The missing piece to baby led weaning.
Maybe you're reading this because there's just something that seems a little bit off about baby led weaning, and all the dogma and chatter surrounding it. Maybe you've tried it with your bub but you just can't make it stick, and you don't know why. Or maybe you just find it a lot of maintenance, or you're sick of the conflicting research and opinions from mother's groups and media.
Maybe you haven't gotten caught up in the "baby led weaning" hype at all, and you just recognise that one of the first things bub is capable of, is feeding themselves! This is why I recognise it as a type of "Infant self-feeding", and tend to speak about that. It's the same fundamental principles, all of the benefits, none of the dogma.
We know that parents doing baby led weaning are typically professionally employed (or on parental leave from it), higher educated and less stressed about feeding in general. You’re critical thinkers, you're more likely to read deeper, and you’re less frightened that your baby isn’t going to get enough to eat, as every generation has been taught to be since we started saying “a fat baby is a healthy baby”.
Yes, that’s a fear that we inherited and that isn’t really appropriate anymore in this day and age. Fed is best, but overfed isn’t great, and early childhood overweight and obesity statistics are soaring faster than they can forget outdoor play or discover junk food for this reason.
Infant self-feeding is the antidote.
The Most Important Thing about Infant Self-Feeding:
This part can be controversial, but since you’ve read through that introduction, I know that you’re a truth-seeker that can handle it.
The most important thing about the practice is that it gets bubs used to:
|Age you see the benefits||Why it matters|
|Texture||9 months through the terrible twos||
Nutritional programming in the first years of life decides the foods they like and the pace that they’ll adopt new foods.
This is about safely exposing them to the widest possible variety of food textures, flavours and colours.
|Self-regulation and independence||6 – 9 months and throughout their lifetime||
Satiety programming in the first years of life is what will teach them How much to eat and how fast to eat it for the rest of their lives.
This is why kids bottle fed as babies are 25 – 90% more likely to be overweight or obese during their lifetime. 
When they learn to eat independently, then they know how to eat independently, rather than just mindlessly finishing as much as they’re offered, or whatever’s on their plate.
|Food play||Toddlerhood, and whenever we introduce new foods.||
This is optional, since they don’t really need to “play” – play with it. The last few generations got by without it, and sensory kids have less interest.
BUT – the more fun we can make food, the more enjoyable we can make mealtimes.
-  Bottlefed babies are 25% more likely to become obese than those breastfed, The Independent, 2019
Infant self-feeding sets kids up for life, basically.
Just like every other species is born knowing how much to eat and how fast to eat it for their body’s needs – unless we interfere unnecessarily and feed them.
The only reason that the establishment and governing peak bodies haven't yet recognised this is because they're more interested with the nutritional facets of food, as if overweight was simply a mathematical equation that can be blamed on an individual's ignorance, laziness or lack of willpower - rather than a psychosocial phenomena.
The truth is that it's more behavioural, and that heredity of overweight and obesity is at least as much about imprinted food habits as about diet, or as it is about genetics, i.e. what the body does with the food we eat.
 "Unfortunately, it’s really easy for well-meaning parents to interfere with a child’s intuitive eating. How? Because as parents we feel as though it’s our job to make sure our child eats a certain amount.” – Sarah Remmer, Family Nutrition Expert,
(via article Can a baby or toddler overeat? 2020)
Any other rules about how baby led weaning “should be done” are just dogma based on the only methods that were thought of, and the assumptions that were naturally made about these, why they worked and how they helped; when the original study was done back in 2012 and Gill Rapley started popularizing the principles with How-To content.
-  Townsend, Ellen; Pitchford, Nicola: Baby knows best? The impact of weaning style on food preferences and body mass index in early childhood in a case–controlled sample, BMJ Open (2012)
What are Mashblox, exactly?
Mashblox self-feeding cubes are squishy, hollow silicone building blocks for serving mash foods. The silicone and size makes them easy for baby to grab and handle.
