Coping with a Pesach Baby

wine-matzahA reader is expecting a baby a day or two before Passover, and has always been a week early so far. Unlike most of us, she can’t afford to be in denial.

It’s true we got an extra month this year (Jewish leap year) but Pesach is still creeping up on us. Maybe this will start your wheels turning. . .

She writes:

We have no immediate relatives in Israel, and while we live in a supportive and warm community I don’t want to assume community assistance or meals at a time when perhaps no one is cooking or people are busy hosting their own extended families.  My husband will probably be able to take off a few days from work but not a full week.  Our three elementary-age children will help a bit —“ no major chores on their own but they keep their rooms neat, regularly help with sponga, and can do some age-appropriate tasks when explained clearly.  I will hire some regular cleaning help and am also thinking about what jobs either seminary students or yeshiva boys can do well.  Also I’ll try to schedule cleaning and turning over as much in advance as feasible; shopping and cooking will be another challenge.

Last, if the baby is a boy my in-laws said they’d like to come in for the bris. I don’t know whether that means even if ticket prices are out of sight, or if that means even if they’d have to cancel Seder plans with other married children in the US. While we can probably find them a nearby place to stay (it’s a little tight in our apartment), hosting them for a week during Pesach or pre-Pesach will also take some planning.

Here are my concerns:

  1. How to best organize and plan things when there’s a big unknown waiting to appear at any time.  What things are easily done more in advance, easily skipped, etc.
  2. Also on the one hand there’s — hopefully — that big wave of energy you get after the baby (in contrast to the third trimester slow-down).  But on the other having a baby does put the mother out of commission – for how long?  to what extent?  This is important to me because I generally do all the household preparations for Pesach, even some of the heavy shlepping!
  3. Last, what kind of help is useful to ask for from people who aren’t part of your regular routine — seminary students, neighbors, visiting in-laws?

Before I turn it over to readers I have a few thoughts.

First, don’t shlep anything heavy, before or after birth. You don’t need is to be out of commission with a bad back or worse.

Second, assume you won’t be available to do more than advise from your bed after the birth.  Unfortunately, a c-section or other complication is always a possibility. Even if things go smoothly, the period after birth is for lying around and gazing into your baby’s eyes. Pesach won’t mean anything to him.

Here’s my checklist for essential Pesach preparation: Pesach Crisis Cleaning.

Getting Your Kids to Help with Pesach Cleaning

If you want a laugh, check out Mishpacha Magazine’s cleaning schedule.

Photo: Ron Almog


  1. I take it going on one of those passover hotel vacations is out of the question?

  2. My son was due erev Pesach; he was born 2nd day YT in America. (Which was funny, because as far as I was concerned he needed to be born at 39 weeks so everything would be OVER by erev Pesach. Ha!)

    We had it very easy in that we packed up everything and moved in with my ILs (who lived 4 miles away). I did nothing that Pesach…I participated in 1/2 of the first seder and then walked around in prodromal labor.

    That being said…we did find out his gender and told my MIL (only her), so she could plan for a possible YT shalom zachor and/or bris. I know a lot of people are adverse to finding out the gender and/or telling others, but my MIL is a huge planner–and considering how much assistance she gave us in terms of chag and also caring for our toddler while I was in the hospital (I had a c-section), I had no qualms.

    I’d advise to hire out as much of the work as possible, ask your husband & his friends to do the heavy lifting, and then buy in or rely on communal help for meals. You can probably do basic foods yourself, but new moms need to keep up their strength.

  3. Line up heavy duty cleaning help before hand( I know there are cleaning services already taking reservations) or put your husband in charge of all the cleaning. You simply cannot depend you being able to clean or even direct. It’s impossible to know what state you’re in.

    And I agree with ordering food. Unless you can get your husband to clean super early and then you can try to direct him with the cooking, unless he’s a cook already, then you can just hand him some recipes. But I feel like ordering will give you peace of mind knowing it’s taken care of and you can just have it delivered straight into your clean fridge.

    Alternatively, maybe just order side dishes/desserts and make the chicken and meat on your own.

    It’s hard to know how to advise without knowing your finances/how much you can spend or what your level of chumrot are. There are different levels of pesach “clean” (from standard “get rid of chametz” all the way to molecular.) Maybe clarify with your husband what absolutely needs to be done this year and what can be closed up and covered. Maybe just depend on paper goods this year vs. taking out all the dishes/close the cabinets vs. cleaning them all out and covering the shelves.

    but again, don’t know what your budget is, so it’s hard to advise.

    I guess, try not to stress. One way or another, Pesach and the baby will come and you’ll manage to welcome both successfully.

