Baby food pouches: Are they really harmless?
Baby food pouches — just twist off the lid and your baby is fed. Good idea, or a problem in disguise?
Baby food pouches are all the rage with moms of babies and toddlers. Quick, super easy and ultra-convenient, the pouches make it simple for babies to eat on the go. Should they be a staple, or do they actually contribute to tooth and feeding problems?
Baby food pouches are made by many companies and often feature organic baby food blends inside, which babies can suck out through the opening, much like they could a drink through a straw. They are handier than a jar of food that needs to be spoon-fed, and they can help teach a baby to feed herself.
There are also companies selling reusable baby food pouches, too. This way, moms can make their own baby food and stuff the pouches themselves, which can save scads of money. Pack up a few pouches and you can go out for a day and not worry about carting back spoons.
What’s the worry?
However, some worry that baby food pouches will be overused, much like juice can be. We spoke with Deborah Michael, mom of five and pediatric occupational therapist, who is the founder of North Shore Pediatric Therapy, and Meghan Grant, mother of two, who is a pediatric speech therapist. They said that like many of the decisions we as parents make for our kids, moderation is key. “A recent statement from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry warns parents of the possible side effects to prolonged usage of baby food pouches,” Grant explained. “They compare the squeeze pouches to that of giving babies juice in sippy cups and bottles, and indicate that tooth decay may develop if babies are given frequent access to the pouches.”
They said that if the pouches are given too frequently, and Baby’s teeth aren’t brushed on a regular basis, the prolonged exposure can cause her tooth enamel to break down — although it’s admitted that more research needs to be done to see if there is a connection. Whether you choose to give your child baby food pouches or not, brush her teeth at least twice per day, and try to restrict juice consumption.
Developmental and social issues
The mechanism of eating the baby food from a pouch is, as mentioned above, similar to drinking from a straw. Does a baby benefit from spoon-feeding as opposed to “drinking” a baby food pouch? “Feeding your child from a spoon not only contributes to functional oral motor development, but increases the social aspects of mealtimes,” said Michael. “Parents are able to connect with their children during meals, and if children are allowed access to constant drinking from the pouches, they are missing out on opportunities to practice developmental feeding skills when fed via spoon.”
Keep in mind that not all parents feed their babies with a spoon. Baby-led weaning works well for many families, with Mom and Dad providing real food for Baby to eat instead of spooning purees into his mouth on a regular basis.
The bottom line
Parents shouldn’t avoid baby food pouches, but moderating their use is still a good idea. Definitely brush her teeth at least twice per day and maintain parent-child interaction during mealtime as often as you can. Remember that independent feeding is the goal and baby food pouches (and real food, as in baby-led weaning) can work in your baby’s favor. Baby food pouches don’t always need to be fed as-is, either — you can squeeze them out into a bowl for spoon-feeding as well, and later, she can be taught to spoon-feed herself. Being fed from a spoon also helps with developing proper swallowing mechanisms, as does baby-led weaning, but pouches are fine on occasion. Modern parents have tons of options for feeding their babies, and baby food pouches seem to be fine as long as you don't depend heavily on them.