Meal Trains 101: How to Practically Help a New Mama after Delivery
Meal trains are a popular way for communities to reach out with practical help after a sweet little newborn enters the world. Here you’ll find three meal recommendations as well as a few helpful tips if you’re planning a meal train for a new mama.
Helpful Tips For Planning Meal Trains:
- If you are wanting to set up a meal train, communicate with the new mama before birth if possible. She may have others in her life that already have a plan in the works! Then, touch base after baby is born to see if any plans have changed. For example, maybe birth didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated, and the family will be in the hospital for a few days. If that’s the case, wait until the family is settled in at home before bringing meals.
- Set up meals to arrive every other day. This is so helpful when people are so gracious with the meal that they bring! Having food delivered every other day helps keep down the amount of leftovers and also lessens the amount of people stopping by right after baby is born.
- Consider using an online site to schedule the logistics of the meal train. Mamas from our Facebook Collective suggested mealtrain.com or takethemameal.com . This also allows people from out of town to sign up for delivery service, send food gift cards, or arrange someone to drop off a meal for them. You also can customize food preferences, schedules, drop off instructions and more! Mamas in the collective also noted that a site like this helps other people from the same meal train know what other people are bringing - which prevents getting the same meal delivered several nights in a row. (It happens!!)
- Always ask for food preferences or allergies. Maybe Mama was craving spicy food while she was pregnant, and now she can no longer stand the smell. Maybe the toddler in the family has a dairy allergy you were unaware of. It’s always helpful to ask for food preferences and allergies!
Helpful Tips For Bringing A Family a Meal After Baby’s Arrival:
- Drop your meal off, then gauge mom for how much she’d like to visit. In most cases, it’s totally appropriate to drop off the meal, say hello and compliment the new parents on their bundle of joy, then head out the door! Remember that the new parents are adjusting to a whole new world - along with postpartum hormones! Mama & baby may be learning to nurse, on a tight bottle feeding schedule, or just not at the same capacity as they would be in other circumstances.
- Deliver your meal in dishes that don’t need returned. Buy disposable tin serving wear, Tupperware or explain to mama that the dish is for her to keep. If you are on the receiving end of a meal train, it can be easy to be overwhelmed with whose pan belongs to who and what dish returns to what family - much less the follow through of making that happen after adjusting to life with baby!
- Don’t forget fruit! Kelly J. says “I love a good casserole but fruit was much easier to just grab and eat. I make certain to send some to all of the new mommies in my life!” Fruit, breakfast rolls, or other convenience foods are great to add to your food delivery - especially if the family also has toddlers or older kiddos.
- If you can’t sign up for a full meal, consider dropping off something smaller. Fresh fruit, wine, paper goods and breakfast foods were all mentioned by our Collective Mamas as incredibly thoughtful additions that people blessed them with in those newborn days. You never know how special a pint of ice cream can make a new mama feel!
- Don’t forget the other kiddos (or snacky Mama)! “One of the best things someone did for us that I SO appreciated was in addition to the meal, she brought pre-bagged snacks. Teddy Grahams, mini Oreos, fruit, etc all bagged in little snack baggies. It was so nice to be able to quickly and easily grab a serving!” was one of Adrian C.’s favorite parts of the meal train she received.
- Think longer than the one meal you signed up for. Francine K. says, “We loved when people brought loaves of bread, cut up fruit and veggies, and snacks (granola bars, cookies, etc.) because they were so easy to eat and we could grab whenever. Soup is also nice, reheats again and again and still tastes the same!”
So many of the mamas that chimed in during our discussion either had incredibly fond and grateful memories of the meal trains that people blessed them with, or were wishing that their community had done that for them! If you’re able to bless a mama with organizing food after baby, I know it will be remembered much longer after the meals stop coming and that little newborn isn’t so new. If you’re looking for a meal idea to bring to a new mama, we’ve got a few to get you started.