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We just had our third baby and our whole family is totally over the moon but can I tell you a dirty little secret?
I forgot how hard cooking with a newborn can be.
Obviously I’ve done it before and apparently successfully since the rest of the family is still alive and well (knock on wood) but I literally have zero recollection of cooking when my older kids were babies.
And I mean ZERO.
I guess that’s what sleep deprivation does. Take more pictures of the newborn phase people because exhausted you won’t remember it later.
In the hopes of helping my fellow exhausted parents out there I decided to write this post about how to overcome the challenges of cooking with a newborn. If you have any brilliant tips of your own to add please share them in the comments. Us parents have to stick together!
Challenge: Grocery Shopping Takes Forever
Getting out the door with a newborn can feel like an insurmountable task sometimes.
First feed the baby.
Then change a diaper.
Pack the diaper bag.
Buckle the baby into the carseat.
Unbuckle the baby from the carseat.
Change another diaper.
Re-buckle the baby into the carseat.
Drive to the store.
Change another diaper.
Feed the baby.
Strap the baby into a front pack.
Finally grocery shop.
I’m exhausted just writing this list and it doesn’t even include all the required steps to get home and unload the groceries. Grocery shopping with a newborn (or any child under the age of two) just plain sucks. Especially bending over for things on the lowest shelf with a wobbly infant strapped to you.
After you have a baby the name of the game is to minimize the number of times you have to go to the grocery store and to do that, you have a couple of options:
Grocery Shop in Bulk
Did you know that there are moms out there like Joanie from Simple Living Mama that successfully grocery shop just once a month? It requires some extra planning but gosh darn if it doesn’t save a lot of time in the long run. I love that having her third kid was the tipping point to switch to monthly grocery shopping trips. Yuuuuup!
Sign Up for a Grocery Subscription Service
It’s no secret that I love Misfits Market. I mean, who doesn’t love getting discounted organic produce delivered directly to their door?
Tell you what, now that we’ve had our third kid I’m even more in love with the service. I place my order on my phone while feeding the baby (hello convenience!) and wonderful organic groceries show up on our doorstep a few days later.
It doesn’t get any easier.
Or better priced for most of the organic produce.
The pandemic really transformed grocery delivery from an extravagance to an essential service. Literally. Why not take advantage of it? I wish we could have skipped the whole global infectious disease thing to get to this point but we’re here now and grocery services are a godsend for parents with newborns at home.
Another grocery delivery service I’m positively wild about is our bi-monthly wild-caught, sustainable seafood subscription from Wild Alaskan Company. Sign up here for your own Wild Alaskan Company account and get $25 off your first box. Their sockeye salmon is the BEST.
Have a Friend or Family Member Do It for You
If you’re fortunate enough to live near friends and family there’s no shame in asking for a little bit of help. Ask them to pick up a couple of items for you the next time they’re at the store. Even if they only save you one trip out of many, that’s still one less time you have to fight to get out the door. Life with a newborn is about the small wins people.
Challenge: An Unpredictable Schedule
Ahhh, those glorious four hour stretches of uninterrupted newborn sleep.
Aren’t they the best?
The only problem is you have no idea when they’re going to happen.
Just when you *think* you have your newborn’s schedule figured out a growth spurt or sleep regression will throw you for a loop.
Do you know how hard it is to do anything when you don’t know how much time you have to do it?
Who am I kidding, you’re the parent of a newborn, of course you do.
Broken sleep and odd hours are manageable but it’s the unpredictability that’s brutal.
The best way to cope with a crazy schedule (or lack thereof) in the early days is to do everything in short 10 to 15 minute blocks.
In the kitchen that means doing the following:
Cook Food That’s Quick to Make
There’s a time for beautifully rolled handmade pasta and homemade tiramisu. Now is not that time. Choose meals that require minimal prep work like whole roast chicken with baked potatoes or these Korean beef bowls from Damn Delicious with steamed frozen vegetables. Any kind of slow cooker meal is also a lifesaver in the newborn trenches.
If your knife skills are up to snuff then a chopped chef salad makes a great dinner option too.
Remember, there’s no shame in using pre-prepared ingredients like minced garlic or peeled carrots when you have a baby’s schedule to contend with.
Break Up the Work
If you insist on making meals that require multiple steps, break up the prep and cleanup over a few 10 to 15 minute blocks. Chop vegetables in the morning, sauté them in the afternoon, and add them to the rest of your dish in the evening. There will be plenty of time throughout the day to cook, the problem is you can’t plan on any long stretches without interruption.
Cook Early in the Day
Babies have a tendency to get fussy in the evening. If you’re breastfeeding this may mean your baby wants you and only you from 5 pm onward. Beat the evening rush and get all your cooking done early in the day. Starting dinner first thing in the morning also means you’ll have plenty of opportunities throughout the day to break up the prep work.
Double (or Triple) the Recipe
Economies of scale are real life magic. When you double a recipe you produce twice the amount of food without performing twice the amount of work. Trust me, future you will thank past you for cooking extra. Especially when you don’t have time to cook because the baby had another blow out and you have to sanitize the nursery from top to bottom.
Cook When Someone Else Is Available to Watch the Baby
Always assume the baby is going to wake up. Even if your baby has been napping great for weeks, all it takes is one delivery guy or solar power advocate or Renewal by Anderson salesman to ring the doorbell and drive your dog bonkers to completely ruin everything. Do NOT commit yourself to any time sensitive cooking at any time of day unless you have someone available to watch the baby if need be. If that means surviving off scrambled eggs and sandwiches for a couple of weeks, so be it.
Cook forgiving foods
Ten extra minutes in the oven won’t do much to a baked potato. Meanwhile those same ten extra minutes will positively ruin a filet of salmon in a fry pan. Opt to cook foods that will forgive you when you have to ignore them. Roast vegetables, soups, and meat sauces are all excellent choices.
