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BDSM (Baby-Directed Scrubbing and Mopping)
June 15, 2014 7:44 AM   Subscribe

My precious little moppet is turning my house into a pigsty, and I'm getting very frustrated with playing maid. Can I contain the mess a little?

Baby Stardust is a little over 1 year. It's been a while since he's allowed anyone to bottle feed him. He insists on holding his bottles/sippy cups himself, as well as eating mostly finger-foods he can self-feed. You should see him parry a spoon of applesauce. So, for the most part, I let him handle his feeding. The issue is that he makes a huge mess doing so.

He won't sit still to finish a bottle of milk or a cup of juice. He runs all around the house with these things, sometimes with the article in question dangling from his mouth like a baby kitten from its momcat's jaws. When he gets wherever he's going he may take a few sips, then he usually flings the bottle down so the nipple leaks all over the carpet or worse. In the meantime he's coating himself with milk or juice as it dribbles all over his face. He likes to grab the bottle by the nipple, turn it upside down and wave it about, squirting milk everywhere. Also, with the sippy cups we've given him, he's able to make juice like, spray out of the cup when he throws it down. We have the type of cup that isn't supposed to let liquid flow out unless one is pressing down on the mouthpiece so I really don't know how he accomplishes this. Now, don't think he's just dropping these things. He's throwing them hard and intentionally. Needless to say I'm getting annoyed at having to chase after him soaking up spills and blotting milk out of his neck only for him to do it again in 5 minutes.

We don't give him bottles in his high chair because he won't drink them there. The chair makes it difficult for him to tilt his head back enough to get the liquid in. When we do attempt to give him drinks this way, he throws them on the ground every time we let the bottle into his reach. I've also had him wear a bib to help catch the dribbles, but that still doesn't stop the neck (and face, hands, and eventually hair, cat, furniture etc) coated in milk situation. We have a good system for catching his high-chair cast-offs (Painter's dropcloth under the chair which get shaken out in the yard. The birds seem to really like his crumbs.) but I have no idea how to address the other messes.

Right now he gets 3 bottles of milk a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He also gets 1 cup of watered-down juice. Is this just a messy-toddler phase I have to accept? I'm literally mopping the floors every other day here due to the spills and drops everywhere. It's to the point where I spend the whole of his naps times plus some of my evening after he's gone to bed cleaning up the aftermath of his meals and I cringe every time I see him walking around with a bottle. What other options might I have?
posted by Kitty Stardust to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Could you maybe block off a small section of your kitchen or pantry with baby gates, and put a dropcloth down? Or just block off the kitchen itself, so that at least he's not spilling food onto the carpet? Obviously, the logistics will depend on the exact layout of your house, but it seems like containing him in a smaller, baby-proofed space has got to be the basic solution here - and ideally, that space would be close to the kitchen table so that once he gets a little older, he can learn to stay at the table, even if he isn't yet quite ready to be confined to the chair.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:55 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


If he can drink from a cup, stop giving him the bottle. Give him a cup of milk or juice mixture with his meals. Don't let him have a bottle to drag around the house.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:57 AM on June 15 [24 favorites]


It is a hard rule in our house that drinks and snacks must be consumed at the table. I admit that as an adult I break that rule, but it's 100% for the kids. It's partly for the cleanliness reasons, but also because eating and drinking on the move is apparently a choking risk. Institute this rule! Buy a different high chair if you need to, maybe a used Stokke that will last several more years.
posted by Joh at 7:57 AM on June 15 [12 favorites]


This is not a cleaning problem, it is a toddler management parent sanity problem, just as sleep management is. I second the comments above that address getting baby Stardust to be eating and drinking at the table. I expect it wlli take a day or two of screaming fits but he won't starve and will eat in his chair when he really gets hungry. It will require massive determination on your part of course but you'll all be happier once a new routine is established.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:07 AM on June 15 [30 favorites]


Yes, we instituted a food-and-drinks-at-table-only rule for precisely this reason. The only exception is sippy cups of water.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:50 AM on June 15


Agree with SLC Mom - your kid is used to it, so he's doing it plus testing his boundaries. Block off the kitchen as the "eating and drinking" zone.
posted by heathrowga at 8:51 AM on June 15


I wasn't allowed to eat or drink in carpeted areas until I was maybe 7 or 8. Exceptions were made for illness or special treats like popcorn with a movie, but the rule was I had to stay on the couch/in my chair for eating and drinking. This was also true of all my friends, which probably isn't going to be the case for Baby Stardust so it may be a struggle later, but for right now he is your captive audience and you can set whatever rules you want.

