How to Manage the Baby-Led Weaning Mess

Want to try baby-led weaning but nervous about the mess? These tips and products will help you streamline the clean-up process and make baby-led weaning a fun and enjoyable process or everyone.

Learn how to manage the baby-led weaning mess!
*This post contains affiliate links.

As new moms, it can be awfully difficult to condone any sort of activity for our little one that will result in yet another mess. We’re all stretched so thin as it is, juggling too many responsibilities at once and trying to fit as much as we can into our day.

If you’re at all familiar with baby-led weaning (and if you’re not, click here), you know that it comes with its fair share of messes. Given the load us mamas are already bearing, this can be a huge drawback when it comes to deciding how we want to introduce solid foods to our little one. But it doesn’t have to be!

We have been so happy with the results of baby-led weaning for our little one that I’ll happily say it was well worth every single mess we had to clean up. That being said, we did learn a thing or two in the process about efficient clean-up, and this is what I’m sharing with you today.

Even if you didn’t go the baby-led weaning route, you’ve likely faced (or will be likely to face) a huge mealtime clean-up at some point in time, and these tips will help you too!

A toddler self-feeding herself a smoothie bowl in her high chair.

I’ve got a ton of other resources for baby-led weaning here on the blog, but I’ll just quickly explain WHY things get extra-messy with BLW and then we’ll get on to my (very) well-tested tips and tricks for cleaning.

WHY IS BABY-LED WEANING SO MESSY?

One of the main reasons baby-led weaning is so messy is because it highly encourages your child to start feeding him- or herself from the get-go. This includes grabbing onto finger foods, using utensils, and sipping from a cup from a very early age. The thought is that this enables your little one to better explore his or her food and learn to be self-sufficient. It also allows you to enjoy your meal at the same time as them.

As you can imagine, there’s a bit of a learning curve involved. It takes some time for your little one to get the hang of things, which can lead to some huge messes in the meantime.

Once you read these tips and get into a routine, clean-up will become a snap and it will no longer be something you dread. Let’s get into it!

TOP TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MANAGING THE BLW MESS

1. Invest in a “splat mat”

This is by far one of the best investments we made when embarking on our baby-led weaning journey with our little one. There are a ton of “splat mats” out there, which are simply plastic floor tarps that you place under your baby’s highchair to catch food and liquids. Not only do splat mats help protect your floors, they’re easy to wipe up and can just be removed and shaken out if there are only loose crumbs. My main hesitancy in getting a splat mat was that I wouldn’t be able to find one that would fit in with our decor (we have a huge open floor plan so all of our common area rooms run together) but I managed to find a not-so-offensive clear one like this that we have absolutely loved. There are a ton of inexpensive options out there, though, so you’re sure to find one that works for you.

2. Get a few full-coverage, easy-to-clean bibs

Bibs are another thing that can be a game-changer when it comes to dealing with the baby-led weaning mess. A lot of BLW moms love these silicone ones with the catch-all at the bottom, but I fell in love with these super cute Bapron Baby aprons that are easy to clean and come in tons of fun prints (not to mention they’re about as full-coverage as you can get.) Be sure to stock up on a few, though, because you’ll want to rinse them out or run them through the wash when they get messy.

3. Don’t be afraid to strip your chid down

Afraid the after-effects of a meal are going to completely ruin your little one’s outfit? Don’t be afraid to strip them down! Sure, you may want to avoid this when you’re out in public, but it’s an easy thing to do when you’re in the comfort of your own home. I still do this with my toddler when I know something she’s eating – I’m looking at you, popsicles! – is going to be particularly messy.

4. Get an easy-to-clean highchair

Let me tell you, those cushion-y, complicated highchairs are a nightmare to clean. If you don’t want to be disassembling and running a load of laundry after every meal, get an easy-to-clean highchair! After a ton of research, we purchased the Ikea Antilop highchair for our little one and were incredibly happy with it. I had even ordered the cushion insert you can get for it, but stopped using it after about a week because it was a pain to clean. The Antilop is not only super-easy to wipe down after every meal, it’s super cheap at less than $30 (if you purchase from Ikea). Can’t go wrong with that!