  4. I am expecting a baby girl around Pessach too AND we are moving before. When we moving into our new apartment we are not allowing any food beyond kitchen, terrace and living room. Some things I will leave unpacked until after Pessach so the cleaning is easier. I have a running list of menu ideas and shopping lists every Pessach and we will draw from there. I plan my menus with components that I can reuse in many meals so we minimize shopping. We are invited for the seder, but depending when the baby comes we are planning on having one small at home. We will have lots of stand by potato dishes I guess. I would love to hear what others have to say…

  5. We have a scheduled c-section 7 days before pessach. My inlaws are coming for the entire month- and they tend to stress me out when I am not overly hormonal and in pain. My husband and older daughter are amazing helps, and we do plan to hire cleaning help this year. B’H we (and my inlaws!) have been invited to our next door neighbour for seder and they do not care if I lock myself in their guest room all night with the baby and come out just to go home. I have told my inlaws if they expect anything other than take out and plastic thay can make it themselves. Totally, totally wimping out this year- and terrified anyway!

  6. I had five kids over the span of 19 years, with major spacing in between each consecutive child. I tended to forget what it’s like after each birth. With my 4th, I was complaining about not having it all together, to a friend who had (at the time) 3 in 5 years or so, and she gave me this rule of thumb: it takes FOUR MONTHS to get back to normal. That means: before 4 months, don’t expect the household to be running at it’s usual speed. Forget the Pesach factor.
    That was great advice.
    So, for the OP: I am reading that you are not going away, can’t rely for sure on family/friends to relieve your duties etc.
    I would suggest planning to do absolutely nothing after the birth of the baby, besides feeding and caring for it, giving instructions to other people as to what needs to get done, and coordinating the family’s needs by phone or computer or whatever. Just LOOKING at the baby takes up hours per day – you don’t realize it but by the time you put the baby down, so much time has flown by.
    If the IL’s want to come for a brit, I believe it’s only proper that you notify them now, so they can get tickets. Surprises are nice, but being practical has a place here too. Besides being there for the brit, I don’t think you have to worry about accommodations, feeding, entertaining etc. Cruel as that may seem, a small house with 4 (!!!!) kids and a postpartum mom is not a place for visitors for any length of time (more than one night), let alone the Pesach factor.
    I would have the whole house cleaned by Rosh Chodesh Nissan, if possible. There are many people who turn their kitchens over 2 weeks before and just stop eating chametz in the house. You could do that, and supplement home food with pizza etc. out of the house.
    There are fabulous caterers for Pesach: use them if you can afford to. You will save the hauling, planning, peeling, scraping, chopping cooking, dish-doing etc. It’s worth it if you have some extra money.
    Everything should be BEH besha’a tova.

  7. I had a baby last year chol hamoed Pesach – but I was due just a few days before Pesach. (I tend to go late, but couldn’t count on it.) It worked out really well, actually — we were better prepared for Pesach than we have been in non-new baby years! When I made the cleaning /preparing schedule, I assumed we’d lose a week due to the baby and my husband (and kids, who still need a lot of direction) would have to take over. We wound up having that week, and using it, hence the better prepared. So I’m building in an extra week every year now! But the point is, even if we’d lost that week, we’d have been “ready enough. “

  8. Ms. Krieger says

    I agree with the previous posters – have the entire house clean (preferably by someone else, because you will be heavy and tired and only able to scrub in 45min increments) two weeks in advance of Pesach.

    Then I would explain the situation to a friend or neighbor and ask if we could share a seder at their house. If this is not possible, or you feel as if it would be an imposition, plan on having the simplest possible seder at home.

    And then plan on having the baby at the most inconvenient time possible and laying in bed for the next two weeks+ with the little one. No matter what kind of birth you have, too much activity in the early days of the birth will make you bleed, ooze, leak milk, be super uncomfortable, etc etc etc.

  9. Also Due Pesach says

    Ok, my name gives it away- I’m also due Pesach- first day- with a boy. This is my first, so as much as I want to be early (and get the bris done before YT), I am told not to count on that. Luckily, I live 30 minutes from my parents, who live down the block from the hospital, so I am doing no cleaning- we’re just moving in with them from a few days before Pesach until the end. Granted, we are young enough that we are expected to spend Pesach with family anyway rather than making it on our own, and this is my first pregnancy, so I am definitely getting fawned over by everyone. But Pesach is just a really inconvenient time for major life events, even if you have Hotel Mom and Dad to rely on.

    In any event, if I were in your shoes, I would spend the money on a cleaning service and catering in YT meals, and done, no worries. Granted, since I found out in August, I would have anticipated that I would need to hire lots of help and would have started saving up for it then. If you can’t shell out that much, pay for cleaning, and for food, possibly ask a friend or Rebbitzen if they can organize a list in the community to cover meals for you- If 15 people commit to making one dish each to feed your family, that will easily take care of YT and Shabbos Chol HaMoed.

