Written by Jesse Hackell MD
Growing up in the sixties, outer space was truly the final frontier. We greedily devoured all sorts of arcane facts about the nascent space program, from the rigors of pre-flight training to the seemingly more mundane details of how, exactly, one managed to eat and drink in the zero-gravity confines of outer space.
We knew that the astronauts drank Tang, which no self-respecting parent today would ever mistake for fresh-squeezed, locally sourced, organic and pesticide-free orange juice.
And astronaut foods were freeze-dried, and provided in pouches. When water was added to the pouches, the food was rehydrated and reconstituted, and the space explorers “ate” by sucking the resulting slurry out of the mouthpiece of the pouch.
Fast forward fifty years, and pouches aren’t just for astronauts any more. All sorts of fruits, vegetables and combinations thereof, in flavors which would certainly have thrilled early spacemen, are now seemingly the food deliver mechanism of choice for today’s on the move infants and toddlers.
No longer does feeding your baby on the go require a high chair, bib, bowl, spoon and yards of paper towels for clean-up.
Just pop off the top (don’t hand the top to the baby, although the caps are ingeniously designed to prevent choking should the little one happen to get hold of it and have it lodge in the airway), hand the pouch to your child, and–slurp–4 ounces of highest quality, organic produce goes down the hatch.
That’s progress, no? One prediction of the future made in the sixties actually coming true in the twenty-first century!
But I am not so sure that this new feeding mechanism actually represents progress for babies. They are born knowing how to suck nutrition out of a “container”–breast or bottle.
Progress in feeding, for an infant, comes not only in learning about new tastes and textures, but also in learning about new, more mature means of getting their comestibles out of the container and into their mouths.
These pouches (along with so called “sippy cups” with spouts) are really just bottles in disguise. (They are also a whole lot more expensive than either store-bought jars or homemade baby foods.) We do not generally recommend putting puréed foods in baby’s bottle, so why create a new bottle substitute?
Let me make a plea for a return to the older, admittedly messier, mealtime, with the baby sitting upright, wearing a bib, and being fed with a spoon. It will encourage the baby to learn new mouth movements and new positions for eating. And it will provide lots of opportunities for those adorable, messy face baby photographs!
Dr. Hackell is a founding member of Pomona Pediatrics PC, a division of Children’s and Women’s Physicians of Westchester. He practices in the lower Hudson River Valley just north of New York City.