5. Stock up on microfiber cloths

I don’t know about you, but I hate making unnecessary waste. It only took us a few meals of going through our fair share of paper towels before I decided to stock up on a ton of microfiber cloths to use when cleaning up the BLW mess. These are great for not only cleaning the eating area, but also your little one’s face and hands (and anywhere else on their body that the mess may have reached.)  We probably have about 15 cloths in a folded stack in our kitchen that we cycle through. Simply throw any dirty ones in the wash anytime you’re doing a load!

6. Use eco-friendly disinfecting wipes

As much as I like minimizing waste, there are times when a microfiber cloth just won’t cut it. When this happens, we reach for our Seventh Generation disinfecting wipes. I love that these are still eco-friendly and safe for our babe as well. We use them to do a deeper clean on the highchair and to wipe down the splat mat on a regular basis.

7. Get a dog

Okay, I know you’re probably not going to go out and get a dog JUST for this reason, but I’d be lying if I said our pup didn’t make our baby-led weaning clean-up process a whole lot easier. Of course, we always monitor what’s on the ground before letting her eat (so she doesn’t eat anything that might make her sick) AND we make her wait to eat until after our little one is done. This helps prevent her from begging at the table and interrupting our – and our little one’s – meal. If you have a dog already, see if he or she might be willing to help pitch in with the cleaning! (I’m going to venture to say they’ll be more than happy to oblige.)

Dogs are a great way to manage the baby-led weaning mess!

So there you have it! My top tips and tricks for managing the baby-led weaning mess. I’d love to hear if you have any tips of your own that have been useful in the clean-up process. Let me know in the comments below!

Top 5 Favorite Foods for 10-Month-Olds

Here is a list of some favorite foods for 10-month-olds on their baby-led weaning journey, including recipes and directions for how to prepare each one!

Title graphic for 5 favorite foods for 10-month-olds.

I’m sure by now you’re a pro at feeding your little one and baby-led weaning in general, but I know we all could use some inspiration here and there. You know by now some of the best foods for 6- and 8-month-olds, but here are some new things to try with your 10-month-old.

#1 PEANUT BUTTER TOAST, FRENCH TOAST, OR TOAST OF ANY KIND

I don’t think I have yet to meet a 10-month-old who doesn’t like some sort of toast. I think there’s something about bread loaded with delicious toppings (that, of course, can be licked off) that gets a babe excited. You 10-month-old is now used to a variety of foods, and toast can be an exciting upgrade for them as you mesh more than one food together in a meal for him or her. For everyday peanut butter toast, we love Dave’s Killer Bread. We’re also very careful to buy peanut butter that ONLY has peanuts as its ingredients. There are a ton of peanut butters out there that have things like sugar and hydrogenated oils, so be sure you’re reading ingredient lists (Santa Cruz Organics and Trader Joe’s are two of our favorite “clean” brands). [Affiliate links!] Also, be sure you’ve gone through the recommended steps for introducing allergens (which you can learn more about in this bookaffiliate link) before introducing peanut butter to your little one.

Of course, we can’t forget about French toast. It’s easy to lose sight of the nutrients in this classic breakfast, but this recipe for High-Protein Lemon Ricotta French Toast will keep your little one happy for hours!

Two slices of lemon ricotta French toast are stacked on a plate, topped with a pat of butter and drizzled with syrup.

#2 SCRAMBLED EGGS

This is another food you’ll want to be sure you follow the proper introduction strategy for, but once you’ve ruled out an allergy scrambled eggs are a great, protein-packed food for your little one. When we’re not making our meal prep egg cups, we simply scramble Raia an egg in a little bit of high-quality butter (like Kerrygold) and add a touch of cheese (her favorite) and sometimes some baby kale and mushrooms. Eggs are another great way to sneak in some extra veggies for your little one!

A stack of Fiesta Egg Muffins - a great make-ahead snack for 10-month-olds!

