Sucking food from a pouch has become a common way to funnel fruits, veggies and even protein into young children. Few kids are eating them because they have oral motor or sensory processing problems that don’t allow them to eat solid food. Most of the pouch kids are picky eaters or eating a pouch “on the fly” in between activities and locations.
I know very well what a food fight looks like with a picky eater. All that whining, food flying onto the floor, and fears that your child will either starve or be nutritionally deprived. It can get ugly. I know. But when pouches are more than an occasional emergency ration, they aren’t without some costs.
Here is what you risk when pouches replace solid food:
- Your child’s digestive system needs the physical fiber to learn how to handle it well. A colon that has very little fiber isn’t capable of dealing with regular food as well. You risk constipation and then you have to treat that problem. And your child feels awful when “backed up”. Don’t let them suffer that belly pain when they are capable of eating foods with fiber. Natural fiber.
- If your child is young enough to be still learning to speak (and some sounds, like “th” don’t fully emerge until 3.5-5 years old), eating, chewing and even swallowing still counts as exercise and motor learning for all the structures/movements that accomplish this amazing task. Sucking on a nozzle doesn’t support learning anything unless you are under 6 months old. Oops.
- Eating is a social activity, done over time and with other humans. Not with tablets, not with screens. With people that model language, social and feeding skills. Sucking down a pouch is a one-and-done experience that sends a child off their chair and back to playing too fast to absorb much of anything.
- Eating is a fine motor activity, from finger feeding to spoon use with soup. Miss out on all that work, and you might find that your child is the slowest writer or even hates to write and draw. They haven’t spent the first 3 years of life refining finger movements in the most rewarding way possible. Food in: successful hand use. Food on the bib/table/floor? Recalculate and refine finger use.
What do those pouches really provide? An easy way to feed a child nutritious food ingredients without an argument. The problem is that all that work for kids and parents when they eat real food with their fingers or utensils is actually an investment in current and future skills that too many children need today.
Looking for more information on building self-feeding skills? Read Teaching Children To Use Utensils to Eat: Use Good Tools, Good Food, and Good Timing for some hints on how to make things easier, and Teach Spoon Grip By Making It Fun And Sharing a Laugh With Your Child for the most fun and easy way to practice holding a spoon.