Just Run the Dang Dishwasher
Is it the most environmentally friendly thing to run the dishwasher half full? Nope.
Will you regret not being able to fit all of the dirty dishes you didn’t manage to get to until the end of the day and leaving your kitchen a wreck for the morning? Yep.
If in doubt, just go ahead and run the dang dishwasher. You can plant a garden or go meat free for a week to pay your sustainability penance later when your newborn isn’t a newborn anymore.
Challenge: The Baby Won’t Nap
No nap days happen and they’re awful for everyone.
Everyone else in your family.
Maybe even your neighbors.
Whatever your plan was for the day gets thrown out the window immediately on a no nap day. Just accept it, it happens. If you have food prepared then give yourself a break and skip cooking for the day. If not, here are some survival tips for cooking on a no nap day:
Have Somewhere for Baby to Sit In the Kitchen
It will be a while before your little peanut is in a high chair but trust me when I tell you you’re going to want a place for them to sit in the kitchen from the very beginning.
With our first child we had a small apartment with limited space so I used an infant carseat as a makeshift baby bouncer. It wasn’t ideal but it worked in a pinch.
Today I use this awesome baby bouncer from BabyBjörn. It’s a lot more comfortable and a lot more machine washable (a very important attribute for the newborn stage as any parent can appreciate).
Just be extra careful to position baby somewhere out of harm’s way from hot or falling objects in the kitchen.
Enlist a Sibling or Your Spouse to Watch Baby
If this isn’t your first rodeo then odds are you have some built in entertainment for baby in the form of a sibling. Even if your older child isn’t old enough to watch baby alone, he or she can keep baby “busy” while you cook. I’ve found that if your older child is at least a few years older then they are a huge help!
And of course you can always ask your spouse (or any other friend or family member) to watch the baby for a few minutes while you wrap up dinner.
Really this is just another flavor of the tip above to cook when someone else is available to watch the baby.
Let Baby Fuss for a Few Minutes
This isn’t anybody’s favorite option but sometimes you don’t have another choice. So long as your little one is clean, fed, and in a safe spot it’s ok to let them fuss for a couple of extra minutes. This is especially true when you have more than one kid!
Whatever You Do, DO NOT Wear or Hold Your Baby While Cooking
Stirring a soup pot while holding a baby is one thing, chopping ingredients or taking things out of the oven while holding an infant is a completely different matter. Sometimes us adults forget how dangerous kitchens can be.
Hot stuff, sharp stuff, heavy stuff, hard floors, you name it. There are plenty of things and activities in a kitchen that could cause serious harm to an adult, let alone a curious infant.
I’ve seen a lot of advice lately to “just wear baby” while cooking.
Kids are curious creatures, especially babies. They like to grab things. Can you think of anything in the kitchen you wouldn’t want your child grabbing? A pot of boiling water on the stove top perhaps?
Even if your little one isn’t coordinated enough yet to reach for something, there’s always the risk of burns.
Not to mention it’s just darn uncomfortable to move things in and out of the oven with a small human strapped to you.
Challenge: You’re Self-Conscious About Your Postpartum Body
“Nine months on, nine months off.”
I hate that saying but after three kids I can’t deny its accuracy. Except for the very lucky few, it takes time and effort to resume a body shape you’re happy with after birth.
The challenge is what’s fast to cook isn’t always what’s best to eat to lose weight. That’s ok! I promise one night of box mac and cheese will not completely derail your weight loss goals. You just had a baby – spend your time in those early days enjoying him or her instead of fretting over the fact your jeans don’t button.
That being said, here are a few tips for waistline friendly foods in this busy season of life:
Make Salad for Dinner
Throw some cheese and chicken on your usual garden salad and bam, you have an entire meal. What’s more, salad is usually a finger friendly food for your older kids too so less work for you!
Chef salads are an excellent, weight loss friendly meal option. Newborn or not, our family usually has a large salad for dinner at least once a week. Other than soup, it’s one of my favorite ways to use up and stretch leftovers.
Salads are also incredibly quick and forgiving foods to make.
Stock up on Healthy Snacks That Don’t Require Any Work
Sometimes you just need to eat.
Stock up on snacks like fruit, vegetables, and nuts that don’t require any work before putting them in your mouth. Think apples, bananas, and baby carrots. I’m not sure if this even counts as cooking but it’s a very important tip for new moms.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Like I said, you just had a new baby. Life is good! Insanely exhausting and often terrifying but still, freaking epic. Babies are the best when you stop stressing so try to relax and go with the flow.
Don’t worry about counting calories right now, there will be plenty of time for that later. Try to cook and eat healthy foods most of the time and that extra slice of key lime pie will come out in the wash.
No matter how you slice it you’re going to be tired with a newborn at home. Welcome to the often wonderful, sometimes daunting, reality of parenthood!
Sleep deprivation is unavoidable at this stage. Use the tips listed above to minimize cooking time and maximize napping. Aside from that, treat yourself to any one of these awesome new coffee mugs:
Even if you’re breastfeeding and still avoiding caffeine these mugs are great for decaf beverages.
Remember, This Too Shall Pass
Newborns don’t stay newborns forever. In fact a baby is only considered a newborn for the first 2 to 3 months of life and then it’s on to the infant stage. Before you know it your little peanut will be helping you cook and cracking eggs like a pro.
No, I’m not crying because our oldest daughter can make pancakes all by herself now and doesn’t need my help.
I’ve just been cutting onions.
Put cooking on the back burner and enjoy as much of this season of life as you can. You’ll be on to the next stage before you know it!
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published on the 15th of every month.