Dog Food Bowl as Baby Bowl: Why the Heck Not?

Dog food bowls make good baby food bowls. That’s my supposition. Hear me out.

With a second child on the way, I began thinking about alternatives to plastic bowls. The obvious choice was stainless steel, but the only ones I found online were for cooking—mixing bowls—and they had such a small base that a baby would easily tip them.

Then I wondered, why not use dog food bowls?

A photo of two stainless steel dog food bowls fill with orange-colored baby food, with a single baby food jar next to them to give a sense of scale. These are relatively small bowls.

On the left: an 8 ounce no-tip dog bowl with rubber ring base. On the right: an easily tipped 1 pint flat-bottomed dog bowl. Each bowl contains a full 4 ounce jar of Gerber Chicken and Rice dinner, the least expensive jar I could buy for this photo. Both bowls sold for less than $2 at a local pet store.

Good Points

Stainless steel bowls give you the no-break durability of plastic without the concerns over bisphenol-A or phthalates leaching into baby food.

Better yet, designers have created bowls that dogs can’t tip over, and I bet, babies too. You can’t simply bend a finger over the lip and tip, nor can you quickly pick up such a bowl. The wide base with thick walls tapering inward are an ingenious design.

Stainless steel won’t chip or break down like plastic does over time. Sure, plastic should last thousands of years, but take one look at a sippy cup lid after a kid has chewed on it for a year. In other words: dog bowls provide heirloom quality. Also, the two bowls shown in the photo are listed as dishwasher safe.

Bad Points

A no-tip dog bowl often contains a rubber ring around its base to also make it quiet when a dog pushes his bowl along the ground. You would need to remove the ring for the dishwasher and replace it again, or go without it.

Some dog bowls are polished only on the top side, giving the bottom side a dirty appearance even though it’s clean.

Dog bowls don’t transport well—no lid.

Non-issue: Oh My God, It’s a Freaking Dog Bowl!

The social implications of feeding my baby from a dog bowl don’t concern me. He or she won’t be down on all fours, you know? I’ll feed with a spoon, and most feeding occurs in the privacy of our home. My 3-year-old daughter still drinks from glass pimento jars. If dog bowls prove safer, or at least more care-free than plastic bowls, I’m game.

Non-issue: Not Microwave Safe

I wouldn’t microwave baby food due to uneven heating. I also don’t like the idea of microwaving plastic bowls due to chemical leaching concerns.

Non-issue: Suction Cups

Our first plastic baby bowls had optional suction cups to adhere them to our tabletop. We never used the suction cups because my wife or I held the bowl most of the time. When our daughter began feeding herself, we held her bowl stationary for a time, then had a simple rule: if you throw your bowl, you don’t get more food. So… the lack of a suction method for dog bowls doesn’t concern me.

Non-issue: It’s not Cutesy Wootsy

Dog food bowls don’t have cartoon characters or the alphabet printed on them. This is a big plus in my book. I don’t want licensed TV or movie characters on any of our baby products, and dinner time is not about learning the alphabet, especially not the capital letters that dinnerware so often bears. Did you know schools usually teach lowercase letters first?

Time to Weigh In

I have questions for you, gentle reader:

1) Would you use a stainless steel dog bowl, or must it be designed and marketed for humans? What do you think?

2) Optional: are you aware of any health-related reason that this might be a bad idea? What issues didn’t I consider?

I fully expect, or at least hope, that by our due date, next March, I’ll locate a web site selling a small stainless steel bowl that is designed for humans, maybe a cereal bowl. But now I wonder, will it have the amazing no-tip design of a dog bowl? Hmm.

Comments

26 Responses to “Dog Food Bowl as Baby Bowl: Why the Heck Not?”

  1. molly says:

    I would use the dog bowl, as long as there are not any health risks for the baby — not sure if there are or not.
    What we actually use are Pyrex and Corelle dishes. Both are inexpensive, hard to break and safe for microwave (if you choose to go there) and oven. We have the small Pyrex dishes, which I also use for recipe prep, that are perfect for a small baby. Now that our girl is bigger we use the Corelle dishes, she can tell us if she wants a plate or bowl.

    September 13th, 2007 at 5:24 am

  2. Dawn says:

    OK – is your baby going to know it is a dog bowl? No. Will you know it is a dog bowl? Yes? Do you care? Sounds like no. I say go for it. In the “olden days” people were always being creative to solve problems.

