Nutritionist's warning over baby food pouches
They are a convenient no-mess option but baby food pouches could be hampering the muscle development of babies as well as their speech and setting them up for weight problems.
Food companies have switched from packing baby food in jars to using foil pouches which allow the food to be squeezed directly into the mouths of infants.
Leading nutritionists are warning allowing infants to suck in their food means it will not touch the tastebuds inside their lip and tongue or develop the sideways motion of their tongue.
Childhood nutritionist specialist Simone Emery said a child's development is intrinsically linked to feeding and nutrition and 27 different muscles around the mouth and tongue are used when using a spoon to eat food.
"A lot of feeding therapists and paediatricians are seeing this lack of development of muscles, linking it directly with pouches," she said.
When a baby sucks directly out of a pouch they only use a back forward motion with the tongue.
"They're not touching it, not seeing it, not engaged with it and we find some children get quite packaged dependent because the only interaction they've got with the food is seeing the package," she said.
Developing these muscles is vital for babies learning to chew and speak.
Dietitian Dr Rosemary Stanton warns food also goes in faster when delivered via a pouch and this does not allow enough time for the child's stomach to signal it is full.
"We know that it takes a certain length of time for the stomach to signal to the brain that it's had enough so by squeezing in food basically you risk destroying the natural control mechanism that says stop eating, my body is full," she said.
It also denied children critical food experiences.
"Getting their hands in, feeling food and experiencing food and smelling it and looking at it and playing with it - it's actually a very essential part of children's learning to eat and learning about food," Dr Stanton said.
"Having a baby is a messy process. You can't get rid of mess if you have a baby," she said.
Allowing a child to pick up their own food helps them develop the pincer movement and other fine motor controls needed to later use a pencil and carry and pick up objects, Ms Emery said.
"The more they touch things that are of different texture and variety that tactile resilience helps them become confident finger painters and develop all those pre-writing skills," she said.
The more babies engaged their fingers through everyday activities, especially at mealtimes by picking up things and smashing things and learning about how that all feels improves their pincer grip, she said.
Phoebe Wise doesn't feed her seven month old baby Arthur from pouches.
"I do baby-led weaning using finger foods where they feed themselves," Ms Wise said.
"I'm busy and that's the easiest way of feeding - whatever we have he has just in a more baby friendly sort of way," she said.
Ms Wise said her family tried to eat healthily and prepared most of their own meals.
"I like to know exactly what goes into my meals so I want the same for my kids and for them to experience food."
This approach was just as convenient and time saving as using pouches to feed a baby, she said.
"Realistically I just cut off a bit of whatever I'm having," she said.
Originally published as New warning for popular baby food item