Starting solids is one of the many challenges that comes with being a first time parent. The process of introducing your little one to solids can bring about many different emotions – excitement, overwhelm and sometimes even fear. It is during this time that you may find yourself turning to pre-prepared baby food options as an easy and convenient option especially when first starting out.
Wandering down the baby food aisle is a daunting undertaking. A decade ago, this aisle would have consisted of mostly glass jars and boxes of iron fortified infant cereal. Today you will find hundreds of options, mostly food pouches – all of which promise to offer your baby optimal nutrition and spruce words such as ‘natural’, ‘wholesome’ and ‘organic’.
As dietitians, you may have guessed we’re fans of offering your baby food that you’ve made as often as possible. In saying that we’re not here to demonize pouch foods. In this article, we’re exploring the pros and cons of offering food pouches to encourage you to approach them with caution and consider your options.
- Time saving: you can save a lot of time in the kitchen when you don’t have to peel and puree your own vegetables and other ingredients for your little one!
- Portable and resealable: this makes them handy for feeding on the go. They can be eaten cold, at room temperature or even heated up. The fact that they are shelf stable means you can keep one or two with you on the go as a backup option (this can be especially helpful when travelling).
- Delicious flavour profiles: the manufacturers of these pouches really have done a good job to be able to create delicious flavours by combining ingredients like pear with chicken.
- Kids love them: you may find your little one will eat anything out of a pouch, but reject similar foods when you make them yourself at home. One reason for this is they know what they are getting from a pouch. Foods from pouches are usually similar in consistency and taste and therefore less daunting to a kid. Whereas each time you cook chicken curry at home it may be slightly different.
- Delayed oral-motor function: Most pouch foods are very smooth purees and do not require chewing. Therefore your baby is not developing oral skills that are useful for future speech development and being able to eat all foods. Whilst babies initially need to start on very smooth food, by about 7-8 months it is important that the texture of their food changes to work on oral-motor skills.
- Easy to over consume: It is much easier for your child to consume pouch food quickly, which increases the risk of them unconsciously having too much. Eating solids is a more interactive, labour intensive activity compared to slurping pureed food from a pouch.
- Expensive: these pouches are more expensive than home cooked foods.
- Lack key nutrients: Many of the pouches available on the market lack nutrients, specifically iron. Remember your baby has high iron needs so filling them up with foods that are low in iron is likely to be detrimental.
- Misleading labels: You might think you are purchasing a beef shepherd’s pie or chicken casserole food pouch for your baby, however, when you look at the back of the pack, often ingredients like beef and chicken are last on the list. Remember ingredient lists will always be listed in descending order so if the meat is the last ingredient then this product is not going to provide your child with a good source of iron!
- Often sweet and contain a lot of fruit: Fruit is great for your baby but the fruit in these pouches is very smooth and it is easy for your baby to consume larger volumes of sugar from fruit than is recommended. Even savoury food pouches contain large percentages of fruit which will not help your child progress to savoury foods in the future. For more information about how much fruit is recommended for kids, click here.
Where possible, we recommend feeding your baby food that is homemade. However there is certainly a place and a time for pouches too if you choose to use them. To help your baby develop their feeding skills, squeeze the food from the pouch out into a bowl or spoon, rather than letting your baby suck on the pouch.
- Follow us on Instagram @thebitingtruthkids for lots of kids nutrition advice and yummy recipes.
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