Using a bib will save you from having to put your baby's clothes through the wash after every meal. When the likes of puréed carrot and strawberry fromage frais start to appear on the scene, the true value of a decent bib is evident.
The traditional style of bib is a semi-circle of towelling with ties for the neck, but you could also choose pull-on bibs, long-sleeved cover-all ‘super’ bibs, rigid plastic bibs with in-built ‘crumb’ trays, disposable bibs and more.
As long as the bib doesn’t get in the way or is uncomfortable to wear, it’s a case of the bigger the better once your baby gets into the idea of feeding him- or herself.
You don’t have to buy bibs straight away, however. A muslin cloth draped over you baby's front will cover your baby very well, and washes easily. It’s when your baby gets a bit older - and more able to pull off whatever you put on him or her - that you may appreciate a manufactured bib with child-proof fastenings.
You can buy small versions of these for young babies to help protect clothes from milk spills or dribbling, or you can buy larger versions for when your baby starts to eat solids. You usually attach them with ties or a Velcro fastening, or they have a stretchy head-hole which you pull over your baby's head.
Pros Simple and inexpensive (often available in multi-packs), highly absorbent, some have a waterproof plastic backing, easy to fold up and carry around with you when you go out.
Cons Baby foods can easily stain them even if you wash at high temperatures, waterproof-backed bibs need washing at lower temperatures, some are too small for an older baby.
These have an in-built curved ‘catch’ tray at the base of the bib, so food falls into the tray rather than into your baby’s lap. They usually have an adjustable hole and popper neck fastenings. Some bibs have a towelling top and removable plastic scoop.
Pros Wipe-clean, some can also be put in the dishwasher, good for babies trying to self-feed.
Cons Rigid plastic versions can be stiff and uncomfortable around the neck (look for those with a soft neck rim or ones made from flexible rather than stiff plastic), older babies may enjoy tipping everything out of the scoop tray, larger scoop bibs may catch on the highchair tray and be awkward to use.
Usually made from plastic-coated fabric or flexible PVC, these bibs are designed to provide maximum protection for toddlers in particular. As well as covering the front, some versions have full sleeves while others cover the shoulders and upper arms. They're generally fastened with ties or Velcro.
Pros Best for top-to-toe protection, can be used as protection for painting and other messy activities, often have bright designs that appeal to toddlers, easy to clean.
Cons Some children dislike being ‘dressed up’ to eat and may protest, full-arm versions sometimes have uncomfortable elasticated wrists, can be expensive.
Throw-away bibs are usually made from strengthened paper. You normally buy them in packs of 20 and they will often have a waterproof backing as well as an absorbent front. Adhesive tapes attach the bib to the baby’s clothes, although some brands have neck ties.
Pros Great for holidays when you don’t want extra washing, useful to keep as an ‘emergency’ bib in the car or when you’re out and about, handy for wiping everything up once your baby has finished eating.
Cons Can be expensive if you use them on a daily basis (although you don’t have to use a new one every time), relatively easy for your baby to pull off.