Should you give your child a baby food pouch?
It hasn’t taken long for baby food pouches to show up in grocery stores and superstores everywhere. You can even find them at some Starbucks!
In fact, it’s safe to say they’ve become part of the nutrition mainstream for babies and toddlers.
Baby food pouches may provide a good source of fruits and/or veggies, with many brands boasting no added sugars, juices, salt or artificial colors and use of all organic ingredients.
Some companies claim their products are cooked at lower temperatures than jarred baby food, increasing their nutrient content.
While the possibilities are endless with these convenient creations, others advise caution when using them.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- The pros and cons of using baby food pouches
- Why it’s important to connect through feeding
- 5 pointers for effective use of food pouches
The Pros of Baby Food Pouches
Pouches are easily portable and re-sealable for handy feeding at home or on the go. They don’t get crushed like some whole fruits and vegetables or break like glass jars.
Storage is a snap; you can refrigerate or freeze any partially used containers. They can be eaten cold, at room temperature, or heated up in warm water.
They make fruits and vegetables more accessible to toddlers when fresh options are not available or when time is limited.
It’s easy to complement your own cooked meals or restaurant fare with these blends to boost your child’s fruit and vegetable content.
Concerns about Baby Food in a Pouch
Even though I think they are a wonderful option overall, I do have a few concerns about how these products are used.
Like all baby food, the single-ingredient fruits or fruit and vegetable blends should be introduced around 6 months, when your baby shows developmental signs of readiness.
For infants, spoon feeding utilizes mouth muscles necessary for proper speech. Additionally, toddlers can learn how to use a spoon to build fine motor skills.
I recommend using a spoon when feeding these purees.
It is ok for toddlers to “suck” on these pouches occasionally.
However, make sure your tot has started spoon-feeding themselves, eating finger foods, and drinking from a cup with minimal spilling before giving them a pouch to “suck on.”
Don’t depend on pouches as a sole source of your child’s fruits and veggies, you want him or her to recognize and accept whole fruits and vegetables, too!
Get the Food & Nutrients for Baby’s Brain!
Keep Your Baby’s Nutrition in Mind
As baby food pouches become more popular, however, parents want to make sure they fit them into the overall goals for their child’s nutritional needs and developmental progress.
Starting solids is a very important phase and there are a few overarching goals to keep in mind:
- Support your baby’s growth and development by supplying the nutrition he needs, especially for critical nutrients like iron, DHA and vitamin D.
- Advance your little one along with feeding skills. By a year of age, your baby should be self-feeding with utensils (and his hands), drinking out of a cup and eating a wide variety of flavors and textures.
- Setting up healthy eating habits.
Feeding is as Important as Baby Food
With the fast-paced world we live in, it’s easy to put feeding on the back burner and give your youngster foods they can eat without your help.
Remember, feeding is a chance to connect and enhance attachment. When your child eats in the back seat while you drive, you miss out on an opportunity to connect.
A positive feeding relationship in infancy sets the stage for future healthy eating in toddlerhood, childhood and the teen years.
5 Pointers for Appropriate Use of Baby Food Pouches
I’ve got a few pointers for using baby food pouches so your baby becomes the healthy, self-feeder he was meant to be!
1. Incorporate the Spoon
The original intent when baby food pouches came out on the market was to use them with a spoon.
Parents could squeeze a bit of baby food onto the spoon and feed it to their infant.
Today, the spoon is skipped and sucking from the pouch is the norm. This misses the opportunity to teach baby how to eat off a spoon and use his mouth muscles to manage, propel and chew food.
All babies need diversified texture so they learn to chew, self-feed and advance their feeding skills.
Babies who do not advance to more textured food by 9 months of age have been shown to have a greater likelihood of having feeding problems later.
Using a pouch won’t hurt your baby if you keep moving forward with feeding skills, such as introducing finger foods, offering the spoon, and encouraging self-feeding.
2. Mix in More Texture
Add textured foods such as chopped and cooked veggies, rice, noodles or shredded meats in a bowl with baby food from pouches to increase the texture experience.
These varied textures will stimulate your baby’s sensory system and train his mouth muscles to handle a wide range of food textures.
3. Monitor Baby when Eating a Baby Food Pouch
No matter what, when, or how you feed your baby, he or she needs to be monitored to watch for choking and to continue to enhance the parent-child connection and bond.
4. Start Finger Foods Between Six and Eight Months
Between six and eight months, babies develop their hand grasp and can hold a finger-shaped, or long, thin rectangle of soft food, such as buttered toast, soft cooked vegetables like sweet potato, or ripe fruit like banana or avocado.
By eight months, the pincer grasp emerges, and your baby can pick up small bits of food with his thumb and forefinger.
At this stage, introduce finer foods like strips and small cubes of soft food to your baby’s meal routine.
Use this opportunity to introduce singular veggies and fruits so your baby can appreciate the flavor and texture of these foods.
5. Always Sit to Eat
This is good advice for any child at any age (even adults), but especially for the new eater who is learning to handle food.
Sitting for meals and snacks helps children pay attention to their food and eating, learn to eat mindfully, and stop eating when full.
Your job is to provide quality nutrition and establish a good eating environment. Use developmentally appropriate feeding utensils and food textures to foster lifelong eating habits.
Need More Help with Feeding Baby?
Check out our nutrition booklets, workshops, and courses and my book, The Smart Mom’s Guide to Starting Solids.
You may also enjoy reading:
- Is Rice Cereal for Babies Safe?
- Toxins in Baby Food: What You Need to Know
- The Ultimate Guide to Baby’s Nutrition in the First Year
How Many Baby Food Pouches per Day?
When you’re starting your babe out on solid foods, baby food pouches can be a convenient way to have purees on hand. However, you’ll want to be sure to offer the contents in the pouch with a spoon.
I see pouches as a convenience not a mainstay of feeding your baby. To that end, I typically recommend 1 pouch per day maximum. If you’re on vacation, or visiting relatives, relying more heavily on food pouches for a short time is fine, however.
Additionally, babies are on purees for only a couple of months. After that, they should be exploring all kinds of textures, flavors and foods!
Can Babies Eat Straight from Pouches?
I don’t recommend feeding your baby directly from a pouch. Sucking on a fruit pouch, for example, reinforces the sucking mechanism, rather than other muscles in the mouth, like the ones used for chewing and speaking.
This article was updated on June 3, 2023.