I’m sure you’ve seen fruit/vegetable pouches at the grocery store and have seen kids squeezing some type of puree into their mouths through a little spout. There are pouches with fruit, pouches with vegetables, pouches that contain organic produce and even pouches with beans and avocados in them. There are even re-usable pouches you can buy and make yourself at home. If you ask me, the baby food pouch market is a little ridiculous. Did you know that pouches now account for 25% of the baby food market?! Sure, the idea of getting your kids to eat a wide array of foods is great, but what grown adult eats these food items out of a pouch?!
Now, if you have given your child a fruit/veggie pouch, don’t feel like you have messed up. It is not the end of the world. However, I am here to tell you that your child is in no way, shape or form NEEDS a pouch to eat their fruit and vegetables. This has been on my mind the last several weeks, because I have encountered several parents who were talking about their child eating vegetables and then they followed up by saying '“in a pouch.” That just made my heart hurt, because from a sensory perspective that child is missing out on SO much. Now, if you give your child a pouch of organic, blueberry and acai berry puree on occasion that is fine, but if your child is depending on pouches to “eat” vegetables, we might want to chat offline.
Let’s talk about the pouch phenomenon from a sensory perspective. Let me clarify - I am not an Occupational Therapist, but I have done some sensory food training (the SOS Feeding Method) and I have worked with several OTs over the past eight years. I know just enough to help explain the basics to you. When your child eats food, they are experiencing so much more than it may first appear. They are touching the food and getting to feel it. They are smelling the food and they are looking at the color and texture of the food. They are getting to taste the flavor of the food and they are getting to watch you eat the food as well. There is so much sensory input that is happening when a child eats. When you give that child a pouch of food, they are missing out on ALL of those sensory experiences. They don’t get to touch the food, they don’t get to smell it, they don’t get to see it and the only sense they get to use is their mouth. Can you imagine having to taste something that you can’t smell, see or feel first? That is a rather shocking experience. Add to that the fact that no one else around you is eating out of a pouch. Imagine how you would react.
My main point with this post isn’t to shame you if you give your child food pouches. I simply want to provide you with some reasoning behind why offering your child pouches on a regular basis might not the best idea. If you have a child that is really picky and is struggling with some sensory issues, and therefore, you rely on pouches, consider working with a feeding therapist. I would be happy to work with you and point you in the direction of a great feeding therapist if you need it.
Eating is such a wonderful sensory experience. When we deprive our children of the opportunity to use their senses while eating, we start to see them struggle with eating. So, while you may choose to use pouches on occasion, please don’t rely on them as a normal meal source. The best thing to do is to prepare soft foods for your child and offer them what you’re eating.
Next time you are in the baby aisle, walking by the baby food, keep going and just say “no” to the pouches!