#3 SHRIMP

I know I’m recommending a lot of common allergens here, but if you’re following baby-led weaning, you should have a good sense of what your baby is or isn’t allergic to by now. (If you’re not familiar with baby-led weaning, the general premise is to introduce allergens early and often, but one at a time so you know exactly what your little is allergic to if he or she has a reaction.) Raia loved shrimp from an early age. We simply grilled it up on the barbecue with some salt-free garlic-herb seasoning [affiliate link] and then cut it up into bite-size pieces for her. We mostly cut it up because she had no teeth, so if your little one teethes early feel free to try serving it to them whole.

A pile of cooked shrimp on top of a bed of greens. Shrimp is a great food for 10-month-olds as long as they're not allergic!

#4 TRI-TIP OR OTHER THINLY SLICED STEAK/GROUND BEEF

Yes, I know what you’re thinking – BEEF?? But, you guys, Raia loved it soooooo much at this age. And yes, she still had no teeth. Hear me out. Beef is a great source of iron for little ones, and we all know it’s also very high in protein. My husband is a master at cooking tri-tip on the grill, so we simply sliced that up thinly and gave it to her to gnaw on. If cooking tri-tip or another large cut of beef intimidates you, feel free to introduce your little one to ground beef or even baby-size sliders!

A cast iron dish filled with a bed of lettuce and topped with mushroom-beef sliders.

#5 BROCCOLI

I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit wary of introducing broccoli to Raia, mainly because she didn’t have any teeth at this point. My solution was to cut the florets up into very small pieces, and make sure I gave them a good roast in the oven. Much like other vegetables I’d prep for Raia at this age, I simply dressed them with olive oil and some seasoning (garlic powder, lemon juice and ground coriander are some favorites) and roasted them up in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes. I also occasionally steamed the broccoli on the stovetop, but I find roasting lends much more flavor.

A head of broccoli with some chopped florets in the background.

And there you have it! I hope this post was helpful in giving you some ideas and preparation tips for foods for 10-month-olds. If I left anything out, I’d love for you to list it in the comments below!

Top 5 Favorite Foods for 8-Month-Olds

Here is a list of some favorite foods for 8-month-olds (plus recipe ideas!), when your little one is well on his or her way in their baby-led weaning journey.

Title graphic for Top 5 Favorite Foods for 8-Month-Olds

You’ve made it to 8 months in your baby-led weaning journey, your little one has had his or her first tastes of solid food, and you’re ready to start introducing some new and exciting flavors. If you haven’t introduced them already, here is a list of five great foods to offer your baby at this stage, with tips on how to prepare each one.

Read on for more!

#1 WATERMELON

Slices of fresh watermelon are a great food for 8-month-olds!

Watermelon is a great, soft fruit to introduce at 8 months. It’s easy for your little one to hold on to (albeit messy) and does not require any teeth to chew. Just be sure to keep an eye on your babe when he or she is eating it, though, as it is something they can choke on if they get too excited to eat it and don’t chew it properly. When Raia experienced this with watermelon once or twice, a simple sweep of my finger in her mouth got the troublesome piece out with no issue. To minimize the chance of choking, simply cut the watermelon in long, skinny strips so the risk of is even lower. Also, be sure you buy seedless!

#2 ZUCCHINI

One zucchini partially sliced on a cutting board with a chef's knife in the background. Zucchini is a great vegetable for baby-led weaning!

I’ve mentioned this in other roundups, but zucchini has always been (and continues to be) one of Raia’s favorite foods. When first introducing her to it, I peeled it and cut it into strips before seasoning with olive oil and garlic powder and roasting in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Once she got a little older, I started leaving the skin on, and once she got even older I started cutting the zucchini into discs. Now I alternate between the oven roasting method and a pan-frying method where I sauté the discs in herbed garlic butter. If you struggle with getting your little one to eat just plain zucchini, mix it into something fun like pancakes! I have a great zucchini pancake in my book 30 Freezer-Friendly Recipes for Babies and Toddlers.

