Taking care of babies is physically draining. Not only do they prevent you from sleeping the amount you would like but, if you are breastfeeding, they are literally feeding off of you. It is therefore very important to keep new parents fed, and providing tasty, easy meals is one of the nicest things you can do for them.
Photo by Steven Depolo.
When two of my best friends had twins last year, I volunteered to go down and "help" for a week. (As the older sibling of a set of twins, I thought I was somewhat prepared. I was not.) Besides changing diapers and providing an extra set of arms to hold tiny humans, my main role was feeding the larger humans, and the key was to keep things convenient and tasty. If you're not totally sure what "convenient" means, I would follow our very own Beth Skwarecki's advice and "just imagine the person trying to put something together with a baby in their lap/arm. If they can still mostly manage, it should be fine." Beyond that, there are few other things you can do to keep your favourite parents fuelled and happy:
- Don't give them dishes to do: New parents already have plenty of washing up to do, both in and out of the kitchen, so it's best to avoid adding to their chores. You can bring food in disposable dishes or, if the idea of disposable cookware is abhorrently wasteful, you can always offer your services as a dishwasher.
- Make a big batch of something, and freeze it into individual servings: Soups, stews, pasta dishes and casseroles all hold up well in the freezer, and freezing them into individual portions lets you friends defrost what they need as they need it. Bonus points if you freeze the food flat in freezer bags, which not only makes storage easier, but helps preserve the flavour and the texture of your dishes. Even more bonus points if you make a couple of loaves of really good bread: One for now, and one that goes into the freezer for later.
- Utilise your muffin tins: Muffin tins aren't just for muffins, though that's an excellent use for them. Though a batch of your famous blueberry muffins would no doubt be welcome, you can also use the trusty tin to make a batch of hearty omelettes or a bunch of "smoothie starters" for breakfast all week.
- Give mum foods she's been missing: I will never forget the abject horror I experienced when I learned that pregnant people weren't supposed to eat deli meat. (I understood that martinis were a casualty of the miracle of life, but prosciutto seemed a step too far.) If your friend has been missing out on charcuterie, head to your local purveyor of fancy meats and get that parent a meat (and probably cheese) tray. Rather than handing over half a kilogram of prosciutto -- which can be very challenging to separate even without an infant on your hip -- look for ways to make these salt snack easy to consume. Prosciutto wrapped around melon or pineapple chunks, salami secured about a little ball of mozzarella or cherry tomato, and goat cheese-wrapped grapes are all winners. Throw a jar of good olives and some fancy almonds in there and you have yourself one fancy snack board.
- Don't forget beverages: Water is the best beverage around, but it is very boring. If you know mamma is a big fan of a certain lemonade, juice or sparkling water, get her a case of her favourite brand, and never underestimate the restorative power or really good coffee or tea. (If mum is avoiding caffeine while breastfeeding, go ahead and throw a bag of beans in for who ever isn't, so they can pick up an early morning shift or two.)
- Bake cookies: Cookies are always welcome and they can be eaten straight from the freezer, which means you don't have to worry about them going bad. I made these lactation cookies for my friend while I was visiting, and everybody, myself and dad included, enjoyed the heck out of them. (I can't however comment on whether or not these cookies help with lactation; I didn't notice any difference.)
Also, don't forget to round your gift basket or gift out with some tasty snacks. Trail mix, dried fruit, homemade energy bars, and whole pieces of fruit are all prime picks for easy eating.