Mesh feeders are one of the most used “tools” in my feeding therapy toolbox so it’s no surprise that they made their way into my mom life...
Before I share 5 benefits of a mesh feeder, it’s worth clarifying that I’ll use the term Mesh Feeder to also include silicone feeders and I’ll give my quick 2 cents at the end of this article about which I prefer.
And before we dive in, I also think it’s worth mentioning that for many generations before these fancy newfangled baby gadgets came onto the scene, mamas were making little pouches with cheesecloth to give to their babies to chew on. Pretty cool, huh?
1. Offers Baby-Safe Chewing Practice
We take chewing for granted but it actually requires a lot of coordination, strength and endurance of the muscles of the jaws, cheeks and tongue. These aren’t skills and strengths your baby is born with; they develop through practice.
A mesh feeder offers baby chewing practice with textures, sizes and shapes of foods that they otherwise might not be ready to safely eat. Learn more about how to progress from the easiest solids to hardest solids.
2. Helps Baby Transition To Solids
Mesh feeders can help reluctant or hesitant new feeders transition to solids. Texture aversion isn’t always a sensory issue. One of the other primary reasons babies avoid transitioning to solids is that they don’t yet have the oral motor coordination skills for solids to feel safe.
When baby doesn’t yet have control of where the food is in the mouth, it can get too far back on the tongue before it’s thoroughly chewed or gathered into a bolus (which is a fancy word for ready-to-swallow food blob). This often triggers a gag and a refusal of the food or texture.
A mesh feeder allows baby to experience solids in the mouth and begin to develop the requisite oral motor skills for safe feeding in a way that feels safe and positive. Offer the mesh feeder at the beginning of meals filled with a food that’s safe for baby to eat without the feeder. Once baby shows interest in the feeder, offer the same food without the feeder. No forcing, coercing or tricking baby into taking bites, simply offer and show baby how you eat the food (with fingers, spoon, etc.)
3. Encourages Self-Feeding
A mesh feeder offers baby an easy-to-grasp handle and requires less motor coordination than a spoon or finger feeding baby-safe bites of solids. It’s also less messy than finger feeding and so it poses less of a sensory challenge to kiddos with some tactile sensitivity (translation: those who don’t like to feel messy).
So while I strongly encourage families to allow baby-led spoon feeding, finger feeding and messy meals on a regular basis, I’ve seen a mesh feeder offer a nice beginner step for kiddos who are resistant to feeding themselves. Learn more about supporting self-feeding skills.
4. Soothes Sore Teething Gums
Mesh feeders are perfect for easing the discomfort of teething.
For a baby who hasn’t yet started solids fill it with ice, frozen breastmilk or formula. For an older baby who’s started eating foods, frozen fruit is also a perfect mesh feeder filler.
5. Keeps Babies and Toddlers Busy
Mesh feeders are one of my go-to’s for keeping the peace in my house in those final frantic minutes before dinner.
You know - the time of day when your patience is worn thin, the kiddos are hungry and cranky and you just need a few minutes to get dinner on the table. Frozen fruit or ice in a mesh feeder keeps even my 2 and 3.5 year olds happy and gives them a little blood sugar boost to keep the hangries away.
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Mesh or silicone - which one to choose? This really boils down to preference as there isn’t any big developmental difference between the two.
Mesh feeders tend to be bigger so i do love that I can easily fit larger foods and whole pieces of ice in them. But silicone definitely wins out for ease of cleaning. If you do opt for mesh, simply drop it in a cup of water to soak if you can’t clean it immediately after use (which is often in my house!).
The two brands I recommend are:
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