How to cope with a messy eater

Does every mealtime end with you depositing a mashed potato smeared baby in the bath? Read on for our tips on keeping your cool at this mucky stage of weaning

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Learning to eat isn’t just about chewing and swallowing; it’s also about getting stuck into food – literally. At this age, table manners are a long way off, so get ready for a bit of mess.

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Babies love to play with food, and will soon master the art of spitting out anything they don’t like the taste or texture of. Prepare yourself for more food to go on the floor, the walls and your clean cardi than into your baby’s mouth, and you won’t be disappointed!

Covering up

At first, your baby may find it easiest to sit on your lap when you’re feeding solids, so make sure that both of you are protected from spills. A good-sized bib for your baby is a must, and drape a towel across your knees, or better still, wear an apron.

Make sure you’re both wearing clothes that don’t matter – try feeding her in that pretty pastel outfit just before going to visit your mum, and you can pretty much guarantee that it will get carrot puree all over it.

Pick your spot

Feed your baby somewhere where you’re not worried about making a mess: the kitchen is probably the best choice, as you can wipe the floor afterwards if necessary.

If you sit in the living room and fret about every splash on the carpet or couch, it’s going to be a stressful experience for you both.

Some people feed their baby in a car seat or bouncy chair; this is a comfy option for weaning babies, but if it doesn’t have washable covers, try to protect it with an old towel before you start.

Protect the floor

Even if you have hard floors, to save having to mop after every meal, it’s worth investing in a plastic floor covering that you can wipe clean afterwards.

You can either buy a special ‘mess mat’ to go under your baby’s high chair, or go to a carpet store and get a piece of carpet protector.

Be prepared

Before you start, arm yourself with a packet of wipes, a tea towel or a damp cloth so that you can wipe sticky hands, spills and smears straight away.

Many weaning foods, like baby rice and porridge, set like concrete if you don’t get to them promptly, so wipe up drips sooner rather than later to avoid having to clean the high chair tray with a hammer and chisel.

One for you, one for me

Even if she’s not ready to feed herself with cutlery, your baby will love to grab at the spoon as you try to feed her, which can result in even more mess. There’s a simple solution: give her a spoon of her own, which she can wave around, bash on the high chair tray, and aim towards her mouth.

Feeling stressed?

If your baby is just messing about with the food and it’s getting to you, take the bowl away and try later when you’re both calmer. At this age, she’s still getting plenty of milk, so she won’t starve if she goes without a meal.

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Once she realises that too much play and not enough eating results in her food being taken away, she’ll gradually settle down to the task in hand. Don’t remonstrate with her, as you want eating to be a pleasurable experience; just make it clear that if the fun gets out of hand, dinnertime is over.

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