At a time when fast, convenient, and easy rule the world, it follows that parents would want to minimize hassle and make meal times as efficient as possible. This attitude has brought about foods such as Go-Gurt and GoGo SqueeZ, pouches of yogurt or pureed foods on-the-go, for home and away. These foods allow children to self-feed, reducing the need for direct parent contact (depending on age), and promoting independence amongst toddlers. Sounds great, right?
So, What’s The Problem with Squeezable Food Pouches?
These foods are quick and easy, but no real “work” is required for children to advance their developing oral-motor skills. Sucking is one of the earliest skills a child acquires (e.g., breast/bottle feeding), and these pouches require little or nothing more. Children tend to transition from liquids to pureed foods around six months; however, pureed foods should no longer be the primary form of nutrition (for typically developing children) beyond 12 to 18 months. Purees can be used as snacks, of course, so long as children are eating solids (e.g., chicken nuggets, etc.) during regular mealtimes.
The ideal feeding experience is multisensory. Children often use their fingers (touch) to feed, they are able to smell and see what’s on their plate, and, ultimately, food reaches the lips and mouth (taste). This multisensory cycle promotes development, allowing children to interact with their food and take a more active role in feeding. Using squeezable pouches alone removes the multisensory experience, as children are not seeing food, touching food, or even using their lips to scrape their food off a spoon. Blocking this sensory input can result in difficulties once new textures are introduced (e.g., aversion to crunchy foods, or difficulty with chewing).
What Can Parents Do?
Keep squeezable food consumption to a minimum. There is no question that they are a very convenient option, but as they are encouraging walking and talking skills, parents should also be introducing a variety of textures and foods. There are also ways to make squeezable food pouches a little more challenging in order to further feeding development while still allowing children to self-feed on textures they are comfortable with. Spoon attachments, for example, require that children involve their lips to scrape food off the spoon, allowing for greater sensory input!
Use squeezable pouches with attachments. The three options below offer great additions to squeezable food pouches. These spoon attachments fit onto most squeezable snack pouches, promoting oral-motor development.
The link below is a great alternative to food pouches. This spoon is still a self-feeder, allowing children to control the amount of food squeezed onto the spoon. Parents can fill the spoon with whatever pureed food they desire, either home-made or packaged!
What If Parents Need Help With Feeding?
Speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists are here to help! If children are struggling with a transition from purees to more solid foods, these therapists can educate families on appropriate foods to try, reduce stressors around meal time, and provide direct therapy to children who require it!