Meal Planning in Advance of Baby
So your nursery is ready. The baby shower(s) is over and you can’t squeeze a single additional onesie into that newly assembled dresser. Baby proofing remains... a work in progress but now you ask yourself “what else can I do to prepare for this little one’s arrival?”
One of the most critical aspects of successful breastfeeding is the nutritional component thereof. Another important detail is managing stress levels within the household. Every parent agrees that a new child brings about anxieties never before experienced. “Why is she crying? Is he hungry? Did she sleep enough? Is he warm?” Don’t let the basic need of self-nourishment add to those stress levels.
Meal prepping can be beneficial in a multitude of ways. First, having pre-made meals simplifies life within the household and answers that timeless question (“Hun, what’s for dinner?”) Also, with the new child monopolizing just about every ounce of time & patience, having meals planned out for several weeks reduces stress through organization. Eating take out every night is not a realistic plan. A meal train from a local group is a God-send if you can muster that sort of support structure, but just how many casseroles are you prepared to tackle? Thinking of having grandma move in & help make meals? That’s probably more a stress factory rather than a sound lifestyle choice. Successful planning benefits not just mom & dad, but also helps baby by promoting increased lactation.
This is why a month to go before the arrival date is a great time to consider meal prepping for the weeks follow new baby’s arrival. Odds are good that you won’t be traveling much by this point of the pregnancy and probably won’t want to be doing any heavy lifting. So why not spend some productive time in the kitchen?
Three main aspects to consider when trying to successfully meal plan before baby arrives. First is the taste/enjoyment of the meal. Second is the nutritional benefits of the meal. And the third is in the storage/packing demands of the dish. Obviously, it is smart to consider making 2.5-3 portions of meals per prepped item to account for the new mom burning 200-500 additional calories/day breastfeeding. Leftovers are never put to waste.
So taste and enjoyment are important aspects of your meal plan. It’s important to consider how that lasagna or chicken pot pie will fare for a couple months in the freezer. Generally speaking, chicken, fish and other hearty dishes maintain flavor the best within the freezer and stand the greatest chance of preserving that enjoyment factor. More delicate dishes like Risotto or rice dishes might be better preparing from scratch on a weekend evening when time is in greater abundance.
Nutrition is also vitally important to successfully meal plan. Our experience has been that meals rich in garlic, ginger, fennel, carrots & raw nuts/spices will help promote lactation. Omega 3s from salmon and other sources are very beneficial to the effort. From a morning meals standpoint, oats are a substantial help as well.
Finally storage considerations remain a critical aspect of your meal preparation plan. If you don’t have a spare ice chest freezer and you have the space I’d encourage you to consider acquiring one. Inexpensive Tupperware (Glad, etc.) can help with organization & stack-ability. As tempting as it may be to put everything you prep into a baking dish, you’ll find storing it in a freezer to be challenging. Making a list of the meals you have ready in the freezer to track what’s remaining isn’t a bad idea either.
So there you have it…. meal planning 101. I do hope you find some of this advice as helpful as my wife and I did during our first couple months. If you plan it correctly, about the time you start getting sick of the dishes you’ve prepared will be about the time you, your partner & little one will have some degree of routine established and can resume nightly culinary activities.