I never really understood how important it is to feed friends who've just had a baby, until I had a baby myself last year. I always thought bringing a meal was a nice gesture, but it's actually way more than that. It's a lifeline, a blessing in the truest, deepest, not-just-a-flippant-hashtag kind of way.
The standard "new baby meal" is a casserole. It's easy to make, easy to serve, and makes good leftovers. But you want to know the truth? It might not be what a new mom really wants or needs to eat. Here's what you should bring instead.
Rules to Live by When Bringing Food to New Parents
1. Make it completely hands-off.
There should be no prep of any kind required to eat what you've brought — no cooking (obviously), but also no chopping, no mixing, no supplementing with what they might or might not have. This is ready-to-eat, extreme. Foods for new parents should require the use of a hand or fork, maybe a few minutes in the microwave or oven, but that's it.
If that all sounds like a bit much, it's not. When you're frayed on all edges, even the smallest task can feel like a huge hurdle, so the kindest thing you can do for your new mom friend is to make eating your food as easy as possible. I guarantee if you drop off a bunch of whole vegetables so she can make a wonderful salad for herself, those vegetables will rot in the fridge. Instead chop and assemble all the ingredients in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag (leaving the dressing on the side), so all she has to do is dump it out and eat.
2. Don't pester them with preference questions.
I know this may be controversial, but here goes: A lot of people recommend asking a new mom what foods she's craving or avoiding before bringing over a meal, but I say no — don't do this. The last thing a new mom has time or brain space for is to respond to all her friends asking her what she wants, or doesn't want. Again, the point is to provide your friend with the path of least resistance, and not having to self-analyze any more than necessary is part of that.
What about food sensitivities? Some new moms avoid dairy and other gas-producing foods like onions, garlic, and broccoli if they feel it's passing through their milk and bothering their newborn. The majority of new moms I know have had no such restrictions; however, if you'd like to be on the safe side, confirm with a partner or a family member (leave the mom in peace), or just avoid those ingredients in your meal.
3. Drop off and leave.
There's a time to talk and coo over the new baby, but that time is not in the first few days or weeks. When you bring food to new parents, don't linger. Drop off the food, give them a hug, tell them you love them and are so happy for them, and then leave.
Even better? Don't require that they see you at all. As one Kitchn reader put it, "I literally drop [food] off on the doorstep when I bring meals, and then I text them a few minutes later to say I left a little something on the porch."
Blueberries are a wonderful treat for a new mom.
5 Foods to Bring New Parents Besides a Casserole
Many moms I know craved fruit in the first few weeks after having a baby (I did as well). It's so refreshing, easy to eat, and fights constipation, which is a common side effect after giving birth. Give your friend a big container of blueberries or strawberries, make a fruit salad in a jar, or assemble a big ol' bowl of chopped fruit and top it with a sweet vinaigrette to help keep the fruit from browning.
What Kitchn readers say about it:
I'm a first-time mom (holding my 3-week-old strapped to my chest right now) and if someone would just bring me lots of cut-up fresh fruit and washed-and-cut crudite, I'd die of happiness. Fruit and veg are the first things to go when you're tired and desperate. - lasomnambule
My friends are usually more than covered with offerings for dinner and lunch, so I often bring over a big bowl of mixed fruit (blackberries, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, etc.) with a little bit of mint sugar to have for breakfast, dessert, or snacks. Not only is it good for a quick bite, it doesn't upset the baby's tummy (like onions and/or dairy) and it helps with Mom's digestion. - morganong
Yes to the fresh foods. All I wanted in the world the first month or two with both of my children was fresh fruit and veggies and something to drink. Things that are filling and easy to eat with one hand. - njdrake77
New moms, me certainly, adore fresh fruit and veg especially if they deliver in the summer. So refreshing with hormone flashes and nursing taking a lot out of you. - JudiAU
Hydration is an often-overlooked part of feeding new parents, but it's a wonderful treat — not to mention essential for nursing moms. Smoothies, fresh-squeezed juice, lemonade, and sparkling water would all be wonderful drinks to bring a new mom, while a little cold beer or a bottle of wine could help them feel like regular human beings again.
What Kitchn readers say about it:
As a newly breastfeeding mom, I craved diluted juice. Someone who would have brought a bunch of apple and cranberry juice would have been my favorite person! - desertisburning
When I was a new mom I LOVED that people brought me beer and wine in addition to food. I'm not a huge drinker, but being able to drink after months of not doing so made me feel like my own person and not just a mom. - displaynamehasalreadybeentaken
3. Nutritious snacks.
Full-on meals that fill up the freezer and provide leftovers are great, but what a new mom really needs are nutritious snacks she can eat with one hand, at any time of day. Things like cheese cubes, hummus, granola bars, muffins, snacking cookies, roasted nuts, crudité with dip, or even a loaf of crusty bread, sharp cheese, or a container of meatballs are all perfect.
And don't forget about snacks you can purchase, like any one of these glorious treats from Trader Joe's.
What Kitchn readers say about it:
In addition to casseroles and other freezer-friendly meals, I *really* appreciated having homemade snack food on hand since my husband and I found ourselves up at all hours of the night during those first couple months. Homemade muffins, quick breads, and cookies were just the perfect thing to eat to give me the little boost of energy I needed at 3:00 a.m.! (And as any breastfeeding mama will tell you, you are incredibly HUNGRY during those early weeks!) I really appreciated having some lighter food options in addition to all the heavier foods in the freezer - anniebaird
As a relatively new mom myself, anything you can eat one-handed is awesome. So, puree that soup, make wraps, burritos, or sandwiches, customize some trail or snack mix, or put together a wholesome relish tray that can be picked at throughout the afternoon (or late evening). - Lorena in SD
4. Breakfast foods.
Most people think about lunch and dinner recipes, but not breakfast — but breakfast may be the most important meal of the day for new parents! They're likely exhausted and starving from a long, sleepless night, so it's excellent to provide something tasty and nutritious they can eat first thing in the morning.
Homemade granola, Greek yogurt, frittatas, quiches, muffins, banana bread, bagels, and breakfast burritos are all great options here. Also, oatmeal is thought to be an excellent galactagogue, so a pot of oatmeal would also be great, and it would last all week. (You could also make your new mom friend a week's worth of single-serving oatmeal in jars!)
5. One-handed meals.
As we wrote here, one-handed snacks meals make it easy for a new mom to get nourishment while she's feeding her baby. The ultimate one-handed meal is, of course, the burrito — and bonus that it's so freezer-friendly! A box of ready-to-eat burritos or wraps stuffed with nutritious ingredients, like roasted vegetables, beans, lentils, or meat, would be a tremendously helpful gift for new parents.
(Worried about wrapping that burrito? Here's how to do it so it won't fall apart.)
What meals or foods do you like to bring a friend who just had a baby? What do you wish someone had brought you?
(Image credits: Rachel Joy Baransi; David Hopler of D Squared Photo & Video; Leela Cyd; Christine Gallary; Izy Hossack; Emma Christensen; Kelli Foster)