Food pouches - are they the way to go?

Food pouches - are they the way to go?

Increasingly, we are seeing baby and kids foods in squeezable plastic bags – and food companies assure us they’re a fun, easy way to get nutritious food into even the fussiest eaters. They are convenient when times are busy.

But all food pouches store-bought or home filled, while less messy, can limit learning and developmental opportunities for babies.

They can also increase risk of tooth decay from the types of food in pouches and the sucking style of feeding.

We know for infants and children touching, chewing and eating food plays a vital role in their oral and motor skill development. Chewing food helps make the jaw muscles strong for talking and eating. Only babies around six months old need soft and smooth textured foods, most babies do not need pureed food from about seven months old. Babies can move to minced and mashed food and cut up food between the ages of six and 12 months old.

The 'messy' stage of eating is important. It’s when they learn how to self-feed using fingers and spoons. Exploring food by touching, smelling and chewing food helps your baby learn about the tastes and textures of different foods. Make sure your older baby gets the chance to try a variety lumpy and mashed food as well as cut up finger foods. It can take many tries before your baby will eat a new food so try not fuss too much, just try another day.

Meal times are important for social development too. Family mealtime is when children learn about food and eating. Sitting together and sharing the same food helps this.

Many store-bought food pouches are fruit based. Some food pouches contain fruit juice not whole fruit puree. We know eating fruit is a better choice. Many savoury meal pouches contain only small amounts of meat or vegetables with added fruit puree or juice to give sweetness.

Developing a taste for just a few favourite commercial baby foods does not help as they move into the toddler years.

It’s worth remembering not to worry too much about how much your baby is eating. The twelve months is mostly about learning to eat.

Some day’s babies will eat more.

For the first 12 months breastmilk or an infant formula provides most of their nutrition.

If you do use pouches try pouring the contents out when you can – older babies can start using a spoon rather than sucking. Make sure you give your baby opportunities to get a little messy with food.

It’s also worth noting single-use pouches create a lot of extra plastic packaging that often can’t be recycled.

And store-bought food pouches and jars of food can be an expensive way to feed your baby.

Visit DHHS Healthy Kids for more information on kid’s nutrition.