Because they’re so tactile (they feel good to touch and squish),
And they leverage our very first instincts: to put things in our mouths,
They help bub feed themselves foods that they might not otherwise wish to touch.
Mashblox self-feeding cubes have helped hundreds of parents to more practical and safer infant self-feeding of the broadest range of age-appropriate foods.
"Mashblox sounds simple… and they are… simply game changing!"
– Emily Fletcher, Mum to an 18 month old
“Mashblox is a genius idea. These silicone cubes are perfect to encourage self feeding and so easy to hold.” - Corrine Sultana, Mum of 9 months
Australian Non-Toxic Awards judges
What Mashblox bring to the table of Infant Self-Feeding
The purist baby-led weaning philosophy is that babies should be able to gum up the same solid foods that children handle with their teeth, from as soon as they're able to sit up by themselves and grab and hold onto objects. This is what those pictures of babies gnawing on lamb chops or raw broccoli at highchair tray tables are about.
Obviously, this is problematic from a safety standpoint and is the reason for both the controversy around the practice, and why there are no official recommendations about it (although UK and Canada government authorities explicitly recommend "infant responsive feeding", including independent feeding of soft stick foods).
It's also problematic because there are so many good foods that don't require
the equivalent of navy seal infant oramotory skills! There's nothing wrong with puree and mash foods if they're either a) naturally puree or mash (duh), or b) that's all that bub is ready to eat.
“Alessio loves his Mashblox... but not as much as me!!! How else can you allow a 9 month old to feed themselves weetbix?” - Tori, Alessio’s Mum
-  Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants, Government of Canada, 2019
-  Baby's First Solids & Help Your Baby Enjoy New Foods, NHS, 2019
2. Lower choking risk
Being less stressed about feeding helps BLW parents get past the first few gagging episodes, but the fact is that so many kids do actually choke that researchers can’t conduct studies without changing how they do things, what age they start, and what they feed:
So much that the kids don’t get the full BLW benefits. (I mean, my neurotypical, healthily developing younger brother choked – not gagged - on everything including water until he was 7 years old)
This is also why literally every BLW paper concludes that “more research is required”. But the truth is that they can’t get unmodified methods past ethics approval, because of the choking episodes involved with things like corn chips or raw broccoli, above.
Hence all the hubbub and controversy in parenting circles, parenting blogs, and the occasional media release. Everyone loves the idea but they don’t know how to do it safely.
Mashblox helps bub to self-feed age appropriate textures.
"This essentially works a bit like a food pouch except that a child can actually see what they are eating which helps them develop a much better relationship with food." - Emily Fletcher, Australian non-Toxic Awards Judge.
-  Daniels, L; Heath, Anne-Louise et al: Baby-Led Introduction to SolidS (BLISS) study: a randomised controlled trial of a baby-led approach to complementary feeding, PubMed (2015)
As seen on:
3. Adds "grabbability" to age-safe textures
While infant-self-feeding is natural – it’s what our species was doing for millennia before we invented the spoon, and is still what they do in cultures that eat with their hands
– with the rise in sensory difficulties (1 in 6 US children ), many kids will shirk foods just because they don’t like how they feel, or how they look.
This could mean half their actual menu is off the table, and short of exhaustive controlled observation, experimentation and comparison, you just won’t know why.
... Until you put it in Mashblox. More often than not, they’ll eat it first try. (And then you know if it’s actually the food, or something about how it looks that they don’t like)
-  Ahn, R R (et al) Prevalence of parents' perceptions of sensory processing disorders among kindergarten children, Pubmed (2004)
“Mashblox can help us parents nurture our child while implementing the right values, is that it can make a big change a smooth transition” – Cecille De Guzman, 2 year old Yzekiel’s Mum.
“Hi Alix! Got our mashblox…. Love them already!
