Blog Post

Don't Feed Off the Tray: 5 Benefits of Using a Suction Mat or Bowl

Written by Katie Ferraro, MPH, RDN

Disclaimer: The information in this post was written by a dietitian specializing in infant feeding and baby-led weaning. The information in this post is not intended to replace the medical advice of your provider. This is not a sponsored post. This post does contain affiliate links. 

It might be tempting to plop your baby’s food right on the table or the high chair tray…but offering food out of a suction mat or bowl helps promote independent eating from your baby’s first bites.

In this article I’ll share 5 benefits of using a suction mat or bowl for baby-led weaning as well as tips on building a balanced baby plate so your baby can work towards getting their nutrition from food.

1. Safety Benefits of Suction Mats and Bowls

As a dietitian specializing in baby-led weaning, my primary concern is your baby’s safety. Babies are safe to start solid foods when they are 6 months (or 6 months adjusted age if born prematurely) and demonstrating the other reliable signs of readiness to eat.

Suction mats and bowls promote safety at the table. 

As the parent you are responsible for WHAT the baby eats, WHERE they eat and WHEN they eat (...this is Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding theory in practice). Regarding WHERE they eat, babies should be seated properly in a high chair with their feet resting flat on a solid footplate.

To learn more about optimal high chair positioning listen to this podcast episode High Chair Positioning: Reduce Choking Risk Using This One Simple Move with Jeff Durkee of Nomi High Chair.

Having a suction mat or bowl helps stabilize your baby when eating. With their feet resting flat on the footplate, your early eater will use their whole hand (palmar) grasp to rake and scoop foods up and out of the plate.

Baby sitting in high chair with bib on gripping onto the lip of an ezpz suction Tiny Bowl that contains food with his right hand

The flexible silicone lip of the ezpz Tiny Bowl helps the baby to rake and scoop food up and out.

I use the ezpz products for baby-led weaning. The ezpz products are the original silicone suction mats and bowls that are made out of 100% foodgrade silicone. 

The pliable silicone “lip” of these products acts as a barrier against which your baby can rake and scoop foods up and into their mouth. Putting anything in a baby’s mouth - including food or a spoon - can be a choking hazard. 


Because these products promote self-feeding, the baby is the one leading the eating experience. Having a suction mat or bowl that stabilizes your early eater helps optimize safety at mealtimes and enables independent eating which in turn reduces choking risk. 

Photograph of baby seated iun high chair with strips of food in an ezpz suction Tiny Bowl smiling and bringing food to her mouth

Baby Simone, 7 months trying potato.

2. Motor Skill Development Using Suction Mats and Bowls

Using a suction mat or bowl fosters independent eating. Babies do not have their pincer grasp when they start eating. As such, early eaters can not successfully pick up small pieces of food. That is part of the reason why we offer longer, soft strips of solid food for baby-led weaning and not smaller pieces which also pose a choking hazard.

Photograph of baby seated in a high chair leaning into an ezpz suction Tiny Bowl with plum strips in the bowl and bringing some food to her mouth

Baby Alma - 6 months, trying soft plum strips.

If you put the food directly on the high chair tray or table, the baby uses their whole hand or palmar grasp to try to pick it up. Without the pliable barrier of the bowl or mat against which to rake or scoop the food up and out and into their mouth, the baby pushes the food to the edge of the table or the tray.

At that point the food is out of their range of motion to successfully self-feed, the baby gets frustrated, the parents or caregivers get frustrated, they give up on self-feeding and resort to force feeding the baby.

Providing our babies with developmentally appropriate feeding gear can foster independent eating and promote motor skill development from their first bites.

3. Sensory Experience Using Suction Mats and Bowls

Using a suction mat or bowl provides a controlled space for babies to explore different textures, tastes, and temperatures of food.

Learning how to eat is a full sensory experience, but too often parents and caregivers are concerned only with how much the baby is eating.

Giving your baby ample time and space and experience to learn HOW to eat is of supreme importance during the weaning period. You might not think your baby is “actually eating” but every opportunity they have to touch the food and smash the food and smell the food and lick it and listen to it and eventually eat it…that is all part of the full sensory experience that is learning how to eat.

4. Diet Diversity Using Suction Mats and Bowls

In 2016 I created the 100 FIRST FOODS™ approach to starting solid foods with baby-led weaning with my baby quadruplets. 

Photograph of quaduplet babies seated around a feeding table each with an ezpz suction Mini Mat with food in front of them.

The Ferraro Quadruplets - 11 months, trying new foods with baby-led weaning.

In 2018 I refined the program doing 100 FIRST FOODS with my baby twins and started my Instagram account @babyledweanteam originally to document the twins’ 100 FIRST FOODS.

We used the ezpz Mini Bowls, an 8 oz suction bowl, which at the time was the smallest bowl ezpz made (...they now have a Tiny Bowl which is 5 oz and I also love and use for baby-led weaning).

I would use the ezpz Mini Bowl to introduce the babies to their new food of the day. I’d offer the Mini Bowl with the new food and let them explore that for about 10 minutes.

Screenshot of overhead of 9 ezpz suction Mini Bowls with foods in them each representing which day number and food name from the 100 First Foods Program

Offering 1 new food per day in the 100 First Foods program using the ezpz Mini Bowls.

Then for the second 10 minutes of the meal I would swap in an ezpz Mini Mat. The Mini Mat is a 3-sectioned silicone mat that features one 4-ounce portion and two 2-ounce portions.

I would put 3 foods on the mini mat for the second half of the meal: the new food from that day (so essentially the babies’ second exposure to that food) and then 2 foods from previous days.

Photograph of baby seated in a high chair reaching into a suction ezpz Mini Mat to pick up food to self-feed

Using the suction ezpz Mini Mat to offer 1 new food per day and 2 familiar foods from previous days.

