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Tips to a Cleaner Meal Experience
by Rebecca Garland

Baby food is an exciting milestone for your baby, but it is certainly a messy one. As your baby begins eating solids, more than a few bites will wind up on his clothes, his lap, the highchair, his hands, and then, of course, all over the rest of him. Occasionally some might land in his mouth as well.

While this messy eating is adorable the first five or six meals, eventually you are ready to feed your baby without spending thirty minutes cleaning up afterward. Baby food or finger food, here are ways to experience a cleaner meal.

Use a High Chair
The first step to cleaner meals is to use a high chair. A play center or baby seat may work, but most likely your baby’s head won’t be at arm level. For the easiest feeding, you want your baby’s head up near yours when you’re seated. This means the food goes straight in, not down into his mouth.

Also, sitting in a play area or surrounded by toys means that he’ll have a harder time focusing on the food. You’ll be chasing his head around with a full and dripping spoon while you try to get him to pay attention long enough to open his mouth.

Give Him a Spoon
Pretty soon after the first meal, your little one may develop a fascination with the spoon. After all, the spoon does provide some yummy nourishment. When your little one starts grabbing the spoon and flinging its contents into his lap and around the kitchen, simply offer him a clean spoon of his own. Having his own spoon to hold and chew may not make the meal mess-free, but it will be less frustrating for you and possibly eliminate some of the drips and spills.

Offer Finger Foods
Often babies over six months of age want to “help” with a feeding and are anxious to try “real” food. Offer your baby a cracker or toast while you spoon feed him. The cracker will help keep him focused on the meal and while he’s gnawing on the cracker, you may be able to eat a few bits of your own dinner. As your baby gets older, offer finger foods on the tray of the high chair for him to practice picking up while you spoon feed him. After the cereal is in, he can fill up on the rest of the finger foods.

Cover Him Up
A simple solution for younger babies is to cover the baby up from neck to toe with a baby blanket or burp cloth. Tuck in the blanket as if it were a giant dinner napkin, and then at the end of the meal, whisk the dirty blanket away to reveal a clean baby underneath.

Time Meals to Your Advantage
Be sure you’re feeding your baby when he is at his best. A lunch squeezed in before a nap may be more trouble than its worth. Your baby will be tired and tired babies do a lot of face rubbing. That means the food around his mouth may wind up on his hands and then in his eyes. A tired baby may also just be too worn out and cranky to eat very much. Either feed your baby well before the nap or just feed him after the nap when he is fresh.

Be Patient
Finally, be patient at mealtime. Babies are still learning to use their mouths and tongues. Offer small bites and wait while your baby rolls the food around in his mouth to process it. Keep the spoon ready to help scoop the dribbles back in, and only offer the next bite when he opens his mouth ready for it. Rushing through a meal or offering bites that are too big only makes a bigger mess.

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