Feeding babies is MESSY. Many Mums and Dads cringe at the thought of their baby smearing food into their hair or dropping it all over the floor. That’s a really normal feeling. But, we know that the more mess babies make with food, the more confident they are at mealtimes. When they ‘play’ with food, they’re actually learning about the feel of it, the smell of it, the look of it and maybe the taste of it. The touch component is especially important for babies and their developing sensory systems to be able to manage a variety of textures in the future.
If you feel bothered by mess, then sometimes it can be helpful to do the following things:
- Choose a meal that you’ll let your baby get particularly messy at, and mentally prepare yourself
- Grab a cheap shower curtain, plastic tablecloth or mess mat to pop under the highchair. You can wipe that clean at the end, pop it in the wash or hose it down on the clothesline. If you’ve got tiles on the floor, then it’s sometimes easier to just wipe them down at the end of the meal.
- Buy a good smock that covers your baby’s clothes and can be easily washed after a messy meal. We used Little Chomps Smocks which are so reasonably priced and save so much worry about cleaning up. You can just wipe them clean with a damp cloth, or chuck them into the washing machine. I also love the Messmenot Smocks and the Bibado Smocks.
It is SO important that you don’t try to clean your baby up DURING a meal. Constant chin scraping, tray wiping or hand cleaning teaches your baby that it’s not ok to make a mess. If babies don’t get used to new textures on their hands, they often don’t feel confident to put new foods into their mouth. That becomes a big problem as they become a fussier toddler and refuse to touch food.
Instead, do your best to save the clean up until the very end of the meal. I’d suggest that you:
- Pop all leftover finger food on the highchair tray back onto the plate. Older babies (~10 months) will like to help you do this.
- Do a quick tray wipe with your sponge
- Wipe baby’s hands with a flannel (and pull the smock sleeves over their hands to keep them clean)
- Wipe face- try to do this in one or two firm movements from top of the face to chin. Try not to dap or keep rubbing unnecessarily.
- Pull smock forward and lift baby out- you might like to set them up with some toys while you finish the tidy up.
- Wipe your smock with a cloth and hang out to dry, then finish the highchair with a thorough wipe.
Remember, mealtime mess is a sensory experience and is SO important for babies who are learning to eat. Do your best to embrace the mess when you can!