How I Cook for Myself & My Baby—at the Same Time

April 23, 2020
Photo by Yossy Arefi

Before having my baby, Reva, in June, I imagined my maternity leave would be long strolls in the park, simmering pots of beans on the stove, and hunkering down with my husband every night to catch up. Boy was I unprepared.

No, I didn’t imagine the first two months would be one very long nursing session. I didn’t realize I would be jumping from question to question, Googling at 2 a.m., checking my child’s pulse for no reason at all. I didn’t think I would actually use The Nursing Mother’s Companion when I bought it, or that the book would lay open on my kitchen table, stained with milk drops and dog-eared beyond repair. Night after night, two things remained constant: the presence of new-mom paranoia, and an intense lack of sleep.

I remember a conversation I had with my aunt, who has three daughters, when she asked how I was enjoying nursing. “It’s hard,” I sighed. She smiled and paused. “Just wait until you have to start figuring out what to cook for Reva,” she said. But I couldn’t imagine that cooking for my child could possibly be a nuisance. I’ve always loved being in the kitchen and, even at the end of a long day with a newborn, I wind up fantasizing about what to cook for dinner.

When Reva hit the half-year mark, we started introducing solids. We did the pouches and mush, but every time she saw me chewing on something, her eyes laser-focused on the roasted vegetable or chicken. It was obvious she was curious and wanted to try more. And suddenly my aunt’s words were ringing in my ears.

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Top Comment:
“I can't find the "Authors Notes" regarding the herbs.”
— Mary K.

I wanted my daughter to be curious about food and grow into an adventurous eater. And I knew this would require cooking and exposing her to lots of different ingredients. But how would I find the time when I couldn’t even muster up the energy to make myself a bowl of pasta? I had to get organized.

After a few days of projects that took way too long, like homemade sweet potato puree and from-scratch roasted applesauce, I realized what I had to do: cook once and eat twice. This was the only way both of us were going to eat something other than strawberry-banana yogurt blobs.

After a week or so, I began to get into a groove. When I roast cauliflower for her, I make extra to turn into a salad later on (recipe below). When I sliced avocado spears, I save the other half for my lunch by keeping the pit inside. When I mash a banana, I save a few slices to top my peanut butter toast with. Cooking strategically means I too can enjoy the fruits of my baby food labor. I too can eat well, by thinking a few steps ahead.

If you’re curious about how to implement this in your own home, here are some ways you can cook for yourself and your baby at the same time. Since babies can’t have much salt at all, forgo salting your food throughout the process. Instead, season your plate separately, at the end. This way, everyone is happy.

  • Roast tiny cubes of squash. Give some to your little one, and use the rest as a salad base, with arugula, crumbled goat cheese, and nuts.
  • Mash two bananas and give your baby as much as they’ll eat. Then add peanut butter, blueberries, and granola on top of the leftovers for breakfast.
  • Scramble a few eggs—but just eggs. Scoop out some for your baby. Then season the rest with a little salt and pepper, cover with shredded cheddar cheese, pop under the broiler, then top with salsa and sour cream.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mary K Rau
    Mary K Rau
  • KOA
Food writer in Brooklyn! Also, Reva's mom 💖


Mary K. April 27, 2020
I can't find the "Authors Notes" regarding the herbs.
KOA May 2, 2020
Nor can I. Shall we guess?