Embracing the Mess

If you’ve ever taken our course, you know we are big believers of baby-guided feeding.

Embracing the Mess

Written by: Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN

If you’ve ever taken our course, you know we are big believers of baby-guided feeding: it builds independence, intuition, and a sense of adventure around food, all while developing your baby’s fine motor skills. But it also invites a huge mess, which can make many – if not most – parents anxious!

We’re here to tell you to find meaning in the mess. There are so many exciting things happening, developmentally and nutritionally, once babies start to feed themselves. Keep these things top of mind the next time there’s a big (but meaning-full!) mess:

  1. Children learn primarily through touch, feel, and play. Letting your child freely manipulate, move, and explore their food will promote their sensory development and foster a curiosity for new foods as they grow.
  2. Baby-guided feeding improves fine motor skills, which means less mess down the line. The more practice babies get using their hands and utensils, the sooner they will be independent feeders.
  3. Babies generally don’t like having their faces and hands washed. If you are cleaning them throughout the meal, they’re probably pretty uncomfortable, and you may be sending the implicit message that food is “dirty.” This messaging can breed anxiety about trying new foods and exploring different food textures (like slimy, runny, or squishy foods).
  4. Encouraging your kids to make their own choices about how and what to feed themselves gives them a sense of agency and will likely reduce mealtime power struggles. This will make mealtime more enjoyable for everyone – and who doesn’t want that?

So you’re willing to embrace the mess, but you still want it contained: make sure you have a good splat mat under the high chair, a long-sleeved bib, and wipes or a wet washcloth to clean your baby when they are done. And don’t be afraid to do most meals in a diaper. You’ll save time and money not having to clean (or replace) so many clothes!

You can shop our favorite items to manage the mess at meal time here. If you want some extra help with this messy milestone, check out our Feeding Your Baby Solids Food Course. The course covers everything you need to know about feeding your baby real food and gets you ready (physically and mentally) for this meaning-full milestone.