    • Duebefore: I think I know who you are from FB? Beshaah tova to you too! My first was born 1-1/2 weeks before Pesach. We were invited to a seder but declined. Our first seder took four hours, and we took turns holding the baby. We never sat down together. That was life for three months, pretty much.

  10. B”H a baby!
    dirt isn’t chametz
    B”H a baby!

    get help
    use disposables whenever possible
    B”H a baby!

    finish making Pesach early
    B”H a baby!

    have someone do your cooking
    B”H a baby!

    and make sure your in-laws know that you can’t host them, but they are welcome to help, entertain the older kids and buy you food

    B”H a baby!
    b’sha’ah tovah

  11. P”G I’m also due between Purim and Pesach and would you believe I’ve already started cleaning out some of my kitchen cabinets? I know that I’m having a scheduled C-section, which means no heavy lifting for more than a month.

    So, I’ve put the following plans in place:

    1) I hired my husband’s cousin who is a High School Senior, to come over or a couple of hours every day. She will be in charge of the baby and I will be in charge of our toddler and doing household errands. If need be, she will be available to climb and shlep stuff around the house.

    2) We are careful about cleaning and, because we have a toddler, we know there will be lots of nooks and crannies to look through. We will have our cleaning lady P”G start cleaning each room for Pesach after Purim. Once the bedrooms are clean, no more food is allowed in, etc.

    3) SuperSol Yashir is my best, best friend! It’s worth the extra money for peace of mind and being able to literally do all my Pesach shopping at my convenience from the computer. As far as Pesach food is concerned, I plan on ordering take out for Yom Tov but will also have some chicken in the freezer in case I want to cook

    4) My parents are also P”G coming for Chol Hamoed Pesach and, while they will help once they are here, it will also be stressful preparing for them. I plan on doing the bare minimum, they will have to understand that we will need their help as much as possible and not expect to be catered to like on their previous trips

    Also, you might want to line up a Mohel now (if it’s going to be a boy) and a place/caterer and figure everything out for the bris. This way, you don’t have the added stress of bringing in Pesach and figuring out a bris.

    Good luck and Beshaah Tovah!

    • B’shaa tova Shira. It sounds like you’re really organized and I hope everything runs smoothly. Not sure if this is your first Pesach in Israel, but I just wanted to point out: Though I love grocery shopping online and I find it’s the same or cheaper than regular shopping because there is less impulse buying, I have found it’s often hard to find all the kosher l’Pesach goods I need at the regular supermarket chains because they are not always careful about stocking Ashkenazi goods like decent cooking oil (not that revolting cotton seed stuff), mayo, etc). (If you’re Sephardi, I guess you’re good to go) It’s not a lot of items, but if you’re Ashkenazi just be careful with what you order and don’t assume it’s all KLP for you.

    • Mazal tov Shira on the birth of your daughter!

  12. I am scheduled for a cs after purim, and I’m aware I will not be at my “best functioning” till after pesach, plus I’m officially on bed rest now.
    We have already started cleaning the rooms for pesach (the kids are very cooperative…), and I’m planning on having high-schoolers coming in to help with the kitchen. This will be a “no chametz” (vs “no dirt”)cleaning this year.
    I haven’t decided yet where we’ll be for the seder, but I have several options to be invited out where I’ll feel comfy, so the main issue for me will be to have the house clean, not the cooking.
    As for eating before pesach, b”h we live in Israel: between buying ready made food and eating in the garden, we should be able to make it even if our neighbors have no time to help…

  13. Another tip for anyone, having a baby or not: Freeze several casseroles for the last week before Pesach, so you have decent food without having to cook.

  14. Everyone else has really good tips. I just wanted to add that I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable to expect meals from your community just because it’s Pesach. I have always been happy to cook for families on Pesach just like during the rest of the year!

  15. First thing: check with your rabbi what you actually HAVE to clean. We often think of cleaning all sorts of things that are not really Hametz.

    As for what you can ask seminar kids or yehsiva students to do.
    I used to have boys in, (but now my son does this), to do the heavy cleaning, gas stove, fridge etc.
    My son did cleaning for people last year (he is 20 and cleans for people before pesach), and the person asked him to clean their bedroom, and clean out all the kitchen cupboards. So basically i would say that you can ask someone else to do anything, as long as you feel you can “let go” and rely on them.

  16. Wow – there are quite a few of us… b’shaa tova.

    We’re doing basic spring cleaning this week and next, so the accumulated dirt won’t distract me when I’m really cleaning for Pesach – so far windows & dusting are on that list. I hope it rains again but will not re-clean the windows!!

    Cleaning bedrooms and the spring clothing routine (switch over, buy for YT and fill in for weekday) are scheduled for the two weeks leading up to Purim.

    My neighbor suggested digging out and washing the tiny baby clothes so it won’t become a last-minute task. A friend will lend us their carrier/car seat (ours was very very old) and another their snap-n-go. Those kinds of details depend whether and how much people do in advance.

