Baby Mealtime Offenses (and Your Defenses)

How to respond when your baby is hard during meals. What to do with raspberries, banging, screaming, and other issues.

Baby very messy when eating

Mealtime can present a wide array of problems in behavior from your child, but luckily there is plenty you can do to stop it if you have a plan in place.

On Becoming Babywise Book Two dedicates an entire chapter to coaching you through this process(starting on page 65).

I will encourage you as they do: consistency is key.

Some common problems that come with mealtime are: flipping plates, throwing food, screaming, blowing raspberries, standing, arching back, banging tray, and intentionally making messes (in hair, on the plate, on the floor, etc.).

Here is what I do. My methods do vary from the methods outlined in On Becoming Babywise Book Two. Both are effective. The “how” is different, but “why” is the same.

Step One

I start with a gentle “That’s a no.” I usually follow that up with “we don’t XYZ.” For some, this will be enough. Most, if not all, will at some point continue the behavior out of curiosity over what you will do when she does so. You will continue on to step two, calmly.

If she complies, then thank her for obeying you and commend her for it. I say, “Thank you for obeying! That is a good girl to obey Mommy.”

Step Two

This is a light consequence moment. Babywise suggests you remove baby to her bed, but my baby’s bed is far from the kitchen. Having to go to the bed would make disciplining at this point enough of a pain I might avoid it.

So, I leave baby in the highchair, but remove any  food (our highchair has a top tray, so I just remove that tray and baby still has a tray).

I then tell baby, “uh-oh. Looks like you don’t want to obey. Let’s take a break.”

For a younger baby, around 6 months, I would sit there and just pause from feeding for a minute. As the baby gets older and more aware of what she is doing, I turn the baby so she can’t see me (though she can see outside and that is fine).

After a minute or two, we try again. If the child does the offense again, I may or may not start with step one and retry. I also might go to step three.

Step Three 

This is when I assume baby is done eating and we end mealtime. This is if it is safe to assume baby is acting out because baby doesn’t want more food. I don’t end it if baby is still hungry.

One note, if baby is doing it to get out of the highchair, you don’t want to reward the behavior. For example, Kaitlyn would sometimes push all of her food onto the floor when she was done.

I definitely did not then remove her from her high chair immediately. I taught her the right way and she waited for a minute or two before she got out.

Baby mealtime offenses

Remember Prevention

There are plenty of chances to teach your baby to obey you without having to turn mealtime into a battle ground.

If your child insists on standing in the highchair, strap her in. It keeps her safe and keeps mealtime about the meal.

If your child plays with her plate, don’t give her a plate (this is for babies). I don’t ever give my children under age one a plate. I don’t usually give them a plate until they are out of the highchair and sitting at the table.

If your baby likes to blow raspberries, practice that in the tub. The tub is a great place for raspberries. This is practicing substitution.

Raspberries are a normal things for a baby to do, but that doesn’t mean that baby needs to do them while eating food. You don’t need to wear it and you don’t need to wear a space suit to stay clean. Baby can do raspberries elsewhere and still get satisfaction from it. 

I also don’t have a problem with my baby holding a toy in her hand while she eats. Our highchair came with some toys, so my babies have all held a spoon or little pan while eating.

You could use a baby spoon. I don’t let them put the toy in their mouth while eating (easier said than done with some). It keeps baby content to just eat, and it has never caused problems in our future. 

Apply Consequences

You can also offer consequences. If your child insists on making a mess of the food, give her one piece at a time until she can handle having a few pieces. That actually leads to a good point that you don’t want to put too much food in front of your child anyway. 

If she slams her tray and won’t stop, buckle her in and remove the tray. 

If she arches her back, patiently wait for her to be done before you make your next move. She is likely doing it out of frustration over something.

Practice Outside Mealtime

Remember to teach sign language (she might be screaming because she is either done or wants more). 

Also, work with her to obey at other points in the day. 


The mealtime issues can be easily addressed. Make a plan, prevent where you can, and eat in peace! Do you have anything unique you do in your home? Please share!

See Also