Bottom line: that's not how we drink, and it's time to start learning.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:53 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


You can also take this chance to start teaching him how to clean up after himself. Get a warm wet cloth (no cleanser, obviously) and start showing him how to wipe up drips and messes after he does it. See if eventually he will try doing it himself. I give people cloths like these at baby showers and they are easy to keep handy for spot messes and then throw in the laundry pile, if you don't want to waste paper towels.
posted by juliplease at 8:56 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


We aren't strict about only eating/drinking in one place, but we generally take the milk away when mini-penny (15 months) starts to play with it. He has sippy cups of water around all day.

Also, have you tried the sippy cups with the straws? So much better for spillage. Not the best for milk bc the straw is a pain to clean, but great for water. We've been using the ones that are in the bottom rack at target, along with the same brand's version with a spout for milk. They both require some sucking action, so better for spills, and have a nipped in "neck" so little hands can handle them. Also the straw ones don't require tilting the head back, so better in a high chair. Our other sippy cups really don't get any use , and while he can sort of drink out of a cup, it's just really messy right now and he usually wants to stick his hands in the cup. Oy!

For solid foods, I'd recommend getting a dog ;) our old mutt, whose no longer able to perform his household chore of 'sounding threatening to passerbys' bc he's gone deaf has become the baby wet/dry vac. He cleans up everything that gets dropped and flung out of the highchair and when we occasionally let him roam with a cracker or snack cup. It's awesome! Of course it sounds like food isn't so much the problem for you :)
posted by pennypiper at 9:19 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Just wanted to add, we give him a few chances with a "drink your milk don't play with it" kind of suggestion before taking the milk away. And I never thought of taking it away as a diceplinary thing, just that he's not really hungry any more since he's playing with it more than drinking it.
posted by pennypiper at 9:31 AM on June 15


I am not a parent, but a friend of mine addressed this issue but getting a toddler sized table and chair with drop cloth underneath. It made sitting at the table easier for the kid, making it easier to reinforce an eating zone.
posted by Hopeful and Cynical at 9:57 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


He doesn't need to drink out of a bottle anymore, so stop giving him bottles. He doesn't need to be eating liquid meals so stop feeding him milk and juice. A balanced diet of solid food, eaten at the table, and water in a sippy cup. Sit with him and feed him with a utensil; if he protests, then stop until he calms down. If he's hungry, he'll eat eventually. He's not going to starve (if there is more at play, such as a nutritional or physical issue, then speak to your doctor). Food happens in a civilized manner at a table, or it doesn't happen at all. Sure it will take time to feed him, but think of all the clean-up time you'll save. It might be tough for a month, but you'll be thanking yourself later on.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:00 AM on June 15 [4 favorites]


Yes, set rules about where he can and cannot eat/drink. But it needn't be only in his high chair at the table. We set up a snack zone in the kitchen with a little 'table' where toddler kestrel can stand and eat. It's actually an wooden storage box from the local unfinished furniture store, tipped on its side. Roughly the size that can store vinyl records. It cost maybe $10 or $15.

This set up gives her more freedom -- she can have a snack and drink waiting there, and come back to them after running around the house. She gets to graze rather than be locked in to the table until she's done eating. She eats there and the dining room; that's it.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:19 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Our house rules are milk & all food at the table, water is okay around the house.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:22 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


My child transitioned to two cups of milk a day instead of three (morning and night) at one. If possible, that can save you some hassle.

Straw cups can definitely help with spillage. You can teach him how to use the straw by putting your thumb over the top of a regular drinking straw with some liquid in it, then putting the free end in his mouth and letting go. When he understands that juice comes from the straw, next time don't let go, make him suck the end of the straw to get the juice out. Once he has learned to do that, he should be able to use a straw cup.

The kitchen being the designated food place is a great idea if it is feasible for you. If it isn't, I recommend being vigilant about taking away the food or drink that he is being messy with immediately. You can give it back after he calms down (and sits down).
posted by Night_owl at 11:08 AM on June 15


For those of you saying to take away the milk or give less milk, per my pediatrician's instructions we did not give my son milk until he was one, the we gave 16 to 20 oz a day. If the OP's pediatrician feels the same, then less or no milk really isn't an option.

That said, I agree with not letting him run around with a sippy cup. He should only have it when sitting still. This is a safety thing as much as anything else - my son was running around with a sippy cup in his mouth once and fell and cut open his gums on it.
posted by amro at 11:29 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


You really, really need to introduce house rules now. It will be a painful week, but that is nothing compared to how it will be if you wait. Remind yourself that you are doing this for your baby's sake, not your own. He needs to learn to sit still and eat and drink at the table before he goes to school, and it sounds crazy, but it is just so much easier to teach him now than later.
Also, as many have said, safety is a real issue. I have seen a toddler choking on something he was allowed to eat while running around, and turning all blue. The mother panicked, but luckily someone else in the room knew what to do.
posted by mumimor at 12:30 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


I found these sippy cups to be excellent for not leaking or dripping, even when they are dropped. Your kid has to be actively sucking on the spout for any liquid to come out.