Phoebe hasn’t eaten this much in weeks! Her teeth are sore ☹
She’s just smashed some avo, carrot & zuchinni :D” - Bree, Mum of her teething 7 month old.
4. Expands range
Spoons for soups or yoghurt; forks for casserole or pasta; hands for bread, cucumber or cheese sticks or fruit: Mashblox for anything inbetween. Basically anything they’d use a kiddie fork for, without the risk of them flicking it about the room.
Adding a specific utensil to their repertoire also expands their range of textures, beyond what they immediately like the look of. A wide variety of textures and flavors and colours early on helps them be adventurous eaters later.
“We thought that he didn’t like porridge, but when we put it in mashblox we realised that he just didn’t like having spoons and things shoved in his mouth” Stephanie, of her son 10.5 month old son Eddie
5. Motor skill development
Motor skills are a big part of learning to eat, or to do anything for themselves, as babies so dearly love to do (and love to show you that they can do!). Tools can help with that - that's why we give them toy kitchen sets and baby books - but the trouble is that most baby utensils are actually tools designed by adults for adult abilities, and then baby-fied. A pink or blue silicone tipped spoon still requires a sophisticated wrist movement that kids don’t develop properly until they’re five. Bent kiddie cutlery helps with this, but it still looks kinda awkward, doesn’t it?
“For us it’s not just about eating, it’s about having fun and learning how to use those fine motor skills. For Madelyn, you can see that it’s helping with her dexterity. She loves to squeeze and see what comes out, and she loves to get her finger in and scoop it" - Kat, Mum to Madelyn, 14 months.
“Her hand eye coordination has improved a lot over the last month and you can definitely see that when you watch her handle the blox” – Cass, Mum of ‘Til, 6 months.
Mashblox is the first utensil that is designed for infant abilities. That's why all ages love them so much.
6. Speeds up neutral exposure to food
“The critical element in children’s food acceptance is repeated neutral exposure. To learn to like new food, children must be allowed to try the food repeatedly as well as on their own initiative. Pressure of any sort, even persuasion, praise, or reward, slows down or stops their learning.” - Ellyn Satter, registered Dietitian and Family Therapist of 50 years experience, internationally recognized authority on eating and feeding, and author of "The Division of Responsibility of Infant Feeding"
The reason babies learning to feed themselves still need multiple exposures to a food is because they still need to get used to multiple sensory elements – how it looks and how it looks like it feels, how it feels, as well as the mouthfeel and how it tastes. Mashblox shortcuts those first two steps, so that as long as it’s not horrible to eat, babies should be willing give it a try.
7. Food play with reduced cleanup
Some think that the messy food play is the point of baby led weaning. It might help some kids explore textures, but it will put others off entirely, especially with the rise of tactile defensiveness and sensory issues. Strictly speaking, it’s not necessary (did you need to fingerpaint with spaghetti bolognaise to decide pasta was worth eating?) and committing to traditional food play and full sensory exploration of every menu item is a lot of maintenance and dedication to eating every meal at home.
“Mashblox encourages mindful eating. It allowed food to become a game” Cat, Mum of 1 year old Liam“
“Before using Mashblox, if he wasnt into his food or if he had enough, it was strewn all over the place!"
– Phil, Dad to Jack, 14 months
The other benefit we found with mashblox of course was when it did get thrown on the floor, it was a lot less messy than if she’d just chucked her whole bowl, or just swiped everything off her tray table. It kind of kept it a little bit more contained, which was also sort of an added bonus”
- Kat, 14 month old Madelyn’s Mum
( #MakeMashPotatoBounce )
While there are an array of benefits to their mealtime behaviour in the medium term, the most important thing to their long term health is their ability to know how much they need to eat – something that no parent can know for their child.
If they’re feeding themselves, then you know they’re eating for the right reasons, and not just to please you.