#3 SWEET POTATO

Sweet Potato Zucchini Blender muffins are sure to be a hit with your 8-month-old.

Sweet potato can also easily be started as early as 6 months, because it can be peeled and roasted soft enough for toothless eaters to get down safely. My progression for preparing sweet potato was quite similar to that of zucchini – peeled strips first, then strips leaving the skin on, then discs. I almost always just roast these in a 400-450 degree oven with olive oil and spices for about 20 minutes. Some of my favorite spices to pair with sweet potatoes are cinnamon, nutmeg and curry powder. And if you’re looking to mix it up, you can find a tasty recipe for Sweet Potato Zucchini Blender Muffins here!

#4 MUFFINS

Okay, I’ve already mentioned them above but I’m including muffins in my recommendations for more than one age group because they have been SUCH a hit with my daughter. There are tons of great recipes for healthy, baby-friendly muffins out there. Some of my favorites include these Beet and Oat Banana Muffins from Inspiralized and my own Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins. They’re a great portable snack to have on hand in the freezer that can be ready at a moment’s notice. There are also endless options of healthy fruits and veggies you can mix into the batter!

#5 SMOOTHIES

A messy-faced toddler smiling after enjoying a smoothie bowl. Smoothie bowl are a great part of meal prep!

Once your little one has learned to drink out of something other than a bottle, it’s great to start introducing healthy smoothies (with very little sugar added, of course). Nourish Move Love has a great post on how to make smoothies that are baby-friendly. I find these are another great way to sneak in hidden nutrients like veggies!

And there you have it! ICYMI, I’ve been recapping my favorite foods at many different ages. If your little one is younger than 8 months, you can check out my 6-month favorites here. As you continue on your baby-led weaning journey, be sure to check out my 9-month, 10-month, 12-month and 18-month favorites as well!

Top 5 Favorite Foods for 6-Month-Olds

Here is a list of some favorite foods for 6-month-olds (including recipes) – perfect for when you’re just starting out on your baby-led weaning journey.

Title graphic for Top 5 Favorite Foods for 6-Month-Olds featuring Freezer Oatmeal Cups and butternut squash.

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the 6-month mark and your baby has exhibited all of the signs that he or she is ready to start solids. I’ve covered the topic of the Best First Foods for Baby-Led Weaning in an earlier post, but today I wanted to personalize things a bit more and let you know some specific foods that my little one absolutely loved at this age.  

I know it can be hard to get creative when you’re worried about your child even being able to chew, so I’m taking the guesswork out of things and arming you with tons of ideas. Some of these will be repeats of what I’ve already told you about, but you’ll get the idea. 

#1 AVOCADO 

Aside from oatmeal, this is the very first food we offered to Raia on her baby-led weaning journey. Like you, I was nervous to give her anything that required too much chewing, especially because she had no teeth. I also love the nutritional benefits of avocado. To this day, it is still one of her favorite foods (although now she calls it “ah-co” and has mastered spearing it with a fork.) As they get their chewing skills down, avocado also turns into a great healthy spread for a turkey sandwich or the quintessential avocado toast! 

#2 OATMEAL 

An overhead shot of Freezer Oatmeal Cups - an easy breakfast to have in the freezer for your 6-month-old!

As I wrote in this post, Raia was exhibiting all of the signs of being ready to start solids when she was a little less than 6 months old. Breastfeeding wasn’t going so well for us and she was wanting more. Because of this, we decided to start her on oatmeal at a little over 5 months old (in addition to a combination of breastfeeding and formula-feeding.) I’m not going to lie, it’s messy! But it’s certainly fun to see your little one exploring the food – touching it, smearing it, attempting to scoop it. It’s just too cute. A quick note: Although we did use a specific BABY oatmeal for a while, it certainly isn’t necessary unless your babe is low on iron (most baby rice cereals and oatmeals come fortified with iron). You can just as easily make a batch of rolled oats from your own stash or whip together some freezer oatmeal cups (pictured above), just make sure they do not have any additional ingredients like sugar, salt, etc. Quaker Instant Oat Packets are not the answer here. 

