7 Top Tips for Dealing with Baby Led Weaning Mess

Collage of messy babies

7 Top Tips for Dealing with Baby Led Weaning Mess

I’m not afraid of mess.

I knew exactly what I was letting myself in for this time round, having done BLW with Oliver 3 years ago. Yesterday, I gave boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast. I’m notoriously rubbish at boiling eggs. Instead of being lovely and dippy they were hard boiled. Boy, did I underestimate how much mess a 6 month old can make with a simple boiled egg! Thank goodness we didn’t have anywhere to go in a hurry this morning, it ended up with Charlie needing a bath and me spending 20 minutes cleaning the high chair and tray, the floor and even the walls!

It got me thinking: most people that I speak to who didn’t do BLW, or sometimes people who are in the middle of it say “I don’t know how you deal with the mess!”. I run a group on Facebook called Baby Led Weaning Ideas, Recipes and Reviews and I asked my members for their advice, for any tips, hacks or products they love to help manage the mess. Here are their answers, along with some pictures of their VERY messy babies!

1. Fail to prepare; prepare to fail

If you know you’re giving a really messy meal then prepare for it beforehand to save having to carry a slippery baby covered in Spaghetti Bolognese over your carpets and risk smearing the walls with orange oil as you wrestle a wriggly baby upstairs to the bathroom.

Here are two ways to deal with this mess:

Option 1 – Run a sink bath in the kitchen before you give baby their dinner. Have a sponge and soap, a towel, a clean nappy and clothes ready to dress them after their bath. To eat, strip baby down to only their nappy, cover the floor (see number 3!) and let them go for it. Once they’ve finished remove their nappy and stick them straight in the sink.

Babies being bathed in the kitchen sink

Option 2 – Invest in a great coverall bib with a catchy bit to collect any dropped food, and prevent it from ending up in the high chair or on the floor. I like the ones from Bibetta best. They’re made of neoprene so are waterproof, virtually stain resistant and fasten really securely around the neck so no food can get on clothes. They have a turn out bit at the bottom to catch any dropped food. Once baby has finished eating turn out the catchy bit of the bib onto the tray, bin the food. Wipe down the tray then using a warm flannel wipe the baby’s face and hands and then remove the bib. They *should* be quite clean.

Baby covered in yoghurt

2. Highchair hygiene

Get a high chair that is easy to clean, with no nooks or crannies or fabric on it. The firm favourite amongst mums for BLW seems to be the Ikea Antelop. They’re really good value; they cost just £14 in the UK from Ikea, or just under £20 on Amazon if (like me!) you can’t face a trip to Ikea. I actually picked mine up for a fiver second hand. We’ve had it for three years and it’s still going strong. It has a removable tray which can be washed by hand or it can go straight in the dishwasher, the legs come off so they can be wiped down easily and the seat is one piece so it’s very easy to wipe clean. There’s no fabric to stain and no nooks or crannies for food to hide in and go mouldy. My mums had some inventive ways to clean the Antelop. Most just wiped it down with some kitchen cleaner or anti-bac spray or wipes. Some hosed it down in the garden, and some mums even suggested washing it in the bath or the shower (they didn’t say whether they were showering at the same time, but I guess it saves water?!).

High chair in the garden

3. Protect your floors.

There are a number of ways to protect your floors. Most people seem to opt to put some kind of barrier down to protect floors and make them easier to clean. I have a lovely Messy Mat which is made from oil cloth. These mats are a great investment – I use mine for messy play and painting with my 3 year old, Oliver, and we use it as a picnic blanket when we have lunch in the playroom too. It’s waterproof so any spilt drinks don’t seep into grooves on my laminate floor.  I love that it comes in different prints; it matches my décor and also my highchair insert. I give it a wipe with Zoflora disinfectant before each meal and then if Charlie drops anything I know it’s clean, so I just hand it back to him. At the end of a meal I pick up the big bits and bin them, shake the crumbs outside for the birds or use a dustpan and brush and then give it another quick wipe over with disinfectant in my amazing spray mop. Alternatives to the Messy Mat are a Tuff Tray (which are also really good for messy play) or a cheap plastic shower curtain or dust sheet. If you have tiles, you might think you don’t need a mat down; just be careful if you have light grout as it can stain easily.

Cloth covering the floor with food on.

A genius invention I never had when I weaned Oliver is the Tidy Tot bib and tray set. It’s a large circular tray that fits onto the Ikea Antelop high chair (I’m sure it fits others too) and has a bib that attaches to it. This prevents any food from falling into the highchair, and the tray is so large that it prevents any food from being dropped on the floor. It’s quite easy to clean, the bib is removed and goes straight into the washing machine, the big bits go in the bin and then just give the plastic tray a wipe.

