made a huge difference. And if you have the heart to do so, feel free to make a bigger portion than necessary -- leftovers are always appreciated, since no one was packing my husband's lunch the next day.

4. Insist on it.
Do you ever watch The Office? There's one scene where Dwight is offering Pam a bagel, and she turns him down. He responds by saying, "Oh, that's right, you're a woman and you need to refuse food the first time." That's pretty much the story when it comes to new moms and meal coordinating. We sometimes feel guilty asking for help. So, please don't ask. Insist. I'm glad the lady who coordinated my meal schedule insisted.

5.  Be clear on dietary restrictions.
If someone in the house is gluten-intolerant, it won't be much help to send a regular pasta dish. Can I get an amen?

6. Be clear on food preferences {aka, "picky eaters"}
While a new mom should be incredibly grateful for any meal that comes her way, it can be hard to get excited about vegetable soup when you have a three-year-old who you know will refuse to eat it. Ask beforehand if there are any preferable food types {Mexican, a pasta dish, etc.}. This gives them some control over what their family will and won't eat.

7. Keep it simple.
This isn't the time to try that brand new complicated recipe that you're too nervous to make for your own family. Provide something tried-and-true that you know they will enjoy. Don't treat new moms as a dummy for new {complicated} recipe experiments.

8. Get the details.
How many people will be eating? Are they adults or children? What time should you drop off the food? Where will you drop off the food? More than likely, the new mom will barely have her head above water and will need someone to ask these questions.

9. Don't plan to visit too long {and tell them that}.
I realize this might be difficult and even controversial. New mom equals new baby, and everyone loves a new baby. They're soft and squishy and smell like heaven. But the mom is unshaved and also squishy and smells like breast milk and last night's spit-up. And no matter how many times you insist, she will feel the need to tidy up and get herself together before you come over. If you want to give a new mom a huge sigh of relief, tell her beforehand that you can't visit long, but that you want to drop off the food.
Please don't get me wrong. We want you to hold our babies and love on them. And we really, truly do love your company. But in those first weeks of having a baby, it can be hard to hold a regular conversation. When they say it's survival, they were right. Just keep that in mind when dropping by. As grateful as I was for the meal, when the person plopped on my couch for two hours, I wanted to curl up and die. Like, literally. I wanted to die. And sleep. Neither of which I could do with a visitor on my couch.

10. Don't feel the need to cook.
Some of the best "meals" we got were gift cards to our favorite take-out spots. We also received a few meals that were purchased at the restaurant and dropped off with us. We didn't care. A burrito's a burrito's a burrito. We just wanted to eat.

11. Be low-maintenance.
Don't bring us a pie in your grandmother's antique pie dish and explain to us how it should be cleaned and how we can return it to you {and when}. I feel terrible, but I still have pans and serving dishes from people who brought us meals two months ago. If I pull it together enough to clean the dish and get it to church, I'm not going to have the time to hunt you down with a hungry, crying newborn in my arms. Bring disposable containers, or come to the realization that you might never see your dishes again. Or, if you do, they will be on this blog.

12.  Let them know ahead of time if the meal needs to be cooked.
I was so thankful to receive a heads up by families that were sending casseroles that needed to be baked. My oven takes a good 15 minutes to heat up, and I always had it blazing hot when I knew the food was going to be walking through the door. And for the record, I didn't mind one bit when I had to bake the food -- it made the house smell good!

13. Don't expect the appreciation you deserve.
Taking meals to people can sometimes feel like thankless work. I know, because I am a person who takes offense easily. It's something I have to work on. And when I used to bring people meals, I'd sometimes feel like my hard work and time wasn't appreciated. I didn't receive many thank-you notes or follow-ups. And you know what? I had no clue how hard it was to be a new mom. Now I do.
I am a huge believer in thank-you cards. In the 7th grade, I forgot to write a thank-you card for the $5 bill I received from a family member who will go unnamed. I never got that $5 again. I learned my lesson. I rarely forget to do so, but when I received meals, I didn't sent out one. It's not because I wasn't thankful -- it was because I literally could not. So please, don't take offense if you don't receive the thanks you deserve. Because we really are thankful. Really.

This list isn't meant to be some sort of new-mom commands.

"Feed us, do it right, or else."

This is just for those who are new to this and are looking for suggestions. And they're just that -- suggestions. You don't have to take them. I just know that personally, these were very, very helpful. Having a baby is one of the most stressful events in a person's life, and taking new moms a meal is a great way to bless them.

Below the signature, I've added the links to several of the recipes on All Kinds of Yumm that were big hits with new moms, in case you need some suggestions.

Love and a HUGE thanks to all the meal makers out there,

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