Ok, so I know I started Mamamade as an answer to all the organic baby food pouches on the shelves. And as I say again and again, parents like us deserve better options.
Options being the key word here. Parenting is hard. It's super demanding. And I'd be lying if I said my kids - now 4 and 1 - have never had a pouch.
I'm serious. My hat goes off to parents who cook everything and don't let their kids have sugar - but I can assure you I'm not that mum 😆
Anyway, I like to think of pouches as fast food - it is delicious, convenient, and there's always a time and a place. In and of themselves, these puree pouches aren't necessarily bad for babies. But much like the cheeky drive-thru or occasional takeaway, you still wouldn't want to make them the cornerstone of a child's diet.
So let's unpack it - the good, bad and ugly about puree pouches for babies. And I'll even include some strategic tips to make the most of your weaning journey - conveniently.
Let's just say it. Baby pouches are everywhere. In every colourway, veg combination, brand.... and there's no surprise. These pouches are super convenient.
They're hastle-free - requiring no prep, no spoon, no refrigeration, and (nearly) no clean-up. Sounds like a dream if you ask me!
Before I started Mamamade, I never went anywhere without a pouch. As a first-time mum who wasn't great at improvising, it made me feel more confident and secure to know I'd have something suitable for Liba in an instant. We also travelled a lot in those days - and when Liba was 1 we went travelling around Asia for 2 months. The pouches allowed us to be spontaneous, to stay out for entire days, to stay in unusual places (like a junk boat in Vietnam for 3 days!) without having to worry about a kitchen or running water.
With a pandemic baby this time round, we don't do as much traveling, and I've gotten a lot more confident when it comes to feeding a baby on-the-go - so Arthur hasn't actually had a pouch yet! But I wouldn't hesitate if I found I needed it. It takes a village to raise a child, and pouches can be an important part of any parent's toolkit.
As much as I love pouches for convenience, there's definitely such a thing as too much. And that's because pouches prevent the real learning that needs to occur during the weaning process, which include:
Chewing + Development of Mouth Muscles
Did you know that learning to chew helps develop muscles that will eventually help your child to speak? It's so important to challenge little ones with texture for that reason. If children aren't given the opportunity to learn to take bites, move food around in their mouths, use their tongues and chew - they're being deprived of a really crucial learning opportunity.
Variety in Taste
I'll never forget it: When Liba was 7 months old, I flew with her on my own to New York and brought along a sweet potato pouch. Halfway through the 8-hour journey the pouch exploded, covering both Liba and me in a gooey mess. And let me tell you something - it neither smelled nor tasted like any sweet potato I ever met.
Because of the processing required to keep these baby food pouches shelf-stable, the taste often gets severely distorted. As adults, we can make the connection that it tastes like sweet potato - because we've already tasted hundreds of sweet potatoes by adulthood. But babies don't know. And if their first taste of a food is this processed version of it, it should come as no surprise that they may reject the real food when presented with it later. The beauty of offering real food to babies is that they'll learn to accept natural variation - a broccoli bought on Monday will taste different from broccoli bought and cooked on Saturday - and learning the whole range of flavours is important.
One of the objectives with weaning is to honour your child's natural hunger and fullness cues, so that they learn to trust and nourish their bodies effectively as they grow. When offering a pouch, babies can suck down a lot, very quickly - preventing them from fully learning about their own satiety.
Labels can be misleading. And that's so frustrating, especially when you're a time-strapped, overwhelmed parent who just wants a bit of help. But the reality is that despite being organic, these baby food pouches are often high in sugar - even if naturally occurring, with a pouch you may end up offering the equivalent of 2 apples to a baby, when in reality they'd eat far less than that with a whole apple.
The high-heat processing that ensures shelf-stability also reduces the density of vitamins, minerals, fibre and flavour.
Simply put - nothing beats real food.
Using pouches mindfully
Ok so we've accepted they're not great - but listen, far be it from me to tell you never to buy them. They can be a godsend.
Strategic use - commit to using when you really need them. For travelling, days out, on-the-go - you know what I mean. For at-home convenience, why not try a Mamamade bundle?
Spoon feed - avoid letting your little one feed direct from the pouch. Spoon-feeding is more interactive and is slower - meaning your little one is learning what they need to.
Read the label - look for products with no added sugar, and levels under 10g/100g.
And just promise me one thing - if you're going to use a pouch, do it with a clear conscience. There's no guilt. We're all just doing the best we can with what we've got.
Love Sophie x