29 May 2024

Don't rely on pouches for baby nutrition - study

10:45 pm on 29 May 2024
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Photo: Pixabay

Don't rely on pouches to give your baby the nutrients it needs, a team of University of Otago researchers say.

Their study has been published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Ioanna Katiforis - a PhD candidate in the Department of Human Nutrition at University of Otago - was involved in the study, which surveyed 645 babies over two days.

"We did find that almost half of babies were being fed a pouch at least once in the two days we measured, but they weren't contributing much to the energy intakes of the infants from their solid foods," she tells Jesse Mulligan.

Only a quarter of the energy that babies were getting from solids was coming from the pouches, she said.

"Although pouches were popular with families, it was surprising that they didn't contribute much to their energy intakes."

The researchers also found pouches contributed only 4 percent of the iron infants required for their age.

Because most pouches were based on fruit, they were also rich sources vitamin C and dietary fibre, she said.

"But because a lot of them are based on fruit, we would also recommend that pouches aren't relied upon as a sole source of nutrition."

Pouches also come in savoury flavours, and she said it was advisable parents mixed up the sweet and savoury varieties, so babies were exposed to a range of flavours.

"We're not worried in terms of the sugar level, because the sugars are coming from total sugars so they're coming from the fruit, but we do know that pouches do tend to be sweet and so we'd be worried that infants that are only having pouches might get exposed to only sweet-tasting foods and that could cause issues for them learning to eat the range of foods as they get older."

Texture was also lacking, she said.

"Because pouches need to be pureed to be inside the pouch, but instead they should start getting used to other foods like the ones that the family eats where the textures are a bit more complex and they require and more chewing."

The savoury pouches they looked at had a low meat content, she said.

"The name might suggest that it's a beef and vegetables pouch for example, or has chicken in it at most we found that pouches contain five to 10 percent meat, so it's not a lot of meat compared to the other ingredients in there."

The pouches were safe to use, but should not be relied on, she said.

"Whanau can safely use pouches with their babies, but they really shouldn't be relied upon as their only source of nutrients, babies shouldn't only be eating pouches, they should be having other foods as well and if pouches are being used, for parents to check the ingredients on the back of the label to see that the first ingredient isn't apple or another sweet fruit so that they get exposed to different tastes."

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