Love the convenience of baby food pouches? Here's why experts say you might need to rethink that
To most of us busy parents, when it comes to feeding our babies, those ready-made pouches of puréed baby food are a total godsend.
I mean, you can feed your baby on the go with no plates or spoons or heavy (and breakable) glass jars needed – what's not to love?
Unfortunately, now some experts are warning against relying too heavily on the pouches, as eating too many of these too frequently, as opposed to other type meals, babies can miss out on the developmental skills that will contribute to healthy eating habits.
This becomes a rather problematic issue when you realise just how popular these baby food pouches have become.
And it's easy to see why so many parents (myself included) rely on these. They seem to offer the perfect combination of healthfulness — containing mostly puréed fruits and vegetables, often organic ones with no added sugar — and convenience, food on the go, at the twist of a cap.
However, it is the very features that make pouches so convenient (the silky-smooth texture and the packaging) that have nutritionists concerned, as they feel these could, potentially, lead to bad long-term snacking habits and routine overeating.
The problem, experts argue, is that wih excessive use, eating food solely from these type of pouches may fail to challenge children at a crucial stage of feeding and oral development — when they are learning to chew and swallow soft foods, which helps with speech, and when they need varied and multi-sensory experiences, which helps develop a palate for a wide range of foods later on.
“Parents are feeling reassured that their kids are getting the fruits and vegetables because they’re having the pouches that have all these vegetables mixed in,” Dr. Natalie Muth, a pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, explains to the New York Times. But “when it’s all mixed up in a pouch — or when it’s mixed up in a green smoothie, because that comes up all the time too — it’s good, the kids are getting the nutrients, but it’s less good in the long run,” she said. “Kids need the taste of what the actual food is to come to like it later.”
Developing bad snacking habits
I know I am guilty, having offered my own toddler these when he was acting up, especially when we were out and about, or I was trying to get the shopping done or something. And this, it seems, is a very bad idea.
"If given these pouches when irritable, children also run the risk of learning to associate sweet snacks with calming down, and to think of snacking in general as an activity to satisfy emotional rather than physiological needs," Muth explains. “Kids are probably getting these things a lot when they’re not actually hungry."
Using pouches to stop whining, she said, “sets up snacking as being a habit that happens frequently throughout the day or for reasons other than hunger.
The difference between chewing and sucking food
Another problem about excessive use of pureed food in pouches over "normal food" is that children's aren't exposed to different textures and flavours enough, experts warn.
“The mechanics of sucking something and swallowing it is completely different to having a spoon, placing food on the tongue from a spoon, moving it around the mouth, moving it to the back and swallowing it,” Lucy Cooke, a member of Britain’s national steering group for childhood feeding disorders, explains. “It’s really important that children learn to do that."