I nth the recommendation to keep all food and drinks in the kitchen. Although it somehow won't stop you from finding cheerios all over the house.
posted by keeo at 12:32 PM on June 15


If you're not ready to go full-on 'food at the table only' at least gate off the kitchen/dining area so you can keep the mess contained. You set the rules, not the baby.

It's a hard thing for moms, I think, to transition from 'anything to make the baby happy/baby makes the rules' to 'I make the rules because I'm training you to be part of society'. I think that there was one day that really got me and I realized I was still letting them run the show. I wanted to make them happy and giggly and NOT CRYING but it wasn't good for them and certainly wasn't good for our family as a whole. It's hard. Good luck.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:16 PM on June 15 [4 favorites]


It sounds like you have some outdoor space. I think if it were me, baby would get no drinks except outside until baby could figure out how to act in some kind of civilized manner. Not happy? Then quit intentionally being a jerk. And I would do my best to explain why, not in a punishing sort of way but just in a "this is the standard" sort of way. Babies may not be able to articulate much but they sometimes understand a fair amount. Rinse and repeat until baby stops acting like a terror. And make sure eating outside does not become some kind of FUN TIME!!!! Make sure this is more like baby prison than baby play time.

(I raised two terrors. I did not put up with shit like this because, no, I just did not allow them to tear through the house destroying everything until it was habitual and expected and NEENER NEEENER YOU CAN'T STOP ME BECAUSE YOU ARE REQUIRED TO FEED ME! Yes, I am required to feed you. No, I am not required to happily and smilingly put up with you gleefully shitting on me on purpose.)
posted by Michele in California at 1:25 PM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Regarding having him help clean up -- put a bin of old burp clothes on a shelf or in another place that he can reach, and those are his cleaning cloths. Whenever he spills, don't say, "CLEAN IT UP! NOW!" but say, "Uh oh! A spill! Let me help you clean that up!" and take him by the hand to go get a cloth, then come back and wipe/blot what he spilled. You show him how the first couple of times, and then as he gets the idea let him start taking care of it himself. Praise copiously. He will do a terrible job and you'll have to go back behind him to clean it up during his naps, and at first he will spill extra ON PURPOSE for the fun of cleaning it up, but after a week or so he will start to make the connection that a) spilling means he has to stop playing to clean up, which isn't as much fun the 500th time as the 1st and b) when you spill, you have to clean it up yourself. He will also start running over to his bin and grabbing a rag whenever someone ELSE spills.

It's important not to turn it into a big giant battle of the wills, but just part of the natural order of the universe that when you spill, you clean up after yourself.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:32 PM on June 15 [5 favorites]


If you can get a tripptrapp style chair (it's something like a normal chair but adjustable for kids) that will make eating/drinking easier for him at the table because it isn't a big high squishy seat. Drop cloths are okay but I found that was a bigger mess to deal with than just keeping some cloths to wipe the floor.

We instituted the 'eating at the table' from the beginning so that wasn't a battle we've ever had to face. I do know relative who don't and not only do their couch/walls/floor/beds/rugs have milk stains and marks (and occasionally chunks of food or rank milk) their kids are constantly running through other people's houses with food and drink and spilling everywhere. Which is not how those households are set up or made to cope with and that becomes an issue.

We set the table for meals and make the meal a thing. Water is an every time beverage but anything else is at the table while we're eating and if you're done the food goes away. That contains a lot of stuff to meal time and meal place.
posted by geek anachronism at 6:02 PM on June 15


Also, if you don't already have one, Haan steam mops are a godsend.
posted by ravioli at 7:45 PM on June 15


Nthing this is a toddler management, not a cleaning problem.

Nthing "drinking and eating only at the table". We sit down with the kid even if we're not eating, so he'd have company.

2nding tripp trapp chair (the name is mostly used by the pricey brand Stokke, but there are other brands with similar style of chair at a fraction of the price).

Nthing cups with straws instead of sippy cups - there is some research about development of the jaw that says straws are much better than anything else. We're using either a straw cup or a double-handed "trainer" cup.

Most of the time we have messes only when the kid is not hungry and is playing with food rather than eating. In which case, we take him out of his chair and he happily wanders off to play, because he knows table = eating.

(Getting him not to use his hair to wipe food remains off his hands is another thing though...)
posted by gakiko at 1:48 AM on June 16


Baby is old enough for a cup; ditch the bottle permanently. The simplest, least-mess way is that the ONLY THING that you will EVER put in the bottle from now on is plain water. Anything good goes in a good, non-spill sippy cup.

And put the kid in a high chair to eat. Always. On either kitchen floor or plastic-protected carpet, if that's all you have. Preferably from the time they start eating anything other than a bottle, at least when you're home. You're the parent, you decide where they eat. You've chosen to let them run all over the house and make a mess, so that's what you've got.

Time to start being the parent - NOW, before it's too late.
posted by stormyteal at 12:16 AM on June 17


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