Feeding Baby – Tips For Coping With A Messy Eater

Tips For Coping With A Messy Eater

Let our tips for coping with a messy eater help take the stress out of mealtimes!

There’s no denying that feeding babies is a messy business!

It’s not so bad in the early days, when you are feeding your baby from a spoon, because you are pretty much in control of where the food goes!

But once you introduce finger foods to your baby or give him his own spoon, then you’ll be AMAZED by just how much mess one little person can create!

Probably the most important tip we can offer you at this point is to TRY NOT TO WORRY ABOUT THE MESS and just enjoy these special moments with your baby.

If you’re a particularly tidy person, it’s not easy to sit back and watch your baby cover everything with food when your instincts are screaming at you to get it all cleaned up!

But babies NEED to make a mess at first! It is very important for them to learn about the textures as well as the tastes of different foods. It is also important for them to have the freedom to control what they are eating – as our “How Much Should My Baby Be Eating?” page explains, this actually plays a crucial part in the body’s ability to regulate its own calorie intake. Interfering with this innate ability can lead to weight problems in later life.

And, of course, your baby needs to be allowed to hold the spoon in order to learn to feed himself.

So what can you do to keep the mess – and your stress – to a minimum?

Top Tips For Coping With A Messy Eater

  • Protect your baby’s clothes with a good bib – the coverall types are best when he is at the self-feeding stage (see some of our favourite bibs here).
  • Certain finger foods – like banana, avocado and peaches – are very slippery and tend to end up all over the place! Try rolling them in wheat germ or crushed cereal, which will help your little one pick them up and grip them.
  • Protect the floor – you can either buy a special highchair splash mat, or you can improvise with any wipe-clean material. A shower curtain is great, as it wipes clean AND it’s nice and big!
  • If you wish, you can buy a protective cover for the highchair itself.
  • Use a “suction” type bowl – at least then your baby will only be able to pelt you with pieces of food and not the entire dish! We love the ezpz Mini mat which sticks firmly to the table and is both a mat and a dish, all rolled into one!
  • Only put a little food in your baby’s bowl and keep the majority in a bowl beside you. That way, you can offer extra mouthfuls to your baby in case he is dropping more food than he’s actually eating!
  • If your baby is learning to use a spoon, try to offer thickened foods that will cling to the spoon and be easier for him to scoop up. A thick soup is ideal – a runny soup will end up everywhere!
  • Invite the family dog in after the meal to help you clean up!


Don’t discipline your baby for being messy.

It is simply out of his control – and he would have no idea why he was being punished. If your older baby is throwing food on the floor, however, you can gently set some family mealtime rules…

  • Decide first if your baby has actually had enough food – most babies start throwing food because they’re full. If so, simply remove the food and say something like “I’m done” or “no more” to your baby, so that he learns to tell you when he’s finished instead of demonstrating the fact!
  • If your baby seems to just throw food for fun, try removing the food for a minute or two – but keep the food where he can see it. Explain that “we don’t throw food”. If he’s hungry, you’ll be able to tell by his reaction to the removal of the food, so you can return it. But be consistent – take the food away every time some is thrown and he should get the message!
  • Throwing food gets your baby lots of attention! So make sure you give your baby plenty of attention when he’s eating nicely, too.

Try to keep things in perspective – almost all babies go through this phase and grow out of it before you know it! There’s plenty of time to teach good table manners later on…

for now, have fun and encourage your baby’s delight in food!

Feeding baby - coping with the mess

Visit our feeding accessories page to view a range of bibs, bowls, feeding spoons and more.

Alternatively, take a look at these fun highchair toys.

More tips and recipes…

Baby feeding problems
Eczema and baby food – is there a connection?
Breakfast ideas for baby
Introducing a sippy cup

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