You’ve signed up for Take Them a Meal (or Meal Train) and now you’re wondering what you should take them. Maybe this is the first time you’ve taken a new mom a meal and you’re wondering what standard protocol is for this sort of thing. Maybe you’re someone who frequently participates in Take Them a Meal and Meal Train but you’re wanting to step up your postpartum meal game. If you fall into any of these categories, you’ve come to the right place!
Why I’m Sharing These Tips
As a mom of 5 (soon to be 6) I’ve received my fair share of meals over the years. Some have tasted delicious, some have not (although we’ve still been grateful), some have left a big impression on us – both good and bad.
Recently a friend from church gave birth to her 3rd child. I know how helpful receiving a meal can be. I really wanted to step-up my postpartum meal game so I decided to seek the advice and hear the experiences of other moms. I’m part of an online group for moms of large families, so between the 9,000 members, I was given so much helpful information when it comes to preparing and taking a meal.
For the first time, as someone who doesn’t consider herself a steller cook, I felt like I was able to deliver a good meal that I’m hopeful the family really enjoyed, thanks to the tips I received. And since I found the advice so helpful, I’m sharing everything I learned with you today.
Know that the tips I’m sharing here come from moms who have had a number of kids (anywhere from 3-10+) so they have had a lot of experience and have learned a lot over the years! They shared their successes and horror stories with me and now I’m sharing all of those great tips with you.
Who You Should Take a Meal To
There are lots of reasons to take a meal to a friend, fellow church member, or family member. New moms frequently receive meals from loved ones. You also should consider taking a meal to someone who recently had surgery, has been very ill, adopted a child, has a new foster placement, or lost a loved one.
In this particular post to keep things simple, I’m going to speak mainly of taking a meal to a new mom after childbirth. I think that’s when it is done most often, but keep in mind that most of these tips can be used for any of these scenarios.
Who You Should NOT Take a Meal To
All of the moms agreed, you should not, never ever, EVER take a meal to anyone when you or anyone in your family has been sick. As thoughtful as this gesture is, no one wants your sick germs. No ONE!
If you signed up to bring a meal and came down with a cold, either speak with the mom to reschedule for a later time OR order takeout for them. You can have pizza delivered right to their home (and many other things these days if you live in the right area) or you can order and arrange with the father or another family member (or church member) to pick up the food after you’ve paid for it over the phone or online.
The Most Important Things to Take Into Consideration
There are two things you must, must, must consider when fixing a meal for another family.
- Food allergies. You absolutely must check to see if the family has any food allergies and then be diligent to avoid those things.
- Food aversions and avoidances. Even if the family does not have any food allergies, you should still ask about food aversions and any things they are trying to avoid. Some new moms who are breastfeeding try to avoid onions, spicy foods, dairy, gluten, and other items that can transfer to breastmilk and cause tummy issues for a breastfeeding newborn. If a mom says her family doesn’t like pasta, now’s not the time to fix your lasagna.
Meal Train Etiquette – Other Things to Take Note of When Delivering a Meal
To be honest, some of these things may seem like a no-brainer to you and it may seem silly to include them in this list. However, I’m including these things because at least 1 mom (usually more than 1 though) who I spoke with experienced problems related to the things I’ve mentioned.
- Make sure the mom knows ahead of time when you’ll be delivering a meal. Don’t show up with food unannounced. If she doesn’t know you are coming, she may have already started another meal.
- Find out what time the family typically eats and try to make sure you’ve delivered your meal around that time or earlier in the day.
- In general, don’t take children with you. If you need to take your children, try to have them wait in the car while you take it to the door. An older, more mature child can help deliver food to the door, but you certainly don’t want to bring a child that’s going to be running through someone’s home after they just had a baby. On the last delivery, my oldest daughter went along. She’s almost 10, very mature, and had helped to prepare the meal. She was excited to help with the delivery and I knew she wouldn’t be hyper or loud.
- Don’t invite yourself in. I get it, no one loves to snuggle a newborn more than me. I love holding babies – but if you’re not invited in by mom, don’t push your way in to see the new baby. Many moms are exhausted after giving birth, are embarrassed because their house has gotten messy, or they haven’t showered and just want some quiet time.
- If mom invites you in, don’t overstay your welcome. A visit of 10-15 minutes tops is likely long enough. The exception, however, would be someone you are really close friends with or a family member. If that’s the case, then ask if they would like company or if they would prefer to just eat dinner and schedule a visit for later. There are some people who really want to spend time with visitors right after birth. Other moms just want to be able to rest. Tell her you won’t be offended if she wants to rest and just be with family, but if she’d like some company for some time, you’d also love to sit and chat.
- Don’t smell of cigarettes or strong perfume. If you do, please don’t ask to hold the baby and keep your distance from the baby. Neither of these things is good for a newborn baby to breathe in. If you smoke, make sure you’ve showered before dropping by and avoid putting on perfume that day.
- Generally, don’t ask to hold the baby. If the mom is willing to let others hold him or her, she will offer. Don’t put her in that awkward position if she doesn’t want others to hold the baby. Of course, if you’re family or a best friend, that’s different.
- Wash your hands before you hold the baby. Even if you washed your hands before you left your house, wash them again.
- Do not, I repeat, do NOT kiss the baby.
- Find out what meals others have brought already. With Take Them a Meal and Meal Train, you can typically see what other types of meals have already been taken to the family. If you don’t know, then you should definitely ask. Lots of moms responded to my question and said they got a lot of pasta. One mom said their family ate spaghetti for 6 straight nights. Another popular dish that apparently gets prepared a lot is lasagna.
- Make sure you take enough food for the family size.
