Baby-led weaning is a great way to introduce solids to your baby, with one serious drawback: the mess. Learn how to reduce the mess when baby-led weaning with these easy tips!
Baby-led Weaning Mess
There are so many benefits to baby-led weaning (BLW). From increased fine motor-skills to a more adventurous eater to pleasurable family mealtimes, I can’t say enough about the benefits of baby-led weaning (but I attempted to in this post about the benefits of baby-led weaning…let me know if you think I missed any!).
As many benefits as there are to baby-led weaning, there is definitely one major drawback: the mess.
BLW is undeniably messy. You’ll probably never be able to entirely avoid the mess (but hey, it’s pretty easy to get messy spoon-feeding too). However, there are some easy steps to reduce the mess while baby-led weaning.
As a two-time BLWer, I’ve learned some handy tricks that help reduce the mess while baby-led weaning. Today I’m going to share them with you so you can keep your own mess under control.
If you’re a BLW newbie, be sure to read all about what you should expect during the first week of baby-led weaning here.
Tips to Reduce the Mess When Baby-Led Weaning
Here are some easy ways to reduce the mess while baby-led weaning:
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Feed a Few Pieces at a Time
Most BLW parents will put their baby’s food directly on the high chair tray. Resist the temptation to put a full meal on the tray at once. Instead, place three to five pieces on the tray at a time. That way, if baby uses their hand to do a big swipe, they haven’t thrown their whole meal on the floor.
Watch Baby Attentively
You should be watching baby attentively at all times, to ensure baby isn’t choking on their food. So, while you’re watching, you may be able catch some of the food baby tosses over the side of the high chair tray.
I can usually tell when my baby is about to toss something off the side of her tray. She likes to hold her food out for a few seconds before dropping it. If i’m diligent, I can usually catch about half the food and plop it right back on her tray.
If you decide to use a plate or bowl, be sure to use one with suction cups on the bottom (otherwise the whole thing is going to end up on the floor at some point).
I love these silicone pates because their raised edges mean my baby can’t push all her food to the floor with one swipe. The raised edges also make it just a bit easier for her to get a grip on the some of the trickier food.
Definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY invest in some full-sleeved bibs before starting baby-led weaning! These are a miracle invention that every parent should have. I am not totally sure why anyone makes non-sleeved bibs anymore. They have saved a ton of outfits during our BLW time. Buy a couple for home and at least one to stash in your diaper bag.
I will say that you do have to option to simply strip baby down to his/her diaper during feeding time. I did this often with my first, who turned six months in the summer. However, I found I ended up having to bathe her two or three times a day. It was way easier to use a bib and rinse it than go through the whole bathtime routine three times a day.
My second daughter started baby-led weaning in the winter, so stripping her down to her diaper wasn’t really an option in chilly Canada. We bought a couple more of these wonderful bibs and haven’t looked back.
If you’re serving something that stains easily (blackberries, tomato sauce, bananas)and are concerned about staining pants, it’s really easy to tuck a receiving blanket around baby’s legs to keep everything nice and tidy. Nothing is worse than finding a blackberry stain on the side of the pants after your meal!
You’ll want to offer water with meals to avoid constipation. However, lots of cups leak, especially if they are hurled off the high chair (my child can’t be the only one who does this).
We love this version, which we’ve used for years and never had a leak.
At first, you’ll want to load baby’s spoon yourself and pass the spoon to him/her. This can be messy for the first few weeks (my little one likes to turn her spoon around and suck on the other end!).
Once baby gets the hang of things and realize the food on the spoon tastes good, they’ll have no trouble popping it in their mouth! This should ease up some of the mess.
After a few months of loaded spoon, you’ll want to allow baby to use the spoon independently. This can be daunting and extra messy! Try this semi-spoon utensil that will help baby learn to get food onto the spoon a little easier and cut down on the mess.
Even with long-sleeved bibs, you will need a ton of wash clothes to wipe off baby’s hands and face. I love this basic 24 pack (you’ll use every single one) from Amazon. Don’t worry about them being white. No matter what colour you have, they will inevitably be stained after about a week! At least you can use bleach on white cloths if you really want them to be spotless.
The best BLW highchairs are all plastic, no cushion, so they’re easy to wipe. A simple high chair is better. This version from Ikea is super simple and sleek looking. A space-saving highchair that straps onto a chair is another great option because you can unstrap it and put it right in the sink to clean.
Another great option is a highchair that has a removable top to the tray, so you can remove the messy tray and clean it while baby is still sitting in the high chair.
If you do have carpet or hardwood, you will definitely want a splash mat like this one. It will make cleaning up so much easier! You could also use a tablecloth, but I love that the splash mat is BPA-free, PVC-free, vinyl-free, phthalate-free and lead-free (and has a 10 fun patterns to choose from).
Certain foods are obviously more messier than others (hello spaghetti!). Pick the right time for messy foods, like right before bath time.
There are plenty of less-messy foods you can fall back on when you’re on the go or only have a few minutes for a quick meal.
- cooked carrots
- cold pasta without sauce
- cut grapes
- rice cakes
- bread sticks
- dried fruit
If you have an option, it’s best to feed baby on ceramic or vinyl flooring, because both are very easy to clean. Obviously avoiding carpet is preferable, but hardwood can be damaged as well, unless you are very diligent about cleaning it immediately after each meal (this can be tricky if baby gets fussy).
Some foods are just downright messy. Here are strategies for a couple of the messiest foods.
Soup is one of the messier foods that is hard even for the most dexterous baby or toddler to handle. You can try giving baby soup in a cup so they can drink it instead of using a spoon (as an adult I still enjoy a mug of soup almost every day!).
You can also serve stick-shaped pieces of bread to dip into soup. You can do the same with other runny food like yogurt and applesauce.
Runny foods like oatmeal can be slightly overcooked to make the consistency a little thicker and easier to manipulate. If you cook oatmeal from scratch (super easy and much less sugar), just cook for 2-3 minutes longer than usual.
Embrace the Mess
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that babies are messy. From diaper blowouts to spit-up, you can’t totally avoid a mess with a baby. Know that you can reduce the mess when baby-led weaning, but you will never be able to totally avoid it.
The amazing benefits of BLW far outweigh a bit of extra cleaning. Better to embrace it and accept that you will be cleaning a little more for the foreseeable future.
Get A Dog
If all else fails, get a dog! Guaranteed mess cleaner-upper!
Those are my best tips to help you reduce the mess when baby-led weaning. I hope you have a marvelous time embarking on this journey with your baby!
What has been the messiest part of your baby-led weaning experience? How do you deal with it?
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