Mealtime mess can be such a stress! As a pediatric feeding expert and speech-language pathologist, I focus on getting babies to reach their developmental milestones, but I understand how stressful mealtime can be. I’ve fed thousands of babies, so I know how it can affect how parents feed their little ones. Don’t let that stress hold you back. My passion is to help you navigate baby-led weaning (“BLW”) safely, decrease mealtime clean-up, and make starting solids less stressful. So, here are some of my top feeding tips to help make less of a mess while still teaching your little one how to eat independently:
Dishware vs. High Chair Tray
You may think that you don’t need dishware if you have your baby eat straight off of the highchair tray. But here are some reasons why you should consider offering meals from a bowl or plate instead:
• Avoid Constant Cleanup
When a child eats off of a highchair tray, they often move their hands excitedly from side to side (like windshield wipers). To our dismay, babies love to make that motion and watch in awe as food flies off their trays. In my clinical experience, the stress of constant clean-up and food waste are two reasons parents give up on BLW and opt to feed their baby only purees instead. To decrease mealtime mess, skip feeding directly off a tray and instead use a suction bowl or plate from ezpz (Tiny Bowl + Mini Mat).
• Foster Development
With a plate, babies can learn how to successfully eat by crossing their midline (baby’s gross motor ability to use their hands across their body to eat), which is a critical skill for safe BLW. Additionally, proper dishware can help foster other gross and fine motor development, such as their pincer grasp.
• Perfect Plate for BLW
My favorite plate for BLW is the ezpz Mini Mat, an all-in-one plate + placemat that suctions to the table. The mat captures the mealtime mess, and the patented self-seal feature means no more tipped or thrown plates! The mat has three compartments that visually remind parents to serve a fruit or veggie, a protein, and a carbohydrate. In addition, the smiley face design puts kids in the right mood for a positive mealtime experience and promotes the exploration of new foods. Also, the Mini Mat is portion-sized (2 oz for each eye compartment and 4 oz for the smile compartment), so you know how much of each food group your baby ate!
Withhold vs. Wipe
Having the right products can decrease the stress associated with mealtime clean-up. That is why I always recommend having a safe bib when introducing solids. However, the bib is there to catch the mealtime mess, NOT to wipe your child’s face. If you are an obsessive chin wiper (we’ve all been there!), here are some sensory reasons why you may want to withhold face wiping.
• Avoid Feeding Aversions
Feeding aversions can occur if we constantly clean a child’s face during mealtime. Even a quick wipe from a bib, baby wipe, or towel can be an uncomfortable sensory experience for a baby. It can contribute to food refusal or behaviors when placing baby in the high chair. Babies do not like to be distracted by harsh facial sensations while eating. Thus, clean-up should wait until the end of the meal.
• Perfect Bib for BLW
In over 27 years of feeding therapy, I have found that the BapronBaby bibs (or “baprons”) are hands down the best solution for messy mealtime. This bib-apron hybrid was explicitly designed for infants and children to help decrease sensory aversions common with traditional bibs (that tie and put pressure on the neck). My favorite Bapron feature is that they are 100% waterproof and stain-resistant. No more stripping your baby down to a diaper for mealtime. Score!
P.S. If you want to learn more of my expert tips for starting solids with your baby, check out my Choking Prevention and Response Course. I co-teach this informative course with Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE, and Brandon Doerksen, so you receive both choking prevention and intervention in one class! (The link above gives you $10 off our course!)
P.P.S. Get 10% off ezpz gear and Bapron bibs at bapronbaby.com when you use the code: DAWN10.
I hope these feeding tips will help you start solids with less mess! Feel free to share some of your tips, fears, and experiences about messy mealtimes by using the hashtag #MsDawnSLP.