Help! My baby will only eat store-bought pouches. How do I encourage homemade meals?
Have you taken advantage of the convenience of store-bought pouches, but found that now your baby is being a bit reluctant about eating your beautifully home cooked meals that you slaved over?
First of all, don’t take it personally about your cooking. If your baby has been enjoying store-bought baby food during their solids journey so far, chances are they’ve become really comfortable with those flavours and textures, and your delicious cooking is still just a little bit unfamiliar to them.
When your baby is being reluctant with their eating in some format, it’s helpful to establish what they DO like eating, and HOW they like eating, so we can work from that point…
Do you usually spoon feed your baby store bought jars or pouches?
Does your baby usually eat straight from the pouch?
Do you let your baby ‘play’ with their food?
Sensory advantages of mealtimes for your baby
Sometimes, your baby is simply not used to the flavours and textures of your homemade food, and doesn’t feel comfortable eating them, yet. Remember, a baby’s taste buds are much more sensitive than ours, and up until weaning, all meals came in liquid form out of some sort of teat. There was reliability and familiarity with every mealtime!
Maybe the store bought foods are super smooth, or have a sweeter flavour, or are a lot milder in flavour than your creations. As a result, your homemade foods feel and taste completely different in their mouths, and may require a bit more work for them to process, both in the mouth and the brain.
If you are currently mostly spoon feeding bub with store bought jars and pouches, then decanting these into a bowl and mixing in a little bit of your homemade food, so they get a more gradual exposure to the new flavours/textures can be really helpful. You can then start to change the ratios – perhaps starting with 80% pouch food and 20% homemade (maybe even less, like one spoonful of homemade food mixed in), then 60/40, 50/50, 20/80, until you can finally work up to 100% homemade.
If bub is mostly eating straight from a pouch, start by getting them used to eating in a variety of formats – give them their favourite pouch food from a bowl with a spoon, and let them play with it a bit too.
Another option, if they really like the pouch component, is to purchase reusable pouches that you can fill with your homemade foods (or a mix – see above). This can help get them used to new flavours while keeping them comfortable with the format they are used to eating with. Pouches can be super handy when you’re out and about, but try to avoid relying on them at every meal, and encourage bub to eat in other ways alongside this.
It provides meaningful sensory play. At this age (5-8 months) babies want to put everything in their mouth – edible or not! This is such a significant part of their development, and their natural inquisitiveness helps them learn about their environment. This tactile stimulation of getting messy helps send signals to the brain, so that babies can better process and respond to things.
It develops the ability to self feed. By getting their hands into the food, and naturally following up with putting their hands in their mouths, they quickly learn that they can get some food. This will then gradually develop into self-feeding. If they are not getting their food-covered hand into their mouth, then lead by example and show them how it’s done.
It encourages trying foods. If your baby is supported to get involved in their food from a tactile perspective, they are more likely to try different foods.
Above all else, try to make it a positive experience, no matter how frustrating it may feel on the inside when your food gets thrown on the floor/flat-out refused! Encourage your baby to touch the food, but don’t force this. Be silly and keep it light. Demonstrate and get involved yourself – get your hands in there and enjoy a bit.
If they refuse, try and try again. In fact, at every single mealtime, put a little dollop of that food on their tray or in a bowl (suction ones are great!) so they can play with and touch it. If they won’t touch after a few attempts, offer a spoon for them to stick into the food too.
About the author
Lucy is a Nutritional Therapist with three daughters aged 7, 5 and 2. Not only does she have a professional interest in early childhood nutrition, she’s lived and breathed it too. Feeding small people nourishing food, day in, day out, brings its challenges, but Lucy really appreciates the value that getting it right, right from the start, brings!