A Guide for Managing Baby Meals for Working Moms Day 2: A Guide for Managing Baby Meals for Working Moms

A Guide for Managing Baby Meals for Working Moms

Being a working mom returning from maternity leave can be one of the most challenging phases of motherhood. You're faced with major decisions, logistical changes, and the emotional weight of leaving your baby in someone else's care.

On top of this, you have to figure out the complexities of breastfeeding, pumping, and planning your baby's meals. It's undoubtedly a lot to manage. However, rest assured, many working moms go through this phase, and with time and practice, it becomes more manageable. Also, don’t forget it’s a temporary period, and both you and your baby will soon adapt to a new routine that works for you both!

Separation Anxiety for Moms & Babies

Emotionally, both you and your baby may experience separation anxiety. Leaving your child with a caregiver for extended periods can be accompanied by feelings of guilt and worry. It’s important to acknowledge these emotions as a natural part of the process and give yourself the grace to work through them.

Setting the Foundation for Healthy Eating

It is during the early years of your baby's life when the foundation for their healthy eating habits is established. Ensuring your baby's nutrition is a top priority, even when you can't be present for their meals. 

Remember this advice irrespective of whether you’re a working parent or not. The quality of your baby's meals matters more than the quantity. Focus on providing food rich in calories, fat, iron, calcium, protein, and essential nutrients.

[For a recap on all about planning balanced meals, click here.]

Now let’s look at some tips for parents to navigate this phase.

How to Prepare for the Transition

Before diving into the transition of managing your baby's meals while working, you could consider these steps:

1) Train your caregiver: Decide who will be responsible for your baby's meals in your absence, whether it's a nanny, a grandparent, or another caregiver. 

Encourage the caregiver to follow responsive feeding (explain what it means in simple terms), so they can follow the baby’s hunger and fullness cues. Feed your baby using your chosen approach and let the caregivers observe.

Refer to earlier articles on training the caregiver/nanny here as well as the three feeding approaches here: spoon-led weaning, baby-led weaning, and combination approach.

2) Establish a routine: Babies and toddlers thrive on the predictability of routines. Maintaining a daily routine helps create a sense of order and normalcy in your baby's day. It's good for the entire family and caregivers to get accustomed to this routine, making mealtimes and nap times more predictable for your baby. 

Ideally, begin implementing this routine a few weeks before you return to work. Involve grandparents or the nanny in this process while you're still present to practice and fine-tune the routine.

3) Consider a mid-week start: If it’s possible, when it’s time for you to start work, choose a midweek day like Wednesday. This way, you can avoid the “Monday blues'” and the initial pressure of the workweek. Also, when you start work mid-week, the weekend is nearer, and a shorter workweek can help you deal with separation anxiety. 

The key is to find a way to ease into your work routine gradually. Communicate with your employer to explore flexible options, especially during your first month back.

Some Tips for Managing Your Baby's Meals

When managing your baby's meals once you’re back to work, try some of these tips:

1) Set a weekly menu

  • Begin by creating a weekly menu plan to reduce daily decision-making.
  • Include your baby's meals in the family menu to avoid planning separate ones. With minor modifications to the dishes, babies can enjoy the same meals as the rest of the family. [Click here for a previous article on how to modify family meals for your baby.]
  • Compile a Recipe Master List with favorite dishes for all mealtimes, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Each weekend, choose from this list for the upcoming week's menu, considering your work schedule and commitments.
  • Opt for one-pot meals, like millet khichdi or vegetable and meat pulao, which are ideal for busy parents. (Click here to see our suggested weekly menu plans for inspiration!)
  • Try to fix the breakfast menu for specific days of the week, such as poha on Mondays, oatmeal on Tuesdays, and eggs on Wednesdays. This structured approach simplifies meal planning, providing you with more control and mental space for other essential decisions. It also helps others who are involved in the meal preparation.

Here's a downloadable template for Menu Planning:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner 

Snack

Grocery List

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

 

2) Prep your meals

Consider doing meal preps once a week, preferably on the weekend. You can partially or fully cook various meals. Here are some smart meal preps that can be done in advance: 

  • Bake healthy muffins or cookies with flours like ragi, jowar, bajra, or amaranth, on the weekend.
  • Soak and cook chana, mung, or rajma. Refrigerate them in airtight containers. Take them out during the week and use them in sabzis, pulaos, chillas, or parathas.
  • Prepare masala pastes, like ginger garlic or onion tomato, and freeze them.
  • Make idli and dosa batters over the weekend.
  • Opt for versatile ingredients that can serve multiple purposes in various recipes throughout the week. Use boiled chickpeas for chole curry on one day, make hummus on another, or mash them with potatoes for cutlets. Use cooked lentils for dal one day and a dal paratha on another. 
  • One-pot meals are time-saving and efficient! Examples: dal-rice-veggies khichdi with a touch of ghee or oats-ragi porridge with fruits.
  • Make date coconut balls or dry fruit ladoos.
  • Boil and shred meats and refrigerate.
  • Make and freeze kebabs or cutlets.

The Most Important Tip!

Know that you don't have to “do it all.” Do not feel guilty or pressured. Instead, set reasonable expectations that fit your life. Remember, no one understands your situation like you do. Others might give advice, but only you know what's doable for you.

Trust a few good baby food brands that make nutritious, junk-free, ready-to-eat or easy-to-make meals and snacks. It saves you time and reduces your stress. You can balance these with homemade meals!

 

WE SUGGEST: Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Eat healthy food, get enough sleep, and do things that make you happy. It's okay to take a break from your baby or family without feeling guilty. Your wellbeing matters to your baby too!

 

Learn the right ways to nourish from experts