We all know that too much sugar in a baby’s diet can rot their tiny teeth. Now new research has found that even baby food packaging can contribute to tooth damage and speech problems.
Recent research by children’s food brand Kiddylicious Little Bistro revealed that 67% of parents in East Anglia were unaware that the spouts used in baby food pouches can have a detrimental effect on their baby’s oral development.
Allowing babies to eat directly from the spout-style pouches can contribute to speech problems, teeth distortion and enamel erosion.
How hard spouts affect growing teeth
Following recent reports about hidden sugars in many well-known baby foods, this latest research has raised further alarm among parents, dentists, nutritionists and speech therapists.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Dentist, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation and Chair of Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe, said that some baby food packaging may be causing issues with the correct development of teeth.
He commented: “Prolonged sucking on spouts could lead to the upper jaw failing to grow properly which may cause crowding of the teeth, which could result in a need for braces or orthodontic treatments later on.
“Just like with valved and hard spout drinking bottles, spouted baby foods should be discouraged and we suggest parents encourage their children to start free flow drinking from an early age and to focus on earlier food eating, rather than relying on smooth purees and spouted food products.”
Chewable chunks and speech development
While sucking on spouts can affect jaw development, a lack of chewable chunks in baby food can have an impact on a child’s facial muscles and speech.
From around seven months, experts recommend that babies are given food containing soft chunks of approximately 8mm. These small lumps encourage chewing, jaw muscle growth and speech development.
The Kiddylicious’ research found that 23% of parents were unaware of the importance of older babies eating soft chunks of food.
Emma Ahern, Speech and Language Therapist, expressed concerns that baby food pouches with spouts can reduce the size of chunks in the food.
“Spouts restrict the passing of larger yet suitably sized, soft chunks of food for children around the age of seven months, which is important to encourage regular chewing patterns,” she said.
“Critically, chewing helps to increase the strength, coordination and control of the all-important jaw muscles as well as the tongue and the lips that children need early on to help promote future speech development.
“The development of these muscles through chewing can be really beneficial for clear speech production in the future. With regular chewing practice children can begin to develop the range of movement and coordination of their facial muscles and structures which in turn can support their production of sounds in speech.”
Nearly 3 out 4 parents by the researchers (72%) said they wanted more information and education when it comes to choosing the right baby foods. They also want baby food manufacturers to be more responsible and honest when it comes to how they make, label and package their products.