    September 13th, 2007 at 6:32 am

  3. Amanda says:

    Our 11-month old loves the various dog bowls we own, but not to eat from, just as toys. He really likes the one pictured on the right of your picture. I never thought about using it to feed him, it’s been relegated to his toy cache since about 6-months.

    Seems like a great idea – I’ve always hated the plastic character bowls that seem to be about the only thing you can find at mainstream stores for babies learning to self-feed. We’ll definitely look into the non-tipping dog bowls when we reach that stage.

    Besides, if your not due until March, that really gives you until at least September to find baby bowls (assuming you follow the current recommendation to not start solids until 6 months).

    September 13th, 2007 at 6:40 am

  4. racquel says:

    I like your idea and cant think of any safety concerns. Dumb question tho – why remove the rubber ring for the dishwasher? Is that just for washers with heating elements or any kind of dishwasher?

    I love your idea – I have 7mo twins and unless your readers come up with safety concerns I’m going to go pick up some doggie bowls, it will be fun to see if anyone even notices!

    September 13th, 2007 at 7:44 am

  5. AJ says:

    Molly, neat idea on Pyrex. When the kid grows up, you still have usable dishes instead of a bunch of dog bowls.

    Amanda, oops, yeah, the math doesn’t add up. I’m in hoarding mode, a squirrel packing away food for winter.

    Racquel, The rubber ring could trap water when washed, possibly leading to mold. I could toss the ring; the bowl is just a little less attractive without it.

    September 13th, 2007 at 8:36 am

  6. Homestead says:

    I thought I was the only one letting my kids drink out of those little jars! They are perfect and they also make great dandilion vases.

    I would absolutely use the dog food bowls…. and buy them at the dollar store.

    We are like Molly and usually use small ceramic/glass bowls that actually have plastic lids as well. They have accidentally launched from table height several times (our 14-month-old is learning to handle a spoon these days and she gets really excited about vanilla yogurt) and never broken but we have soft linoleum (sp?) floors.

    And may I also suggest…. when you get to self-feeding…. taking an old spoon and bending the handle around into a curve…. it’s ergonomic and much easier to use for pee-wee than those short plastic spoons…. no complicated wrist twisting to keep the spoon level and loaded. Does that make any sense? It’s my mom’s trick.

    September 13th, 2007 at 8:59 am

  7. deana says:

    we use the glass bowls too…but there are baby stainless steel sets. it’s not as cheap, but maybe a cute shower gift?

    http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/cart/childrenprod.htm

    September 13th, 2007 at 9:27 am

  8. deana says:

    Also just thought of this. In India they eat their lunch, or take picnics with tiffins. Tiffins have lids, are portable, made of stainless steel, can fit around 3 different dishes, and are just really cool looking!

    They are relatively inexpensive, and I’m sure you could pick one up at a local Indian grocery.

    http://www.angelinhome.com/ProductInfo.aspx?productid=TIFFIN

    September 13th, 2007 at 9:34 am

  9. AJ says:

    Deana, following that first link, the bowl in the frog dish set is exactly what I’m looking for, but it’s not dishwasher safe. The next bowl down is also nice, but tippable due to its narrow base.

    The real sinker is that they are sold as children’s dish sets, rather than baby dishes. By the time my daughter could handle full-size utensils, she was using our regular dinnerware.

    Still, it’s a hopeful sign that some manufacturers haven’t bought into the everything-must-be-plastic mindset.

    Stainless steel baby utensils are also on my shopping list. Those truly are heirloom quality, something that does get passed down to the next generation, or used to.

    The Tiffin Indian lunch box could be promising if there is one that isn’t so tall (e.g., not a deep bowl). Ahhh, more googling ahead.

    September 13th, 2007 at 9:43 am

  10. Sandy says:

    Another idea would be ceramic cat food dishes. Some of them have some cute kitty pictures around the outside too!