Baby covered in food

4. Timing is everything!

If you’re in a rush to go out try not to give things that are too messy. Most of us probably don’t consider the amount of mess a meal makes when meal planning. It’s not a good idea to let your 6m old feed themselves porridge with their hands when you have the school run to do in 10 minutes; you just add to your own stress levels by having a horrendously messy baby. If you’re in a rush in the mornings try clean breakfasts like apple or melon fingers, toast, pancakes or crumpets. These produce very little mess on the baby or the highchair and can be cleaned with a quick wipe. Steer away from yoghurt, porridge, hard boiled egg, or the absolute worst breakfast for mess: Weetabix. Save those for when you have more time. Clean lunch and dinner options are plain pasta with grated cheese, non juicy fruit like grapes (always chopped lengthways!), vegetable sticks like steamed carrot or cucumber, cold boiled potatoes, cheese or ham roll ups or sandwiches, breadsticks or cold meat like chicken strips.

Baby covered in porridge

5. Stock up on flannels (face cloths) and use them instead of disposable wipes.

Warm, damp flannels seem to work better than baby wipes to clean messy hands and faces. If you’re cleaning a very dirty baby you can find that you go though almost half a pack of wipes. With flannels you can rinse them out and wipe, and then repeat until baby is clean. Most babies HATE the clean up operation, so using warm water helps to make it a little more comfortable for them at least. The other bonus are that they’re more economical and environmentally friendly than disposable wipes, one pack of 12 face cloths from Amazon costs just £7.99 and is a worthwhile investment; I’m still using the same cloths 3 years later on my second baby, they’ve been washed again and again and haven’t gone to landfill yet!

Put small hooks on the back of the high chair to store your bib and a wet flannel, it keeps them handy so you know where they are and it means you can grab them easily as soon as you need them and can sort the mess out right away, no running into the kitchen to find a cloth at a crucial messy moment!

High chair with hooks on the back

6. Alfresco dining is the best

When weather permits, eat outside as much as you can, especially with the really messy meals. I’d still recommend picking up dropped food otherwise you might attract rats or someone might tread in it and ruin your carpets, but you don’t need to be as careful cleaning up as if you were inside. The other bonus is that you can just hose down the high chair when you’re done!

Baby covered in food eating outside

7. Chill out.

Mess, smesh, as one mum in my group put it! Make peace with the fact that if your 6 month old baby is feeding themselves; there will be mess. Enjoy it. Laugh with them, take lots of pictures and make memories with them. Like all things baby, it doesn’t last forever. I can’t remember when I stopped having to clean the floor with Oliver, or when he stopped wearing a bib. He’s 3 now and the fact I can’t even remember means it must have been a while ago! Now he eats nicely with a knife and fork, cuts up his own food and rarely makes a mess. You don’t ever think you’ll miss the mess, but you will, so make the most of it whilst it lasts.

collage of messy babies

Quite possibly the most unconventional way advised to help clear up the mess was to get a dog!

Dogs waiting around a high chair for scraps

Thank you to all the parents who gave me tips and allowed me to use their images. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and found a few hacks to help you on your way. If you’ve got any other ways to help manage the mess then please let me know below!

Kate Hitchens
  • Abi - Something About Baby
    Posted at 23:08h, 23 August Reply

    Brilliant tips here! I always assume that mealtimes will be messy, i’m rubbish at remembering bibs so most mealtimes are done naked with a bath at the ready when we are at home! The tidy tot looks fab though.

    • Kate Hitchens
      Posted at 10:51h, 24 August Reply

      I’m rubbish at remembering to pack a bib too – I found disposable ones last week! The Tidy Tot is fab, easier to clean than it looks!

  • jenny
    Posted at 22:08h, 25 August Reply

    As a new mum to a 5 month old son I love reading your blog. I feel so much more confident about baby led weaning thanks to all your tips and recipes on instagram, thank you for sharing!

    • Kate Hitchens
      Posted at 19:32h, 26 August Reply

      That makes me so happy to hear, thanks very much I’m glad you like it! Please do tag me when you start weaning I’d love to see how you get on 🙂

  • Sara Keel
    Posted at 23:49h, 10 August Reply

    Great article! Thank you. I’ll share on my Babycup page. Great advice and so many fab pics too! Love the sink photos!!! Sara xxx

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