    I think with visiting relatives, setting expectations in advance can go a long way – if they’re coming for pre-Pesach something like “please think about taking the kids out with you for meals a couple of times.”

    Two questions:

    (1) If they’re visiting during Pesach, how would you tell them not to bring in outside foods, and would you include an offer to pick up one or two of their favorites with advance notice?

    (2) There’s a lot of vacation time coming up – what kind of local outings might you send your guests and children on? (Ours won’t have a car and we won’t always be able to drive them. They are mobile but not as fast as the kids 😉 )

  17. My baby… will be two on Rosh Chodesh Nissan (can’t believe how fast the time flies!). His due date was Purim.

    So both Purim and Pesach were very laid back. I started a slow clean right after Purim, doing as much as I could with a toddler.

    I availed myself of supermarket delivery.

    And I didn’t go crazy with the cooking. WE had a pleasant Seder and Yom Tov, but nothing outrageous. And no guests.

  18. My triplets were born on the 7th night of Pesah. We hired help cleaning before hand and I made my lists for meals with an eye towards easy-to-make and things that stored well. A lot of roasted chicken and vegetables and minas on the list!

    We also put it out there that we’d love invites. We attended community sederim (which turned out no-so-great because I caught a cold)and had an invite for lunch second day. That year Pesah bumped into Shabbat over here so I had to make Shabbat but by then no one was hungry.

    During the week when I would make something I tried to make two so I could put one in the freezer for the last two days. Turned out not necessary as i was in the hospital and dh got invites galore for lunches and friends brought meals to the hospital for us. People still laugh at the boxes of unused matzah sitting on top of my fridge at Shavuot, though.

  19. Thanks for all the advice, ladies! I’m also due right before Pesach. I also don’t know the gender. It’s my second, and my first is an under-two toddler. Family overseas… It’s going to be an adventure, but we’ll survive.

    An idea we had is borrowing a friend’s round-the-year kosher l’pesach kitchen (they have a second kitchen) and making meals beforehand, cleaning out the freezer, and storing them.

  20. Silverblessings says

    iyH I’m also due on Pesach, and usually go within a few days of my due date either way. I have a six week plan that I usually follow to get everything in order earlier, but this year, I’m kind of moving everything up. I just hired a cleaning service (first time!) for a few days before Pesach, and I have a detailed step by step list for kashering the kitchen in case it’s not me doing it. I have the bedrooms done, and details on what needs to be done between now and then just in case, too. And I have my menus, inventory, lists, etc from last year, so I know how much we ate and how much to buy, what works for us and what doesn’t, and what we need for this upcoming year (already bought!).

    Now that Purim is done, I’m making my menus for the week before, Pesach itself, and a couple of things for the week after. I’m turning over part of my kitchen next week while dh is on kid-duty so I can prep and freeze what food can be done ahead of time. I’m planning things like meatballs (raw–just defrost and cook in sauce), cookies, putting together the stew ingredients, and sides that freeze.

    Somehow it will all work out. Women have been doing this for many, many years, right? 😉

    Beshaa tova to all who are expecting, and a peaceful and amazing Pesach to all!

  21. Mazal tov! A little belated posting here – we made the bris on Friday. One grandparent was able to fly in for a long weekend to join us, just went home last night.

    I had cooked and frozen food for last week, so when the shul chessed committee asked what we needed they were able to help us with Shabbat & Yom Tov instead.

    We had hired help a couple of times last week, so when they came we worked alongside them (and ended the session exhausted but B”H further along). Other than times with cleaning help, Pesach prep basically froze for a week after the birth.

    This is the first time I’ve tried to take it easier during recovery – not exerting, not lifting. Basically because this time around the pregnancy was more tiring than in the past. I’m sure if I wouldn’t be thinking that way I’d be exhausted pretty quick!

    Lists have been very helpful; I was making them since January! Friends generously took my Pesach shopping lists and made trips instead of me – undoubtedly saving me lots of strain. There were some mistakes, but it was much easier having the option to correct a couple of things (and the stores were all very nice) than to navigate the stores for 2+ hours. Not to mention it kept me from being tempted to go to another store because 3 items there would save me 20 nis etc.

    I do realize we were very fortunate – the birth had no major complications so while I need to rest it isn’t the level of need as a neighbor I encountered in the hospital at 39 weeks. She was never before her due date before, yet had an emergency c-section last week with the family just starting Pesach cleaning. Also Rachel (posted above) and I had sat together waiting for ultrasounds two months ago, so that was a sad point in this journey.

    We should all be blessed with a Chag Kasher v’Sameach.


  1. […] I missed during shiva was our annual discussion about Pesach preparations. At least we covered the Pesach babies, and I hope readers will update as they give birth. I wrote a draft on epidurals, and perhaps I […]