#3 HEALTHY BAKED DONUTS 

A stack of healthy carrot cake donuts showcase another great recipe for 6-month-olds.

If you continue reading these posts all the way up to the 18-month mark, you may see a pattern of healthy baked goods. I’ve spread them out a bit, but alllllll of these donuts, muffins and pancakes have literally been saviors in our baby-led weaning journey. From 6 months on, I started making these baked goods as a fun way to sneak more nutrients into Raia’s diet and, you know what? It totally worked! Most of the recipes I’ve used include eggs, oats (or whatever type of flour you prefer), ground flax, bananas, some sort of vegetable (spinach, beets, carrots and pumpkin are favorites) and whatever herbs and spices you like. Mix it up between donuts, muffins and pancakes, try different types of veggies every week, and pop the batches in the freezer once they’re cool. When you’re little one is in need of a healthy breakfast or snack, simply pop the frozen good into the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute and you’ll be set. So easy! 

#4 BANANA 

I think this is a no-brainer for most new moms, but I had to say. This is another food that Raia still absolutely loves. In fact, we’ve had to limit her to one “nana” a day because otherwise I think she’d turn into a monkey! What’s also great is that, with baby-led weaning, you can give your little one the entire (peeled) banana and just let them go at it! It’s so fun to watch them learn how to eat it. 

#5 BUTTERNUT SQUASH 

A whole butternut squash sliced in half on a cutting board.

Butternut squash is a common first puree for babies (if you’re following that route), but did you know it’s also a great first food for baby-led weaning? You may think it’s too hearty for a baby to eat right away, but it all depends on the cooking method. As with many vegetables you prepare for your little one as they’re just starting out with baby-led weaning, you’ll want to slice your squash into easy-to-pick-up sticks. I’ve found the best way to cook the squash is roasting it in the oven, and simply roast it until it is very fork tender. Now, do you want in on a little secret? I just buy the pre-cut Butternut Squash Zig Zags at Trader Joe’s and roast those with some olive oil and a little seasoning, 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. So easy! Some of my favorite ways to season butternut squash are curry powder and a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg. 

And there you have it! I hope this list makes you feel more comfortable and ready to embark on your baby-led weaning journey with your little one. As he or she grows and has mastered the foods listed here, be sure to check out the next post in my series: Top 5 Favorite Foods for 9-Month-Olds! 

Creative Baby and Toddler Lunch Ideas

If you have your baby or toddler in daycare – or even have to prepare food for a babysitter or nanny to serve your little one at home – this list of Creative Baby and Toddler Lunch Ideas is for you!

A toddler having a lunch picnic on the beach. Creative lunch ideas are important for exposing your child to a wide variety of foods!

For many of us, between 6- and 24-months is often the age we begin sending our child to daycare, or having some sort of regular childcare schedule implemented in our own home. This is also THE most important time for our little ones to be introduced to a wide variety of foods, so it’s crucial that we parents are on top of our game when it comes to sending our babes off with a healthy, well-balanced and flavor-diverse lunch.

That being said, I know all too well how easy it is to get stuck in the rut of serving the same thing over and over again. So let’s first talk about some of the roadblocks I know we ALL face…

ROADBLOCK #1: I DON’T HAVE TIME TO GET CREATIVE

Well, you’re in luck! I’m taking the guesswork out of it for you today by providing some interesting, non-repetitive options. It’s not that hard if you’ll just open your mind to it!

Also, meal prep is a godsend for busy parents like you and me. One hour of planning and prepping can set you up for HUGE success the rest of the week. I urge you to take 20 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday and roughly plan out your meals for the week. Be sure to leave some flexibility for eating out once in a while and making good use of leftovers. Then, make a shopping list and head to the store!

I’ve found that since I’ve implemented meal planning into my life over the last six months or so, I’ve saved so much time by knowing exactly what I’ll make each night, taking just one trip to the grocery store each week, and also always having healthy, interesting leftovers on hand.

