Dealing With Baby-Led Weaning Mess: Essential Tips & Gear

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Baby-led weaning is an enjoyable stage for both you and your baby, but it can also be quite messy and leave your kitchen full of food. Fortunately, there are methods to make this process less messy for your home.

When does baby-led weaning get less messy? By the time your child is 1 year old, the mess should get better. Baby-led weaning becomes less messy with time as your baby grows and develops skills. You’ll learn strategies for easy cleanup and how to spot signs that indicate your child is about to start playing with food instead of eating it.

Fortunately, there are plenty of items on the market to make the messy phase of baby-led weaning easier. Follow a few tips and invest in some great splat mats, and you will survive this stage!

Is Baby-Led Weaning Supposed To Be Messy?

Baby-led weaning is often messy because your child is young and learning how to explore when eating. By letting your child take the lead, you aren’t controlling the spoon and perfectly guiding it to their mouths. 

Babies have to learn how to make food go from the hand to the mouth, and there’s no way that’s not going to be messy. Frustration can also lead to your child throwing or smearing food everywhere.

All of this is normal when it comes to the baby-led weaning process.

How Much Mess To Expect With Baby-Led Weaning

Every child is different, but the easy answer is to expect a lot of mess when baby-led weaning.

You will learn how to manage it, but it’s naive to go into the experience assuming it will be easy or clean. Your kitchen may look like a food fight took place by the time your child finishes one meal. 

6 Ideas To Manage the Mess of Baby-Led Weaning

As you and your child continue your journey in BLW, you’ll soon discover what works best for you. Until you reach that point, here are some tips that are sure to help.

1. Less Messy Meals

When it’s time to plan what you’re going to feed your baby, aim for less messy meals. Anything your child can hold in her hand without squishing is a good idea. Even squishy foods like pasta work if they stay somewhat solid when pressed.

2. Tablecloth Under High Chair

Put a plastic or vinyl tablecloth underneath the high chair before mealtime. Some parents even use an old shower curtain!

You won’t have to mop your kitchen daily but will instead be able to just wipe down the tablecloth and reuse it for the next meal.

3. The Right Bibs

The majority of food your child tries to get into her mouth is going to miss. Use bibs that have pockets to catch the food your child drops so it won’t end up on the floor.

4. Naked Dining

Your child does not have to dress in her Sunday best for meal time. Strip her down to her diaper before each meal to make cleanup even easier.

This will decrease the number of clothes you have to wash, and it will make cleaning your baby much easier when meal time is over.

5. Suction Bowls

Unless you want to watch your child chase a bowl across the table as it moves, invest in suction bowls. They stay in place and make the eating process less difficult for your child. 

6. Smaller Portions and Fewer Meals

When your child is first experimenting with child-led feeding, don’t offer it at every meal. A six-month-old will do well to try to feed herself once a day.

From six months to 12 months, increase how many meals you offer your child in their high chair. By the year mark, all snacks and meals will be child-led, but you can slowly get to this place.

It’s also wise to offer smaller portions for younger kids as they learn to feed themselves. Prepare the food away from their high chair, and offer it when it’s cut up and portioned.

A cute baby wearing a red smock with spaghetti sauce smeared on her face.

When Do Babies Get Better at Self-Feeding?

Two things will majorly impact your child’s ability to self-feed: development and practice. Your baby is still learning the skills that will make self-feeding easier for everyone, and that takes time. 

Practice is also a factor, and you are giving your child plenty of opportunities when you start the baby-led feeding process.

By the time your child is a year old, she should be able to have every snack and meal at the table with the family. It may still be messy, but it will be better by that point.

How To Teach Baby To Feed Himself With Spoon

When your baby is ready to hold a spoon, she’s ready to figure out how to get it to his mouth. You can start by preloading the spoon with food and holding your hand over hers as she guides it to her mouth.

Preloading the spoon will ensure she’s not frustrated if she can’t get the food on the utensil and will save her energy for getting the food to her mouth.

Over time, your child will master getting the preloaded spoon in her mouth. You can then show her how to load it with food and let her practice that process as well.

Best High Chair for Baby-Led Feeding

If you know you want to try baby-led feeding, get the high chair that will help set you and your little one up for success.

Evenflo 4-in-1 Eat & Grow Convertible High Chair

Want to buy a high chair that works for your child as she ages? The Evenflo 4-in-1 allows your child to use it until they reach 50 pounds. It’s also super easy to clean because you can remove the cover and straps and throw them in the washer.

Oribel Cocoon 3-Stage Adjustable High Chair

For a modern look that grows with your baby, the Oribel Cocoon can’t be beaten. It has reclining positions for babies who still use a bottle, and it’s easy to wipe down when messes happen.

The large eating tray makes it harder for everything to end up on the floor.

Best Bib for Baby-Led Feeding

You are going to need a bib or smock (or several of each) that can catch a lot of food that will miss your child’s mouth.

Bumkins SuperBib

Waterproof, washable, and with a pocket for dropped food, Bumkins SuperBib makes child-led feeding fun and less messy.

Tiny Twinkle Full-Sleeve Smock Bib

Smocks are ideal if you want to keep your child’s front covered while they attempt to eat. The Tiny Twinkle Full-Sleeve Smock Bib Velcros in the back and catches dropped food in the front. It’s waterproof, so your child’s clothes will stay protected.

Best Plates for Babies

It’s easier for your child to learn how to feed herself if the plates she uses don’t move too much when she’s trying to grab food.

WeeSprout Suction Plates

WeeSprout Suction Plates adhere to your child’s high chair while also efficiently separating food items. These plates have sections for each food, so your child will love them if she doesn’t like her foods to mix on her plate.

EZPZ Divided Plate With Placemat

Your child can really make a happy plate with these divided plates shaped like a smiling face. EZPA Divided Plates come with a placemat that will catch the food that falls off your child’s plate, and they are dishwasher and microwave safe.

Best Splat Mat

The food will go splat, so have a mat that can catch it and make your life much easier.

Moonsea Splat Mat

Moonsea Splat Mat can be placed under your child’s high chair to make post-meal cleanup easier. The mat won’t slip and is machine washable.


The BABYBOET can be used as a splat mat under the high chair or a tablecloth. It’s machine washable and layered, so no food is getting through to your floor.

It comes with a waterproof bag so that you can easily take it with you for restaurant meals or other outings.

Gear To Have Within Reach for Baby-Led Weaning

You want to have certain items within reach when you start baby-led weaning. Always have the following nearby:

  • Baby wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Cleaning rags
  • Extra utensils
  • Camera phone to take pictures of your baby’s food reactions

Closing Thoughts

Baby-led weaning helps your child get an early start on feeding herself. Just prepare for the mess and get the equipment you need to manage it, and don’t forget to enjoy the process. After all, they are only little once.

Baby Eating Carrots and Broccoli
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