In this way I was continuing to offer 1 new food per day while reintroducing familiar foods from previous days. Babies may need to see a food 10-15 times before they like or accept it, so reintroduction of familiar foods in addition to new foods is important.

Using suction mats or bowls helped us achieve diet diversity and both our quadruplets and twins ate over 100 foods before turning one with this approach.

The BABY-LED WEANING with Katie Ferraro digital program has helped tens of thousands of families give their babies a safe start to solid foods. If you’re interested in helping your baby with this approach, click here to check out the program.

5. Convenience and Mess Management Using Suction Mats and Bowls

Starting solid foods is undoubtedly messy. But learning how to eat is a full sensory experience, and that includes all of the touching and smooshing and smashing and mess making!

Using a suction mat or bowl helps to minimize the mess when you are starting solid foods. The mats and bowls help establish mealtime routines and boundaries and consistent eating environments promote healthful eating habits and teach babies about meal structure.

Photograph of Katie Ferraro crouched between two babies who are in high chairs and one is pushing her face while the other is touching an ezpz suction Mini Bowl with food in it.

Mealtime routines, boundaries and consistent eating environments help babies succeed with solid foods.

The use of a suction mat or bowl for baby-led weaning also helps cut down on food waste as less food is dropped on the floor when the baby is able to pick it up easily out of the mat or bowl and self-feed.

Should I Use a Partitioned or Portioned Plate?

Parents ask about portion sizes for babies all the time.

There are no such things as portions for babies. I teach more about this in my podcast episode Portion Distortion: Why Aren't There Set Portion Sizes for Baby-Led Weaning?

So although we don’t follow any set portion sizes or portion guides with baby-led weaning, I do like that the ezpz products remind us to keep the portion sizes small.

The ezpz Mini Mat is one of my favorite products for baby-led weaning. The Mini Mat has three small portion pockets and it’s what I use to introduce 1 new food + 2 familiar foods each day in my 100 FIRST FOODS program, as described above.

Overhead photograph looking down on baby seated in a high chair with her hand reaching into the ezpz Mini Mat which is filled with food

The ezpz Mini Mat helps keep portions small and promotes a variety of foods at mealtimes.

Selecting a Suction Mat or Bowl

There are lots of different types of suction mats or bowls on the market now.

I like the ezpz products because they are the original silicone suction mats. They were designed by the ezpz feeding specialist, Dawn Winkelmann, MS, CCC-SLP.

Feeding experts Katie Ferraro and Dawn Winkelmann crouched down together between two babies seated in high chairs who are eating food out of ezpz suction Mini Mats.

Katie Ferraro, MPH, RDN and Dawn Winkelmann, MS, CCC-SLP specialize in baby-led weaning

Another benefit of the ezpz products is that they have options and lines that align with your baby’s developmental stage.

For the ezpz cups and utensils:

Two toddlers seated in high chairs doing "cheers" with ezpz Mini Cups with ezpz Mini Mats of food in the foreground

Developmentally appropriate feeding gear can help babies and toddlers achieve mealtime success

All of the ezpz feeding gear is made out of 100% foodgrade silicone. They are dishwasher safe and free from plastic.

How to Build a Balanced Baby Plate

Building a balanced baby plate can help ensure your baby is meeting their nutrition needs from the foods they are learning to eat.

Photograph of baby seated in high chair with ezpz suction Mini Mat of food in front and she is brining food to her mouth

Alma - 6 months, trying a meal with 3 foods in week 1 of baby-led weaning

If you’d like to learn how to balance food groups, introduce allergenic foods and safely prepare all 100 foods on my 100 FIRST FOODS list, my BABY-LED WEANING with Katie Ferraro digital program has everything you need to get a safe start to solid foods with baby-led weaning.


Screenshot of features of the Baby-Led Weaning with Katie Ferraro program

Here’s what you get when you join the BABY-LED WEANING with Katie Ferraro program:

  1. Every module and lesson is organized and streamlined to move your baby through the three distinct phases of baby-led weaning, so that by age 1 almost all of your baby’s nutrition will successfully be coming from food
  2. A strategic roadmap for helping your baby master trickier textures, safely eat allergenic foods and gain exposure to a wide variety of foods to help lower the risk of picky eating and save yourself valuable time, money and sanity while doing so
  3. Over 100 combination food recipes for Phase 2 of baby-led weaning…these are recipes your whole family will love so that you don’t have to worry about what your baby is having for dinner tonight, because the recipes are right there
  4. Support resources, including grocery lists, meal plans, checklists and cheat sheets designed to help you and your baby achieve important feeding and nutrition milestones so that you don’t have to go hunting and pecking all over the internet to figure it out on your own
  5. Access to the original 100 FIRST FOODS content library with instructions, videos, resources and recipes on how to safely make every food for your baby’s current age and stage, so that you’ll never wonder if you’re doing baby-led weaning the right way
  6. An easy to follow, evidence-based plan for helping your baby safely eat over 100 foods before turning 1 so that you can enjoy this next phase while your friends and family comment on what an amazing eater your baby is



Katie Ferraro, MPH, RDN is a registered dietitian, college nutrition professor and mom of 7. She specializes in baby-led weaning and is the creator of the original 100 FIRST FOODS™ program. Katie hosts the top-rated parenting podcast BABY-LED WEANING MADE EASY and runs the baby-led weaning YouTube channel and @babyledweanteam Instagram account. Her BABY-LED WEANING with Katie Ferrao digital program is the go to resource for exactly how to start solid foods safely with baby-led weaning and to help your baby eat 100 safe, baby-led weaning foods before turning one.

Photograph of Katie Ferraro headshot

Katie Ferraro
Katie Ferraro

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