Food for thought
10 ways to help you organise meals around the demands of parenthood
By Emma Biggar, IBCLCLast updated 18th of September 2019
We all know that having children can be such a demanding and time consuming endeavour. Sometimes we might find ourselves relying on snacks, microwave meals and takeaway just to get by. Or perhaps you have resorted to living on toast and cereal. There might even be times we find ourselves so busy caring for the needs of our little ones that we can forget to attend to our own needs (such as remembering to eat). A "hangry" mummy is not ideal for anyone. While we don't need to follow any special diet to breastfeed it does help to keep our own bodies fuelled so that we can continue nourishing our babies. Planning what you will eat ahead of time can save you both time and money in the long run. There are a number of ways you can go about this. The following is a list of things families have found helpful to work around the demands of breastfeeding and life with young children.
1. Old fashioned meal plan
You might find just sitting down with a pen and paper to write out a bunch of easy meals you can cook throughout the week is enough to get you through. There are plenty of nice note pads and boards you can use and pin up to refer back to as reminders throughout the week if you so choose. Don't forget to include snacks and meals other than just dinner if this is going to help you remember to eat. This can also reduce some of the mental energy needed to come up with food ideas later on when you're already tired and hungry.
2. Meal kits
You might like to try one of the home delivery meal kit services that allows you to select from a range of meals to cook for the week with the exact ingredients for each recipe delivered right to your door. As an added bonus this reduces the need to do the grocery shopping while providing you with an opportunity to try new foods and/or cooking methods. You might find this helpful just to get you through the busy weeks here and there or decide to continue with something like this long term.
There's always an app for that. There are apps that can also help you create weekly or monthly meal plans. Paprika is one such app where you can upload all your favourite recipes and plug them into a calendar to create a meal plan. Better still you can use the recipes you've added into the app to generate a shopping list with just a few clicks of a button, further saving you time and mental energy.
It's often helpful to have conversations with your partner about expectations and how you are both going to work as a team when it comes to eating (including the cooking and grocery shopping). For some families, this might mean one person preps food earlier in the day, ready for the other to cook. In other families the role of cooking is delegated to the non-breastfeeding partner, even if only temporarily or on certain days of the week. It's common for the evenings to be a time when babies needs a lot of extra cuddles and breastfeeds, rendering you unavailable to attend to any cooking during that time. You still need to eat and if you have other children they will need to eat too. Sharing the load can help you both get through the evenings as best as possible. (Click here to read more about cluster feeding or here to read about surviving the witching hour).
5. Invest in a slow cooker
A slow cooker has proven to be a wonderful investment for many families as another way to prep meals earlier in the day when the baby is more settled, allowing peace of mind that a hot meal will be available later on when things may be a little more chaotic.
6. Dump bags
To further simplify meal prep, either for the slow cooker or just in general, you might find looking into "dump bags" helpful. This is where you put all the ingredients needed together, prepped and ready, which is then placed in the fridge or freezer to be cooked when needed. You'll need to use bags or containers that are fridge/freezer safe but these are easy to come by.
7. Batch cooking
Alternatively, you might like to try batch cooking, spending a day ahead of time to cook a big batch of one or two meals that can be divided into individual portions then frozen, ready to be reheated throughout the week.
You might like to join a Mamabake and swap meals with other families who have also cooked a big batch so that there is a bit more variety throughout the week. You might even find it fun to have a weekly get together with friends to do a big cook up that can feed all the families.
9. One handed snacks
Don't forget to plan food throughout the day and not just the evening meal. It can be helpful to come up with a list of food you can eat with one hand so that, if you are stuck breastfeeding for long periods, you can still nibble on something to keep you going. This might be muslibars, biscuits, fruit, raw vegetables, nuts, cheese and crackers, wraps or sandwiches just to name a few.
10. Set an alarm
Sometimes we can do all the planning we like and still find ourselves forgetting to make time to eat or skip meals. For some parents, setting alarms to go off throughout the day or reminders in our phone can help encourage us to take the time to refuel our body.
Don't forget to drink! Breastfeeding can be thirsty work. Many mothers find it helpful to keep a bottle of water handy to help remind them to drink as well as keep an idea on how much you've consumed each day. Drink to thirst rather than trying to aim for a set amount to stay comfortably hydrated.
Emma Biggar is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Registered Nurse and mother of three. Emma provides in-home breastfeeding and early parenting support to families in the Eastern and South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Click here to read more about the types of services available or here to visit the online booking page. Contact Emma by email here or visit her website or Facebook page.