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9 Thoughtful Ways to Help the New Parents in Your Life

Your friends just welcomed a bundle of joy. Here's how to make them feel well fed and well loved.

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Mother, father and a baby together on the bedShutterstock / Goran Bogicevic

Back in 2010, my friend Sadie was the first person in our group to have a baby. When it was my turn to visit, I knew I couldn’t go empty-handed—bringing gifts for new parents is a given. So I brought her a plant. Not a lasagna. Not fresh-baked cookies. I brought Sadie a living plant that she had to take care of. (It’s OK. I’m shaking my head, too.)

I’ve learned a lot since that friend fail, especially because I became a mom myself. I also discovered I wasn’t alone in this gift-giving conundrum. Deciding on the perfect gift for new parents is a common stumbling block for well-wishers. Here’s how you can skip over that faux pas and get straight to being an awesome loved one to a proud new mom and dad.

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Taste of Home

13x9s are not required.

Casseroles, hot dishes, bakes—whatever you call them, these one-dish dinners are easy to put together, convenient to transport, and often freeze like a charm (find scads of freezer meals here). But these big dishes take up a lot of room in the fridge. Consider cutting the recipe in half and bringing it in a smaller pan. Or skip casseroles altogether and pack up a hearty grain salad, muffin tin meat loaves, soup (like this incredible General Tso’s-inspired recipe) or one of these make-and-take meals for new parents in need.

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Taste of Home

New moms and dads need to eat more than just dinner.

One morning soon after my son was born, my mom-in-law came over to help for the day (so awesome). She looked at me for a minute and then asked, “When was the last time you ate?” I realized I was famished. See, we had some great dinner options in the house, but nothing I felt like eating at 8 a.m. Lucky for me, she’d brought her famous scones and jam. I feasted.

Consider sharing granola with milk on the side, frozen microwaveable breakfast burritos, a loaded hoagie or a deconstructed green salad the parents can toss together when they’re hungry. Snacks like veggies and dip, brownies or Chex mix will be much appreciated, too. Help them stock up with these make-ahead meals for busy people. Extra credit if the foods can be eaten with one hand, or if they’re good hot or cold.

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Attractive young woman talking on phone in kitchen;LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Call ahead.

Let the new mom and dad know you’d like to make a delivery. First, find out a good time to come. It’d be such a shame if the neighbor’s dog discovered the meal sitting on their doorstep. Here are some other good questions to ask:

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Rice pudding in the disposable aluminum baking panShutterstock / StockphotoVideo

Keep the dish count low.

When I asked my friend Liz about a memorable meal someone brought after she had her kids, she said, “Anything in a dish I didn’t have to wash and remember to return.” So grab some reusable or recyclable containers at the store. Bonus points if you bring recyclable serveware, too.

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Frozen food in a container in the freezer. Refrigerator with frozen food. Ready meal; Shutterstock / Ahanov Michael

Understand that they may not dig right in.

It’s nothing personal. Maybe Mom or Dad mustered the energy to cook (respect!), or another well-wisher just showed up, hot meal in hand. When you call ahead, ask. Do they need you to heat it up? Cool it down? Bring it frozen?

Here’s how to pack the food so it won’t get freezer burn.

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Young woman holding grocery shopping bag with vegetablesMicolas/Shutterstock

What you bring doesn’t have to be homemade.

People are busy. Your friends will completely understand—be joyful, even—if you deliver a little package of groceries. You can’t go wrong with fresh produce or dairy, and few would scoff at a bottle of wine for an at-home date night. Plus, you’ve gotta admit, certain store-bought foods really are unparalleled. Who wants homemade taco tortilla chips when Nacho Cheese Doritos are already the world’s best snack? You could also call in a delivery order for the new mom and dad (with a heads up, of course). This is the perfect solution if you want to help loved ones who live across the country.

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Baby Girl ShowerShutterstock /

Throw in an inedible treat or two.

But probably not a live plant. Think pampering items, like a relaxing aromatherapy candle or a really good hand cream—new parents are constantly washing their hands. Having an infant gives new meaning to the word “love” and also to the term “binge-watching.” Your friends will get plenty of mileage out of a fun movie or an addictive show (Twin Peaks, anyone?) on Blu-ray. Oh, and don’t forget about the baby. This little kid will go through more burp rags and washcloths than anyone ever imagined. They’re not glamorous, but they’re a must. If the family includes a big brother or sister, a you’re-special-too gift works wonders.

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Planner Calendar Schedule Date

Set up a delivery calendar.

Are you connected with some of the couple’s other friends and family? Consider organizing a schedule for deliveries so the new parents won’t need to worry about meal planning. If you’re all work buddies, a piece of paper tacked to a cube wall works. Or, for a larger group, go digital and join a free site like Meal Train, which takes care of sign-up and delivery reminders and is even a home base for updates about the new little family.

If you’re participating in a meal train but aren’t sure what to bring, these meal train ideas can help.

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Cropped image of attractive young woman is washing dishes while doing cleaning at homeShutterstock / 4 PM production

Make yourself useful.

Having a newborn is exhausting, and the idea of entertaining guests, no matter how casual the visit, can really overwhelm new parents. Diffuse some of their stress by offering to cuddle the little nugget while Mom showers or Dad starts the laundry. Invite them for a walk around the block. Or volunteer to do the dishes (here’s the right way to do that) or sweep the kitchen. My folks took care of our yard, and it was glorious.

Looking back on our time as new parents, my husband and I remember kind things, big and small, that our loved ones did for us. Any flubs have long been forgotten. That said, there’s no need to stress about what to bring the new parents in your life. Now that you’ve got plenty of ideas, just be your thoughtful, generous self and you’ll be their hero.

Ellie Martin Cliffe
Now Taste of Home's content director, Ellie has been writing about food and parenting for almost 20 years. When she isn't at TOH HQ, she's likely trying gluten- and dairy-free recipes, canning whatever's in season, listening to anything with a fiddle, or playing Forbidden Island with her family.