When it comes to parenting, convenience is a big deal. Liners for bottles, that Amazon service that delivers diapers every two weeks, and even baby food pouches are huge for parents who are looking to save time and some hassle. But convenience isn't always worth it. Disposable diapers are great (I use them and only feel a little bit guilty), but the environmental impact is huge. And what about baby food pouches? They don't recycle either, and are they even good for your baby to use? Can baby food pouches negatively impact a baby's motor skill development? Some experts think so.
If you haven't entered the world of solid baby foods yet, you may not have noticed the overwhelming amount of options on the grocery store shelves. Glass jars are the classic way to serve up some puréed spinach and peas, but baby food pouches, which are plastic pouches with a spout, are becoming a favorite among parents. Chiefly, they seem to be less messy and allow your baby to suck down their dinner, instead of you spoon feeding them, so you can finish those dishes already.
But feeding your baby with a spoon or letting them play with their food is more than just a rite of passage or a photo op for the scrapbook — it's also an important part of their motor skill development.
Emergency Medicine physician and author of the cookbook Natural Baby Food, Sonali Ruder, tells Romper that while the pouches are convenient and often loaded with fruits and vegetables, there are some concerns about using them. "Babies are sucking food from a pouch instead of chewing it, which does not promote the healthy development of feeding skills and may cause oral-motor delays," she says in an email interview. "Chewing helps develop the muscles in the mouth, which are also important for speech development. When babies eat from pouches, they also are missing out on picking up their food and self-feeding, a process that helps develop fine motor skills."
That's a whole lot happening for a pouch of applesauce, isn't it?
Product Safety Investigator Kayla Mackie from ConsumerSafety.org agrees with Ruder. "Motor skills are developed when the food is physically being touched and picked up," Mackie tells Romper in an email. "The pouches eliminate this factor, making it more difficult for your baby to learn proper motor skills." She suggests using the pouches strictly as a travel and on-the-go food so that your baby doesn't use them exclusively.
If you're a fan of baby food pouches, you don't have to panic just yet. They can be used in moderation and if you still prefer the plastic pouch over other types of packaged baby food, there is a solution, according to Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham. "Baby pouches require only sucking, which most babies already know well," he tells Romper in an email. "So chronic usage might hinder motor development. It's better to pour contents into a bowl and let babies have spoons."
Letting your baby eat from baby food pouches three times a day? Not necessarily a great choice, according to experts. Your baby needs to work on holding food, moving it into their mouth, and their oral-motor development is important, too. Save the baby food pouches for long car rides and rest assured — whether you feed your baby from a jar, from a homemade dish, or from a pouch, you're still going to need a lot of wipes.