A basket of fresh produce. Meal planning and prepping is a huge help in making creative lunches your little one will love.

ROADBLOCK #2: MY CHILD ONLY LIKES CERTAIN THINGS

C’mon, mom and dad. Don’t give up that easily! Your child probably only likes certain things because (a) they’ve not been introduced to enough variety early on in life, or (b) you give in to them refusing certain things and offer to make them an alternative. I understand this may be controversial for some of you, but take a look at my healthy meal prep for your baby or toddler post to get a better idea of where I’m coming from.

Also, keep in mind that babies’ and toddlers’ palates are constantly changing and evolving. If they don’t like something the first time you give it to them, try again in a week or two with the food prepared in a different way. You might be surprised!

ROADBLOCK #3: MY CHILD DOESN’T GET EXCITED ABOUT THE FOOD I PACK THEM

Question for you: Do you get excited about the food you pack them? Does your child ever see you eating the same foods that you’re putting in their lunchbox? We often underestimate how much children learn by osmosis. If they see you getting excited about the different things you’re giving them, they’re more likely to get excited about it themselves.

Take, for example, the time I made posole but decided my little one probably wouldn’t like it, so I made her a quesadilla instead. NOPE! She saw mom and dad eating the yummy posole and wanted some of her own! Kids always surprise us – especially if you just give them a chance!

So, how’d I do? Did I squash all your fears or concerns? If there’s something else that’s holding you back, I want to know! Give me a chance to prove you wrong 😉

Now, let’s get to the good stuff!

Here are some ideas of creative lunches you can pack your baby or toddler (also note, many of these include snacks):

  • Lunch: Ground turkey, butternut squash zigzags, avocado; Dessert: Kiwi; Snack: Pumpkin-Carrot Muffin

A packed toddler lunch consisting of ground turkey, butternut squash zig zags, avocado, and sliced kiwi, with a healthy pumpkin muffin for snack.

  • Lunch: String cheese, sautéed mushrooms and cauliflower, Power Protein Bite; Dessert: Sliced pear; Snack: Pumpkin-Carrot Muffin
  • Lunch: Half a bagel with cream cheese and shredded zucchini, butternut squash zigzags, Power Protein Bite; Dessert/Snack: Orange

A packed toddler lunch consisting of half a bagel with cream cheese and shredded zucchini, butternut squash zig zags and a power protein bite, with an orange for dessert.

  • Lunch: Grilled chicken breast, butternut squash zigzags, Power Protein Bite; Dessert/Snack: Raspberries
  • Lunch: Sliced steak, avocado, roasted veggies (carrots, zucchini and broccoli), Power Protein Bite; Dessert: Freeze-dried strawberries; Snack: Happy Tot Fiber & Protein Granola Bar [*affiliate link]

A packed toddler lunch consisting of sliced steak and avocado, roasted vegetables, a power protein bite and dehydrated strawberries for dessert. There's also a fiber and protein bar for snack!

You get the gist…

In short, I try to offer a main protein, a vegetable, and either another protein or vegetable or whole grain as the main lunch, plus a fruit for dessert and a well-balanced snack. I love making healthy muffins for snack (as you can see) or sometimes I just end up throwing in a granola bar.

If you still need some more ideas, here are some other ideas in each category for you:

MAIN
  • Turkey sandwich with avocado on multigrain bread
  • Cheese quesadilla with hidden vegetables
  • Meatballs
  • Slider on a whole grain bun
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Shredded chicken with hummus
VEGETABLES
  • Zucchini noodles
  • Steamed green beans
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Sauteed carrot dimes or sticks
  • Sliced roasted beets
  • Roasted asparagus
OTHER
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Peanut butter crackers (make your own, the store-bought ones have so much junk in them!)
  • Veggie straws
  • Rice cakes
  • Hidden Veggie Mac-and-Cheese Bites

Two toddlers enjoying an outdoor lunch at a kids' table.

Have I inspired you yet? I sure hope so! I’d also love to hear some of your ideas. What are your favorite lunches to pack your little ones?