"Unfortunately, it’s really easy for well-meaning parents to interfere with a child’s intuitive eating. How? Because as parents we feel as though it’s our job to make sure our child eats a certain amount.” – Sarah Remmer, Family Nutrition Expert,
(via article Can a baby or toddler overeat? 2020)
“Children have natural ability with eating. They eat as much as they need, they grow in the way that is right for them, and they learn to eat the food their parents eat.” – Ellyn Satter, international authority on infant feeding, The Division of Responsibility of Feeding
“We weren’t feeling pressured to force her to eat, we knew she would eat how much she wanted and when she wanted.”
- Kat, 14 month old Madelyn’s Mum
“Mashblox is a great tool to use for Baby Led Weaning because it allows her to decide if she wants the food/is hungry or not. If she isn't interested/hungry, she will just chew on the blox as a teether.” – Cass, Mum of ‘Til, now 6 months.
Nota Bene: Several years ago, I had difficulty concisely answering what Mashblox offered to baby led weaning. Can you see why??
What are they made of?
- * Medical grade silicone:
Mashblox are BPA free ✅
- * Dishwasher safe: Turn inside out to clean
- * Fridge and freezer safe
- * Microwave and oven safe 180°C
- * Safe to boil and sterilise
- * Choking hazard safe: International Safety Standard ISO 8124.1 certified, birth to 14 years.
- * Australian Made
How to fill them
Make sure you fill them to all four corners for mash foods, or only put in pieces of foods (e.g. steamed peas and corn, blueberries or nuts - as age appropriate) to practice pincer grip or to contain mess. You can also freeze water or berries inside for teethers.
Mashblox' academic research background
I was trying to implement Mashblox contribution to the research field to increase institutional knowledge and methods years before I decided to just put it in marketing terms and take it directly to parents.
I cold called leading academics worldwide in the fields of behavioural science, dietetics, population health, occupational therapy, speech pathology and one professor specifically of infant feeding behaviour, to secure research liaison for a multi-centre trial. I simply told them what I’d invented, how I’d tested it, and what it could contribute to each of their research specialities.
First step was a pro-bono research partnership with my local University of Canberra, for which our team of two registered dietitians, an occupational therapist and myself, received approval on our ethics application in 2017.
Then there were a bunch of speeches and conferences, and interest from multiple international embassies concerned about their rising rates of childhood and infant obesity[1; 2; 3; 4]. I’ve taken it to Australian local politics and anywhere that would listen. If you had the cure to the world’s longest running pandemic, wouldn’t you do the same?
In 2019 at the Women’s Economic Forum, I was offered an independent PhD placement for my insights that child obesity starts when they are taught to eat according to extrinsic cues, either from a bottle or a spoon; that this is the only thing that all countries with an infant obesity problem have in common; and that we therefore need to support them to feed themselves. #LetThemFeedThemselves
All of my technical work and collaborative or innovative partnerships have thus far revolved around integrating research and benefits into product adoption. That’s what all of my business awards locally, nationally and internationally recognize.
Excuse the colloquialisms, but I’ve been talking myself black and blue about this to bring it to public attention for years, before investing effort into showing what else it can do for other kids, and especially for fussy and sensory kids.
Mashblox is basically the masterkey to independent infant feeding.
 UK: "one in seven children are already obese when they begin primary school in England" Childhood obesity in England soared during the pandemic, The Guardian (2021)
 USA: "Changes in obesity prevalence from the 1960s show a rapid increase in the 1980s and 1990s, when obesity prevalence among children and teens tripled, from nearly 5% to approximately 15% (Figure 1) (1). During the past 10 years, the rapid increase in obesity has slowed and might have leveled. However, among the heaviest boys, a significant increase in obesity has been observed, with the heaviest getting even heavier." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011)
 Italy: "New data from more than 50 000 children in Italy shows the percentage of overweight children in the country is 20.4%, with 9.4% of children considered obese and 2.4% severely obese, when using International Obesity Task Force criteria, and even higher if using WHO growth references." World Health Organisation (2020)
 Greece: "The childhood obesity rate in Greece is among the highest in Europe, as 41% of children aged 10 to 12 in Greece are overweight or obese." Childhood Obesity Rate In Greece One of the Highest in Europe, Greek Reporter, (2022)
Author, Mashblox Inventor, Entrepreneur
& Fussy Eating Coach
Alix is a multi-award-winning inventor and entrepreneur who has dedicated her life to helping parents make mealtimes easier, and helping young children avoid the challenges and pain that dysfunctional feeding created in her life.