- Ask mom if you can schedule a time to come back and spend time with her. In a few days or weeks, her husband will be headed back to work. It’s often very helpful to have someone stop by then and hold the baby so mom can get a shower, help her fold some laundry, play with the older kids, or just enable mom to have some adult conversation.
- Don’t deliver a meal with the intent to eat with the family…unless you wait a few weeks/months after the baby is born. We had some great friends of ours bring food and stay to visit when Aram was probably 2 months old. It was so lovely! We hadn’t had a chance to visit with them in years and we had a wonderful time. This would likely have been stressful if I was only 1 or 2 weeks postpartum, but at this point, it was just a great time! Just make sure if you do intend to eat with the family, it’s a few weeks after baby and make sure they are aware of that ahead of time.
- If there is an online meal sign-up form (either Take Them a Meal or Meal Train) make sure you utilize it and sign up on there so others know the day is already taken. If at all possible, please list what you plan to bring as well. This also helps others bringing meals not to bring the same thing(s) you bring.
How to Make Your Meal Shine – It’s the Little Things
Taking a few little extra steps can really set your meal apart. Some of the great tips I learned are:
- Take the family disposable plates, cutlery, cups, and napkins with your meal. This saves mom and dad from having to wash any dishes afterward. If you have the extra money, just give them the full pack(s) of each. They will be useful over the next few weeks!
- Take the meal itself in disposable dishes. Otherwise, mom is trying to coordinate getting all of those dishes back to their owners. (Plus, again, something mom has to wash.) Casserole dishes can pile up quickly in a kitchen and it can be hard to remember which dishes belong to which families. Imagine if you had a week’s worth of meals brought to you and then had to store and return 7 days’ worth of dishes. Yikes! Yes, it costs a few dollars more, but the mom and dad will appreciate this gesture so much! If you must take your dinner in dishes you will need to have returned, let the mom know of a time within the next day or so when you’ll swing back by to pick it up.
- Include a special beverage. If the parents drink wine, include a bottle. Not wine drinkers? Pack sparkling cider, a jug of apple cider in the fall, lemonade in the summer, etc.
Go the Extra Mile with the Food if You Can
None of the items mentioned here are expected by new moms, so don’t feel pressured to do any of these. But, if you’re looking for some ideas to make your drop off even better, here are some suggestions.
- Plan for (picky) Kids. I don’t know about you, but after birth, I usually crave healthy, wholesome foods. One time a friend brought me homemade butternut squash soup. To be honest, this is not something I’d typically gravitate towards but it was SO good after giving birth. I loved it and enjoyed the leftovers the next day. I even asked her for the recipe and have made it a few times since then. Another time a friend brought us a Caesar salad with chicken. Hearty, healthy meals are great for a new mom, however, kids tend to be pickier and may not love the wholesome, delicious foods you bring for mom. If you’re planning a meal that the children may turn their noses up, pack a little something extra for the kids or make sure your meal includes aspects that kids will like. When my friend fixed me the butternut squash soup, she also brought naan bread to go with the soup and I know my kids enjoyed having that to dip in the soup. If the meal is something that likely won’t like at all, consider including something simple for the kids like chicken nuggets, a frozen pizza, or even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If the kids end up enjoying the main meal, they can always eat the bonus items for lunch the next day.
- Pack a fresh fruit and/or veggie tray. My regular readers know that I have home births. For one of my home births, the midwife’s assistant brought fresh strawberries from her garden for me. I still remember how AMAZING those tasted after giving birth. We all know how tough it can be to get out to the grocery store after having a baby. Packing some fresh fruits and veggies is something wholesome and delicious the family can snack on during the day. Include some dip for the veggies too if you can.
- Pack a dessert. Everyone enjoys a great dessert, so add that if you can.
- Pack a breakfast. Take something easy for mom to fix the next day like muffins or a breakfast casserole that she can just pop in the oven to bake. (Again, disposable dishes if you can.)
- Pack quick snacks. Things like granola bars, packaged crackers, etc. are a nice touch for the kids and mom to munch on.
- Take a freezer meal for later. If you want to really go above and beyond, take a second meal that mom can put in her freezer to fix at a later date. Often when dad heads back to work that’s when things get really tough. Having a few freezer meals for crazy days can be a huge help! A friend of mine said that one time she had a meal delivered with frozen balls of cookie dough so in the weeks ahead if she wanted to bake a few fresh cookies for her family, she could just pop them in the oven. Such a cool idea! Just make sure you include baking directions if you make something like that.
- Check to see if you can pick anything else up for the new mom. You never know, they may almost be out of toilet paper and need to plan a grocery trip just for that. Or, maybe she wants to order a Walmart pickup for the family and you can stop on your way and grab it for her. These little errands can be a huge help, especially if baby doesn’t like riding in the car.
Other Nice Gestures
I know, I know. I mentioned a lot of things already and once again, the things mentioned in this section are never expected by moms. However, if you’re wanting to really bless a new mom, these are some of the things mentioned to me that were really appreciated.
- Restaurant gift cards. These are useful so that mom and dad can order takeout on a night when fixing dinner would be difficult because of a fussy, needy baby. They are especially nice to have when the family is trying to adjust to dad heading back to work.
- A card congratulating the family on the new arrival.
- A small gift for baby: a cute sleeper, a small package of diapers or wipes, etc. You can also check out this list of the best gifts for babies.
- A gift for the new mom. Often everything is about the baby and moms start to feel forgotten. I’ve got a huge list of gift ideas for moms if you’re looking for ideas.
- A gift to keep older children busy.
- An offer to help (either at drop off or a scheduled time down the road) with household chores, childcare, etc.
- Include the recipe card(s) for the food you make. Some of my favorite recipes are ones I discovered from meals that were brought to me.
The Best Meal Train Meals to Take
Looking for inspiration for a yummy meal to take to the new mom? Here are some favorite recipes.