This is a nightmare

Well, I thought I hated mealtimes last week. As reported on Friday, thanks to the overwhelming advice posted here, we have turned our feeding operation around 180 degrees and now Trixie is only self-feeding. The fact that she took to it so quickly means you all were right on the money.

Over the weekend we’ve been giving her things like yogurt mixed with rice cereal smeared on toast and blueberries for breakfast; bananas, carrots from a can, cheese, goldfish crackers and sliced turkey for lunch; and frozen peas, macaroni & cheese, mashed sweet potatoes and veggie burgers for dinner.

Correspondingly, Trixie has managed to turn every single meal into an unbelievably insane mess. We’ve had to mop up the kitchen three times a day. Having survived one weekend of this crap, I can’t believe the results of last week’s poll. The top-ranked answer was “I LOVE feeding the baby?!!” Are you guys crazy? There’s clearly something I’m missing here. I think there would be less mess in the kitchen if I gave a plate of spaghetti to an orangutan and left the house for the weekend. We must be talking about different aged children or something.

Naturally, I want to figure out what’s going on, so I’m putting up a new poll to get to the bottom of this “I LOVE feeding the baby” thing. Together we can help fight baby mealtime! (Seriously, who has good advice about stopping messes?)

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28 Responses to This is a nightmare

  1. Tyler's Mom says:

    You should read “How to get your kid to eat, but not too much” by Ellyn Satter. Wordy title for a great book. The book’s foundation is that we parents are responsible for providing healthy food and kids are responsible for how much or even whether they eat. It also revealed to me, how we unconsciously pass on our eating hang-ups to our children. Seriously worth a read. It won’t end the messiness, but mealtimes will be stress free. (Amazon link)

  2. Tyler's Mom says:

    BTW — Love your work on the sleep charts and analysis. Thought I was the only one with the geeky need to track it all.

  3. Tyler's Mom says:

    Get a dog to clean the floor. The dog will gain poundage, but you will never have to wield a mop again.

  4. shawn says:

    when we said let he eat that, we didn’t mean all by herself. small amounts. like 8 or 9 peas at one time. when she finishes that, a couple more. small, MANAGEABLE amounts. it took allison a while to get up to self feeding, be patient. also a drop cloth or as babies-r-us calls them, splat mats.
    dude, just here to help.

  5. Marlene says:

    I’d paper the floor – newspaper, in as wide a circle around her as possible. And then, when all is done, scoop up the paper.

  6. sarah says:

    I vote dog. I love mine and there is never a scrap of food left on the floor after meal time madness.

  7. benmac says:

    The dog idea is sounding awesome! Much easier than the acrylic feeding chamber I was thinking about.

  8. christine says:

    You could try this: Cut a trash bag in half to open it up, and put it directly under the high chair. After the meal, and before you unleash the Trixie from her high chair prison, fold up the trash bag, and dispose.

  9. John says:

    Yeah – we have a plastic mat under Colum’s chair. And portion control is the thing too. Dole the food out, but by bit. Once she gets the hang of feeidng herself, she’ll cram food in, and that could become a choking risk. So give her a little bit at a time. Colum doesn’t use a plate or other kind of dish (he’d just throw it) – we just put the food directly on his tray.

  10. DavidNYC says:

    First, I’ll say that based on the TPOD, it looks like Trixie is having an amazing time feeding herself! Ben, I know it sucks for you & Jenn, but Trixie must love it.

    Second, my mom has a new book out on raising kids. It’s called Picking Your Battles: Winning Strategies for Raising Well-Behaved Kids and it covers birth to 11 years. (Site designed by our friend schaff.)

    I’m not just pimping my mom’s new book – I want to mention something specific that she’s written about. She says that when a baby first says “No!” (or suggests as much with her actions), it is an amazing sign – a sign that your child is becoming her own person, capable of her own opinions and decisions.

    This might be little consolation while you’re cleaning up a huge mess, but it really is magnificent to watch a child start to become a little human being, not just physically, but mentally. All that splattered food is just Trixie’s way of saying, “Hey! This is me!”

  11. Shauna says:

    Either little bits at a time or a dog…Hey, if you have a big mess one day, you can even borrow one of mine!

    Actually, a shower curtain liner makes a great floor covering. Go to WalMart and pick some up for 1.97 (everything ends in .97 there)–and hose off in the yard when super messy.

