Babies already know how to suck. They need to learn how to chew.
Baby-food pouches have become increasingly popular in the last decade and for decent reasons: they’re portable, don’t need refrigeration or a little spoon, and make it easier to keep the messy eating at bay. The New York Times recently reported that global revenue from baby food pouches grew tenfold between 2010 and 2017 — from $16 million to $160.8 million.
Some say, if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense. But we say parents and caregivers have become too reliant on baby food pouches. Everything is fine in moderation, but new parents should be aware that this temporary fix can lead to other issues down the line.
Here are 4 important reasons why we say: Squeeze Cheeks, Not Pouches.
Pouches Are Oversimplifying the Experience of Eating
Pouches, while OK in moderation and on-the-go, can interfere with your child’s developing motor skills and oral skills. Research shows that eating isn’t only about nutrition, though that is one of its most important roles. Eating– which includes chewing and swallowing, as well as learning to eat with a spoon– contributes to the development of fine motor skills. Learning to eat with a baby spoon is a very different experience than squeezing a pouch. Babies already have plenty of experience with sucking– it’s how they’ve been fed since birth. However, babies need to practice closing their lips over a utensil and moving that food into the back of their mouth to swallow.
Messy Eating Is Actually Important for You Child’s Development
With a pouch, your child is more prone to distracted eating (eating while walking around) and they are more likely to stay clean. Though, both of those sound like bonuses for busy and exhausted parents, research shows that ‘meaningful messes,’ are important for developing motor skills and minds. Part of the way kids start to understand their world is through play and touch. To really understand what something is and create curiosity, children need to have a tactile experience. That includes smearing their food… everywhere.
Pouches Blend All the Ingredients Together
There are some unique pouch blends on the shelves today. And some argue that they are exposing their children to a variety of baby food flavors, like kale and quinoa, that they’d otherwise avoid. However, when the food is blended and mixed up the way it is in baby food pouches, children cannot tell the difference between different flavors or textures. With pouches, parents are risking a picky eater and that they kid will have a more difficult time accepting fresh vegetables later on.
Pouches are Higher in Calories and Sugar, and Lower in Fiber
A balanced fruit-to-fiber ratio is an important factor when choosing baby food. However, shelf-stable pouches are considerably lower in fiber and higher in sugar than freshly made baby foods, like Yumi, a subscription baby food delivery service that offers a variety of blends for developing taste buds. A study published in the journalNutrients found that of 703 analyzed pouches had a median of 11 grams of sugar per serving and 58% had added sugars.
Beauregard JL, Bates M, Cogswell ME, Nelson JM, Hamner HC. Nutrient Content of Squeeze Pouch Foods for Infants and Toddlers Sold in the United States in 2015. Nutrients. 2019 Jul 23;11(7):1689. doi: 10.3390/nu11071689. PMID: 31340487; PMCID: PMC6682959.