Are wondering whether feeding your baby puree from pouches would be a good decision? We are fortunate to have so much variety of commercially prepared baby food which is getting only better in quality each year.
But there a few important things to keep in mind to make sure that puree pouches do not interfere with the development of your baby’s eating skills.
As with all child feeding topics, I am using the common sense approach here as well. Each family has their own food values and what works for some will not for others. So no finger wagging, just a few facts and recommendations.
First of all, some good news! It is absolutely possible to make the most out of the convenience and variety offered by puree pouches without ending up over-relying on them.
But it’s important that we keep in mind a few facts:
Puree pouches are nutritious but many taste sweet, even if they are veggie-based.
If you check the ingredient list at the back on the pouch, you will almost always see a sweet fruit or veggie listed first. This means that the puree contains more of this ingredient than any other.
Sucking from a pouch is convenient on the go but it does help develop eating skills.
I used puree pouches with all my kids when they were younger, and I am the first to say that they are indispensable as a pack-and-go snack or meal. For example, when we were going out for a day with my finger-food-acing number 3, I knew I could give her a pouch while we were in the park and then have a relaxing meal with two older kids in a restaurant while she was napping.
Yes, guys, you read it right. RELAXING. This is what meals can feel like with just two of your kids when number 3 is snoozing away.
Pouches are mess free but kids need to get messy for sensory development.
Here are my top 5 tips to help your baby develop eating skills and build variety:
1. Whenever you can, squeeze the puree into a bowl and use a spoon.
It may seem pointless to reverse back to spoon feeding once your baby learns to happily suck purees out of a pouch but he needs to develop his spoon feeding skills.
He may allow you to feed him, eat puree with hands or practice using the spoon but, it will still provide a valuable experience.
It also helps babies stay seated when eating rather than roaming around with a pouch in their mouth. Ask any pediatric ER doctor, and they will share a couple of horror stories from their experience of treating kids who had an accident because of sucking on pouches when running or playing.
2. Regularly allow your baby to explore food with hands.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this simple strategy. Kids need to see, smell, touch and taste food to experience it fully and get a boost in their sensory development. Try letting your child play with purees and finger foods every day even if he seems to not eat much of them.
3. Serve chunky purees and finger foods every day.
Research shows that kids who were exposed to a variety of textures from early on tend to have more limited diets by the age of 7. So make sure to quickly upgrade their smooth purees to chunks and finger foods to help your baby keep developing his biting, chewing and swelling skills.
Here is a quote from an article I wrote about the strategies you can use to help your baby move towards more texture:
A study looked at the connection between feeding difficulties and last introduction of lumps. Here is what researchers observed:
Those infants who were introduced to lumpy solids at the earliest ages consumed a greater variety of family foods at the age of 6 months, while those introduced at 10 months or later had been given fewer solids of all types by 6 months of age and at 15 months were significantly less likely to be having family foods when compared to those introduced between 6 and 9 months. At each age, those introduced late (10 months or older) to lumps were more difficult to feed and had more definite likes and dislikes.
Need finger food ideas? Check my list of 65 whole food finger foods for babies.
Babies are born with an innate preference for sweet flavors. Mother’s milk is sweet as is formula and many “starter” baby purees. But kids need to taste a variety of different of different flavors to learn to enjoy them. So make sure that not all of the baby food pouches you buy are a mixture of apple sauce with a marginal amount of spinach.
Feel free to switch things around and consider the French way of aiming at palate development as an inspiration.
5. Worry less about nutrients and calories and focus on building a variety instead.
Because of nutritional concerns, we may give our babies more of what they already like (read: sweet purees) instead of introducing more variety, both in flavors and textures. Or feel like we need to “top them up” with their favorite puree pouch if they did not eat any lunch or dinner.
But most of your baby’s nutrition still comes from breastmilk or formula. At the same time, the first few months of starting solids are a magical window of opportunity, when your baby is more likely to accept new flavors than ever.
She may not like everything you are offering, but it is not your job to make sure she eats a certain amount. It is your job, however, to introduce a variety of food, even if it takes 10-15 or 155 times before your baby decides to give it a try. I is easier to introduce new foods when you are eating together and sharing the same meal.
Your baby is unique.
So why copy how everyone else is starting solids? Welcome your baby into the wonderful world of food using this safe and responsive method.