Dear Mama, Learning to Feed the Family 

 

Our daily priority is to feed our children, from proper diet during pregnancy, to keeping the pantry stocked for teenagers.  My family is currently feeding children aged three and under, but I have already found some “life hacks” that can make mother’s task less daunting.  To the mothers just a step behind me, here are my tips and tricks.

From an experienced mother living on the other end of No Man’s Land, here are some ideas for simple, convenient, yet healthy eating posted on Prairie Dust Trail.

Freeze Ahead

To begin with, cooking is an impossible task with a newborn in the house.  Babies require so much attention that nothing else will be accomplished for several weeks.  That’s okay.  Accept that life will become slow and basic, and plan accordingly.  First time around, my dear “Mother by Love” sent quite a few meals for us to subsist upon (along with her RICH, milk-boosting, hot chocolate.)  The next time around, I got ready.  Any leftovers large enough, I froze.  Sometimes I had the energy to double recipes so I could save the extra food for what was to come.  Even though the twins came two months early, I still had two weeks’ worth of meals in the freezer by the time we brought them home.  There I was, with a toddler, new twins, an abdominal incision, and much of the familiar help I was counting on was tied up with another new mother’s health crises – but I had my freezer full of food.  Adjusting to home life was much easier with that convenience.  Especially to the first-time mom, I recommend this preparation.

Mix Formula Once a Day

With the help of some haywire hormones, a mom’s instincts scream at her to care for the little one.  There is a mad dash in mother’s mind to feed baby IMMEDIATELY once he is hungry.  It’s one of those feelings you must experience to understand.  What can be done to ease the urgency and stress?

If you are not exclusively breastfeeding, you must take the time to fill a bottle with water, measure scoops of formula in your sleep-deprived state, and hope that you didn’t lose count while a baby wails that special manner that tugs at your very soul.  Thankfully, you only have to do this once a day, not at every feeding.  To keep from taxing the twins’ immature immune systems, I had to use boiling water to sterilize the formula.  So, I poured enough boiling water to a day’s feedings into a Mason jar, added the formula, and mixed it with a whisk.  The formula was good for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Make Pumping Easier on Yourself

If you pump milk for your little one, you have even less time to spare.  Pumping takes extra effort, and then the parts and bottles require cleaning.  A time-saving hack I found is to throw those pump parts into a Ziploc bag and into the refrigerator.  The milk on that parts can’t go bad, so you can wait a few sessions before completely dismantling and scrubbing each valve and shield.

Rabbit Trail for First Time Expectant Mothers:  If there is any chance that your may need to use a breast pump, GET THE RIGHT SIZE SHIELDS NOW.   Pumping is a rough experience, and in the post-partum phase, you may feel very emotional and perhaps inadequate. Often, women believe that their bodies are incapable of nourishing their children, when it is the equipment that is causing problems.  So before you even give birth, familiarize yourself with the equipment and the concepts that make it work, even if with a cheap hand pump.  Make sure the shields are not too large or too small. (Standard sizes were too large and could have torn me up. I am positive that a majority of negative pumping experiences are due to improper sizing.)  Check those valves for pin holes and tears.  Overall, take a look over the instructions and practice assembling a pump.  Your future self will appreciate it.

Cube and Freeze

My twins are eating solids!  It’s great to start moving away from formula, but it can be troublesome, as well.  Store-bought baby food gets expensive (and the popular brand seems to be in bed with the abortion industry.)  Blending a portion of your meals means you must detail-clean the blender parts multiple times a day.  Also, keeping small portions in the refrigerator doesn’t seem to keep well.  If you cook a fresh meal for baby alongside every family meal, you’ll surely lose what was left of your mind.

My solution?  Ice cube trays.

I cook an adult serving or more of cereal, boil and mash a whole potato, mash a couple of avocados or bananas, or strain out some bone broth from a leftover roast.  Then, I use each batch of baby food to fill an ice cube tray and flash freeze it.  Once the food is solid, I dump the cubes out of the tray and into a freezer bag, and throw them back into the freezer.  When it’s feeding time, I grab a couple of cubes, add a bit of water, and thaw it in a custard bowl or a mug over our bottle warmer.  I only have to cook, blend, and mash baby food once every few weeks!

Though I haven’t had a chance to try it, I’ve read of using ice cube trays and regular freezer bags to store breast milk.  That sounds simple and economical compared to pricey milk storage bags.  If a baby’s immune system were compromised, though, the specialty bags might be safer.

Utilize Those Machines

We go through a lot of bread.  My husband uses it for grab-and-go meals.  The toddler and I eat quite a bit of it for meals and snacks, too.  I acquired my first breadmaker and love it.  It saves us money, trips into town, and helps us avoid some unwanted preservatives.  Not to mention, a slice of warm, fresh bread dobbed with butter or honey is a delight to have with a cup of tea.  If we begin to run low on bread, I can dump ingredients into a pan, click it into the machine, push some buttons, and have a loaf just the way I like it in four hours.  There is no need to stop my chores to knead or bake the bread.  It requires just five minutes of effort on my part.

Crock pot recipes are popular, according to my social media, but we don’t have to have precise recipes or cream-of-something to fix up an easy, tasty meal.  Look through the pantry.  Check the freezer.  You need meat, vegetables, and maybe a starch.  Steak and roast are nice to brown over the stove before setting into the crock pot.  Throw veggies, and rice, potatoes, or noodles in with the meat, and cover everything with a liquid, be it broth, tomato sauce, milk, cream, or water.  My rule of thumb is to cook on low for up to eight hours, or on high for three hours. With a few basics, you can easily throw together a meal at the beginning of the day and forget about it until the family asks, “what’s for supper?”

 

For now, that’s all the family feeding hacks I have been utilizing, and I hope these tips can be helpful for you as well.  Keep taking care of yourself, and keep an eye out for the next installment.  Happy eating!

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