  12. Michelle says:

    My 11 month old son, Clark, makes a huge mess at mealtime too. I’ve found the best way to handle it (besides letting our golden retriever coat the kitchen floor in a thin film of dog saliva) is to give him chunkier foods. He gets practice chewing (which he loves) and when the food invariably falls to the floor, it’s easier to pick up (or lick up as the case may be for the dog). I save the more liquid foods like applesauce, baby cereal, etc. for the spoon. Although my son, like Trixie, refuses being spoonfed exclusively, he’s much more agreeable about it when he’s got two fistfuls of finger foods.

    Just a thought. Also for finger food suggestions, I like to bake sweet potatoes and chunk them – he loves it! Also, cantaloupe, peeled and cut grapes (so that they’re not a choking hazard), and steamed vegetables of almost any variety are big hits around here. Clark also loves baked chicken torn into small bits and browned hamburger meat as finger foods.

    I love the site!

  13. ISABELLE says:

    If you want to avoid the mess you should get a “Babee Tenda”. It’s a special kind of high chair (not cute but amazingly the most useful thing we bought!!). They don’t come cheap and are not sold in any stores. Go to their site and find out where they are going to have a safety meeting(if you attend one of those you get a discount on it!). I don’t work for them but I should because I can’t stop singing the praises of this chair!!
    I don’t pick up food from the floor, my little one can’t escape his chair either. All I do is take the tray off and wash it (2 seconds max!).Every friend with kid that comes to my house wants one!! Good luck, hope this helps you with your problem.

    Link added later by TTU: (Babee Tenda)

  14. Peach says:

    Sounds like you need to add a new icon to the daily mess. That or move the high chair into the tub and get it done all at once.

  15. Brooklyn says:

    I used to work at a camp for severly disabled children- mealtime was generally the equivalent of Hurricane Pudding- and the kitchen always sent such clean items, like Ravioli in Sauce…. quick tip- get a towel- bigger the better, promotional beach towels are the best- cut a neck hole (or get fancy and cut up the towel halfway and sew on strings to tie it shut- you have the world’s biggest baby bib- when you are trying to feed her, it will keep her hands down- when she’s feeding herself, install two more little cuts for her hands- this will at LEAST keep trixie clean-

    as for the floor- another towel- I found that shower curtains, trash bags, etc just spread the mess around – towels catch

  16. Michelle says:

    I meant to add to my previous post that I cook and freeze most finger foods in batches. If I bake a sweet potato, I bake 5-6 and then cube and freeze them so they’re ready to pop in the microwave and serve at a moments notice. I’ve found a hungry 11 month old DOES not wait! This method works very well for cooked vegetables, cooked fruits, baked chicken and browned hamburger meat also. Best of luck with finger foods — you’ll need it because we all do!


    p.s. Check out (Wholesome Baby Food) for lots of easy ideas for finger foods.0

  17. hannah says:

    I think maybe we misled you last week – just b/c we thought (and I speak for no one other than myself whom I like to call “we”) that Trixie was ready to feed herself doesn’t mean less mess – just less fighting to get the food in. Indeed it is more mess, as you’ve learned. It’s one of those things where you have to just grin and bear it, lest your type-A preferences stunt Trixe’s development. Or that’s what I told myself. I am happy to see that you’ve revisited the poll. I too found the results from last week PROFOUNDLY disturbing. Feeding the baby is AWFUL. THe happy feeding results led me to think that TTU is either frequented by a bunch of pollyannas or people with perfect babies. I didn’t like either of these thoughts. I was seriously wanting to go to different computers so I could vote over and over to correct the poll. Looks like this one is getting a more honest response. Remember people, this is anonymous voting – no one will know that it’s *you* who hates feeding your baby. Getting worked up about this, better go . . .

  18. Kelli says:

    May I recommend a “Dura bib”? You can get them at Walmart, and they have them in one of the baby stores at University Mall in Chapel Hill. A friend of mine with a toddler loves them! Here’s a link, in case you’ve never heard of them: (Dura Bib)

    On another note – I agree with the poster who said that you might let Trixie feed herself the less messy finger foods (i.e. things that are not pureed/mashed!), and stand by with the softer stuff and a spoon. I’ve also heard parents rave about the baby safe feeder, especially for those just learning to feed themselves. It might (I can’t attest to this!!!) make things a bit less messy. (Baby Safe Feeder)

  19. FrumDad says:

    Others have said it, and I’ll just reiterate: Small portions, some sort of floor layer.