“The most important thing in the world to me is just to #LetThemFeedThemselves. I’ve got a whole thesis on why. This just explains how to use Mashblox for fussy eating.”
You may have guessed that I came from outside the established accreditation bodies and research schools. My thesis builds upon their work, but emerged from critical and thematic analysis of my lived experience, experiments with bio-hacking and cognitive behavioural therapy to win in my body love journey, which has been nothing short of brutal. I’ve been through bulimia, binge eating disorder, food addiction, years of both athlete-level exercise regimes and exclusion of entire food groups to contain these issues. I additionally have variable sensory issues that help me relate to and intuit infant feeding challenges.
The first half of these problems could have been completely avoided if I’d only been allowed to feed myself without interference. That’s what I want to offer future generations, and that’s why this matters to me.
As I see it, infant and early childhood obesity is a first world problem that we created by trying to control what comes naturally: eating.
Mashblox is the circuit breaker to return eating a full range of textures, into the hands of your infant.
Mashblox mission statement:
Mashblox isn’t just a product.
It’s pioneering an #InfantSelfFeeding movement.
Infant self-feeding science worldwide knows the benefits to fussy eating, infant obesity intervention, and to general mealtime harmony, but until now there has been no guaranteed way to make it safe and practical for all infants and parents. That’s what Mashblox brings to the table.
Mashblox purpose is to empower children to eat only as much as they need, and for fussy kids to discover that they actually do like eating healthy foods! ... As long as they don't have to see or touch them first.
What age range are they for?
Mashblox have different benefits at different ages. They are safe for complementary feeding from 6 months and up, and fussy eating benefits peak at about 3.5. Children with more pronounced autism enjoy them at older ages also.
Will this delay my child's development?
Mashblox were first prototyped in 2016, and I’ve heard no reports of any child starting from 5 months to 3.5 years (or 8 for autistic kids) getting hooked on them in any obstructive way. The first prototype tester family had bubs aged 9 months, 18 months and 3. They all loved them graduated to cutlery when they were able to handle them appropriately. For most children, this is about 5 years.
The other question to ask yourself, is which is the greater risk – if they grow up to double digits eating only nuggets or white foods, or not eating greens – or if they develop an attachment to a serving implement? My Romper-Room-Doo-Bee and Bunnikens plates broke or got lost eventually… And I still kinda miss them now that I think of it… But I learned to eat without them.
Anything mash or mushy. Scrambled egg, dahl, avocado, rice, pasta bolognaise, casserole, pumpkin, banana, chia, weetbix, rice cereal, etc.
Small pieces of food can also be used to practice pincer grip (e.g. steamed peas and corn, blueberries or nuts - as age appropriate) and you can also freeze water or berries in them.
They’ve been certified to quality standard ISO 8124 against choking hazards, and I couldn’t bite through them when I tried with adult teeth. Please discard if they start to tear in the seams: this can start to happen if you’re not careful while turning them inside out for cleaning.
How did you think of these?
Mashblox were inspired by watching a toddler chomping into an apple, that he’d occasionally drop, bounce and roll in the dirt, chasing just as if it was a ball. This little boy caught my eye because he was so incredibly independent, and I watched as he repeated this again and again.
I thought there had to be a way to combine children’s instinct to play with their food, and to explore the world through their mouth, into a practical solution. Voila, Mashblox hollow silicone building blocks and feeding cubes were born.