Picture your child's favorite outfit. Now picture it covered in jelly, drool, finger paint, or grape juice. Not so cute anymore, is it? A bib can save the day by providing an extra layer of protection, and consistent use can save you a lot of laundry angst.

Thrifty parents can purchase a clipping device that allows them to make a bib out of a washcloth, napkin, cloth diaper, or dish towel. These are especially handy for people on the go who want to travel with less.

Bibs are inexpensive, so it's tempting to buy a bunch of them, but make sure you like what you're buying and that they fit (they should be snug but not tight). Test out one or two styles you think you'll like before you invest.

your basic choices

There is a wide range of bibs to choose from.

drool bibs
Until they’ve started eating solids, babies don’t need a full bib, but these smaller bibs protect the chest from drool and the occasional bottle drip. Drool bibs are almost always made of cloth since they’re worn for longer periods of time, though some have waterproof backing.

standard bibs
These are your standard, everyday bibs that cover baby from neck to tummy during mealtime—a necessity during this deliriously messy stage.

smock-style bibs
These provide generous coverage and protect fronts, sides, even sleeves. Some styles pull over the head, while others tie at the back. All can do double duty as art smocks.

molded-plastic bibs
These sturdy bibs provide excellent protection because they stay in place, have fitted necklines, and repel rather than absorb liquids. A big bonus of this style is that they can be rinsed right off for easy cleanup.

disposable bibs
Great for road trips or eating out, these present an on-the-go option that simplifies packing and cleanup.

features to look for

  • Washability. Good bibs will last a long time and get washed again and again. Cloth should be machine-washable— no dry cleaning!—and other materials should be easy to wipe clean.
  • Materials. Cloth bibs are comfortable and machine-washable. Surface-wipe bibs are made from machine-washable fabric but have a special coating that makes them easier to wipe clean. Plastic bibs rinse off and are more durable, but sacrifice cuteness and possibly comfort.
  • Catchall pockets. Some bibs offer a pocket at the bottom to catch food that would otherwise end up on the floor. Look for wide pockets that stay open on their own (the better to gobble up dropped crumbs with).
  • Easy to secure. Bibs secure behind the child’s neck with snaps, ties, or hook-and-loop fasteners. Any of these are fine choices; just make sure they stay secured when they need to and remove easily when you’re done.
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