    We give Rachel bits of whatever, and as long as she’s eating them we give her s’more. She does this thing where she sweeps the table off with her hand that makes her laugh and laugh and laugh. But it also means no more of that food. Sometimes we’ll switch foods but usually we’ve been giving her a varied meal all along, so throwing the food means the end of the meal.

    We had a splat mat for a while, but now we just feed her in a relatively crevice-free area of the kitchen.

    Then there are the days when it seems more efficient to go with a small splat mat and layering the food directly on the floor.

    Good Luck

  20. Max'sMom says:

    Okay, I agree with PPs, you have to pick less messy foods. Here are some great ones that my little man loves: lots of fruit (bananas, blueberries, peaches, etc.), mini-waffles, toast, mini pitas, turkey or chicken lunch meat, CHEESE! (esp. string cheese), peas, butternut squash (it’s really easy to bake and then save in tupperware to dole out at meals–i put it on a toddler spoon and then give that to Max to eat one spoonful at a time rather than let him at the bowl).

    THE BEST is this dried fruit you can buy at Whole Foods by this company called “Just Tomatoes”. You can buy dried strawberries, bananas, etc in containers and every one of Max’s friends goes nuts for it. I think his playgroup has single-handedly raised the inventory of “Just Bananas” and “Just Strawberries” at the W.F. on Wade Avenue! They’re also great b/c you can keep a container of them in your diaper bag b/c they don’t spoil like real fruit.

    Hope that helps!

  21. Kurt says:

    From the looks of the picture, the primary contaminants appear to be yogurt and cereal. I suggest implementing a waste minimization plan limiting Trixie to finger foods (carrots, cheerios, mac, etc.) for self-feeding. Add only as much of the fun (wet, soft, messy) foods as she will let you help her spoon into her mouth.

  22. JJk says:

    Ok – this worked with my son. Sometimes, I gave up and we had a picnic outside on the patio. I put down a clean shower curtain. Damon, in diaper only, sat in the middle with his healthy, messy food, and he went to town eating, giggling and happy as all get out (Texan-speak). THEN he played in the water as I gently hosed him down (sans diaper). It was a fun experience for both of us – and messy made him happy. At all costs – KEEP ‘EM HAPPY. A parent’s happiness is directly proportional to the baby’s happiness – especially sleep-wise. NOTE: Letting the dog clean up the shower curtain afterward makes for a happy pet, too. Oh – should I not let the dog eat people food? She seems awfully happy, too!

  23. Maddie's Mom says:

    Everyone has great advice…we have a dog, and it’s a marvel. We also do a combo of me spoonfeeding and Maddie eating finger foods, a few at a time. What I really wanted to say was THANKS to all posters. I got lots of new ideas for feeding Maddie…yay!

  24. Susan says:

    I just found this site last week thanks to Kim Komando. Your daughter is precious!
    When our children were learning to feed themselves, we went to a nearby fabric store and purchased 1 1/2 yds of plastic (on a roll). It comes in various gauges (weights). 1 1/2 yds will give you a 54×54″ square (since it comes on 54″ bolts.) After dinner, just take it outside and hose it down — it dries in minutes in the sun — and it’s ready for the next meal. I also liked someone else’s suggestion for cutting trash bags open and using them but it doesn’t allow for as wide a coverage and can get expensive over time.
    Good luck to you and Jennifer with adoreable daughter. There is nothing in the world that compares with parenting!

  25. Tony says:

    From one stay at home Dad to anotherÂ… way to go. You are doing a bang-up job. I love the site. As for Trixie honey I think your amazing!!! My little girl is 5 days younger then you and I wish she were doing half of what you are. Make the mess and Mom or Dad will clean it up it will only get better from here on out. Keep up the good work, both of you.

  26. handsomebaby says:

    Splat mats can be made from a vinyl table cloth or shower curtain, both can be tossed into the washing machine, to get the rinkles out dry on low for 5 or 10 minutes not too long or it will melt. The cats also help out with cleaning up. My cats love baby food.

  27. John says:

    I think that Kim Kommando’s listeners must take some kind of loaylty oath to the effect that they’re required to name-drop her at sites she links.

  28. hillary says:

    I love your site! I’ve been reading it since March (our baby’s 3rd month) and it is sooo helpful reading about Trixie going through everything first. We threw away Sears and refer only to you! Oscar is 9 months now, not eating anything, and I remember, wait Trixie did this. So I just cut & paste what you were feeding Trixie right into Peapod and I’m all set!!

    Thanks so much!