In the past few years, a new product has emerged in the baby food market: the squeezable food pouch. With small spouts and twist-off caps, these lightweight pouches are tidier than a spoon and convenient for babies and young kids to use on the go. Supermarkets sell many baby and toddler foods in pouch form; we tested reusable pouches that parents can fill with the food of their choice and serve fresh or freeze for later use.
There are two styles of reusable pouches: thin plastic pouches sold in sets and thicker silicone models shaped like squeeze bottles and sold individually. All were described as suitable for children as young as six months old. We bought six products, priced from $0.99 to $13.99 per pouch, with capacities from 4 to 7 ounces each. We tested how easy they were to fill, use, and clean and whether they retained stains or odors. Since drops and spills happen, we also examined how durable they were and whether they leaked. Finally, we sent the pouches home with America’s Test Kitchen staffers to use with their children, who ranged from 7 months to 5 years old.
A good baby food pouch should be easy to fill. We tested ours with thin applesauce; thick, fibrous sweet potato puree; and bold-colored beet puree. Some companies recommended using a funnel, but all claimed that their pouches could be filled without extra equipment. So we tried using a spoon, and if that was too difficult or messy, we used a funnel.
The four plastic pouches in our lineup were designed similarly. Each had two parts: a thin, stiff plastic body with a hard plastic spout attached and a screw-on cap. There was also a zipper-lock opening on either the bottom or the side of the pouch. The soft silicone models, on the other hand, were designed more like baby bottles and had four or five pieces. Since these models have just one opening, they are filled and cleaned through the neck of the bottle.
While trying to hold one of these models steady, one of our parent testers accidentally squeezed it, 'causing an applesauce volcano to erupt.'
Overall, our testers found the plastic models much easier to fill. Parents reported that adding food to the “floppy” silicone pouches was more difficult: While trying to hold one of these models steady, one of our parent testers accidentally squeezed it, “causing an applesauce volcano to erupt.” These pouches also had small openings, just 0.75 or 1.25 inches wide, which added to the challenges: “I had to keep cleaning the mouth of the pouch as the applesauce dripped over,” reported one tester. “It took forever to fill.”
By contrast, the plastic pouches had zipper-lock-style openings ranging from 3 to 5.85 inches wide—plenty of room to neatly spoon in purees. Our favorite was even designed to stand up on its own, which parents said was a big bonus: “I sometimes do this one-handed,” one mom told us. “I hold [my son] in one arm and fill pouches with the other arm—so it's got to be fast and easy.”
As silly as it sounds, in the name of research and science, we adults ate purees from the pouches when they were full, half full, and almost empty. All models were successful with one exception: a plastic pouch that had a removable insert for the spout, meant to prevent liquid-y foods from spilling out. It worked a bit too well—not even thin applesauce could get through. However, once we removed the spout, this pouch performed just as well as the others.
We also wanted a pouch that wouldn’t break or spill if a child dropped it, so we let each one fall to the ground with and without its cap on. All emerged damage-free, and only a small amount of food came out when they were dropped without their caps.
A reusable pouch is no good if it’s hard to clean or hangs on to stains and odors. So we loaded the pouches with beet puree and let them sit in the refrigerator for three days. Then we washed each one in the dishwasher, a process that was a little tedious since we had to disassemble and thoroughly rinse them before carefully placing them over spokes in the dishwasher. None came out stained, although some retained a slight odor that went away with additional washes. However, one plastic pouch emerged with beet puree stuck in its crevices. The spout and its 3-inch opening were located next to each other on the rectangular body, so it was hard to flush water through the pouch. Comparably, the spout and opening were farther apart on other plastic models (and sometimes on opposite edges of the pouch), so water flowed through more easily. As for the silicone models, there were more pieces to keep track of, but we did like that they lacked nooks and crannies, so there was no place for food to get stuck.
After we’d used the baby food pouches in the test kitchen and at home, an all-around favorite emerged: the Baby Brezza Reusable Baby Food Storage Pouches ($9.99 for ten 7-ounce pouches). These plastic pouches were the least expensive in our lineup and come with a funnel, though we found them easy to fill without it. They had the widest opening of all the models and stand up on their own, so parents need just one free hand to fill them; they’re easy to keep clean, too. These pouches have a plainly marked maximum fill line and are see-through, which prevents overfilling. They also have a designated place to label the pouch with the date it was filled. The Baby Brezza pouches make it easy and convenient for little ones to eat on the go.