There is a lot of information out there about feeding children. Recently the new Dietary Guidelines for Australians were released with very prescriptive descriptions of what and how much to feed children. Whilst much of the information is useful, parents tend to become anxious and concerned when their child is not eating all of the foods that are recommended. It is hard to get positive information about feeding out to parents. One of the barriers is the marketing of products that offer a quick fix to anxious parents. These products have parents believe that it is better for their children to get the vitamins and minerals or the foods they need right now, rather than taking the time and appropriate steps to developing positive eating habits for the long term. Pediasure® for fussy eaters is one example. another is the ever – increasing number of pouches of pureed foods.
What’s wrong with giving kids these pouches? If they are over 7 or 8 months of age and are able to manage lumpy food, then just about everything:
- They are not developmentally appropriate. Most parents want their child to develop skills that are appropriate for their age and stage of development. Pureed foods are suitable as first foods but quite quickly infants are able to eat lumpy food and progress on to finger foods and chopped family foods. Feeding themselves from a spoon takes a bit longer, but usually they can do it by two. So why give children baby foods when they are not babies any more? It’s similar to your child’s pre-school or school providing toys and books for infants instead of those that are age-appropriate
- They may be good for the concerned parent but not for the child. I often hear parents say “At least I’m getting veges into them”. Feeding children isn’t only about ‘getting the food into them’. It’s about developing a positive feeding relationship that leads your child to be able to enjoy eating.
- They don’t fit the model of Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility of Feeding. As the parents you decide what foods to offer your child and when and where to eat. These pouches seem to be available everywhere, in supermarkets, petrol stations, airports, chemists and toy shops! Allowing a child to eat whenever they see and want a food they like rather than having defined mealtimes lets parents of the hook of one of the most important parenting roles, teaching the child to eat in the context of family meals.
- They feed on the anxiety that many parents have about feeding their child/ren. Nothing terrible will happen to your child if they don’t eat vegetables for a while. Giving them a mix of pureed veges together with fruit isn’t teaching them to eat a salad, a curry, a stir-fry or whatever kind of food your family likes eating.