    September 13th, 2007 at 9:45 am

  11. anishka says:

    no tv or movie licensed characters is a plus but what’s the weigh-in on melamine? i went to LWP and didn’t see it on the list. here’s a set from The Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring William the hippo… http://www.metmuseum.org/store/st_family_viewer.asp/familyID/{E5CD5217-ED52-4A45-9425-3B918C1D6919}/FromPage/catForKids/familyNo/11/catID/{A20827A0-D9CF-11D6-949E-00902786BF44}

    September 13th, 2007 at 10:45 am

  12. Sandra says:

    The other place to look similar to the Indian tiffins are at the Chinese grocery store – I remember as a kid I had oval shaped stainless steel containers for rice and vegetables that had covers too.

    September 13th, 2007 at 11:38 am

  13. Tara says:

    I would totally use a dog bowl.

    With my toddler right now I’m diggin’ melamine but I’ve discovered that it will break if thrown hard enough…poor Japanese monkey plate never saw it coming. ;)

    September 13th, 2007 at 11:46 am

  14. Natalie says:

    We use those little Pyrex custard cups. They are just the right size, durable, cheap, fit nicely in the dishwasher, and once Sprout was old enough to feed himself, the slightly fluted edges give his little hands a place to hold on. We also have used those silicone potholders to help keep his dishes from sliding all over the place (fortunately, he has always been a fairly neat eater).

    And those custard cups make nice ice cream bowls for us – you’re not so tempted to serve too much like you are with a cereal bowl.

    September 13th, 2007 at 1:09 pm

  15. Much More Than A Mom/The Opinionated Parent says:

    All I have to say is “Why the hell didn’t I think of that?” My son is always eating from the dogs’ dishes anyway! Great idea!

    ;-)

    September 13th, 2007 at 6:07 pm

  16. adrienne says:

    Hmmm…. I recall seeing pictures of my baby self eating first birthday cake out of a Snoopy emblazoned dog food bowl. Apparently my cousin thought it would be a fine gift for my older brother (on his first birthday) and all subsequent children in the family used it with satisfaction.

    I would definitely remove the rubber ring for dishwasher cleaning. The chlorine in most dishwasher detergents will dry it out faster than you can say “Cascade.” Trust me, you don’t want dried rubber bits washing into your dishwasher drain.

    The suction cup bowls and plates offer more illusion than adhesion. Just when you think they’re working your older infant will delight in popping them off the tray/table. This revelation is most likely to occur to your young diner when they are served something liquidy or staining.

    Now- my main question remains can you get them laser engraved? Maybe there’s a new Snoopy bowl in the family legacy.

    September 13th, 2007 at 7:47 pm

  17. Siobhan says:

    Ingenenious. I’m off to the pet store first thing tomorrow. I was suckered in by the suction bowl that couldn’t be moved……… my son moved it in 5 seconds.

    September 14th, 2007 at 9:03 pm

  18. lisa says:

    AJ this is a great idea. My 10 month old is just showing interest in feeding herself, and we’re also in the process of phasing plastic out of her life. I had a similar idea with a mess kit plate, but I like the shiny clean surface of the dog bowl. I’ll be hitting the pet store tomorrow.

    September 15th, 2007 at 6:42 pm

  19. kelli says:

    My sons slept in a tiny little dog bed when they were swaddled newborns. Next, to the dog bowl aisle!

    September 18th, 2007 at 4:56 pm

  20. Stu Mark says:

    Your essay, which bowled us over, has been nominated by one of our readers at GNMParents.com – Congrats, and good luck in the voting!!

    September 25th, 2007 at 12:17 pm

  21. Tyla says:

    I am with you on the doggie bowls! What a great idea.

    But, I was searching Amazon (I know, I know…) and came across some 1 cup “prep bowls” that look pretty great for toddler feeding bowls, too. Check them out.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000BUDDY4/

    October 27th, 2007 at 9:07 pm

  22. Lee says:

    I’m actually looking for the opposite! I have two poodles and have fed them using ceramic bowls. It has come to my attention that ceramic pet bowls from China can leach lead into the dogs food! I am unable to find any ceramic dog bowls from anywhere other than China. I now want glass, but need something that is untippable and looks half decent sitting out all the time. I have stainless steel bowls but only use them for travel.

    Lee

    December 8th, 2007 at 11:54 am

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    April 7th, 2008 at 7:44 am

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  26. amanda morris says:

    Great idea using dog bowls! Have you seen the selection of non-plastic feeding bowls at babypots.com?

    Amanda

    June 7th, 2008 at 7:56 am