Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Apr

Should You Chew Your Child’s Food?

mommabirdBy now, you’ve probably seen the Alicia Silverstone pre-mastication video. It’s totally safe for work (maybe not for lunch, but your mileage may vary), but some viewers will find it a bit unsettling: Silverstone feeds her baby pre-chewed food directly from her mouth, just like a bird. I found it pretty fascinating and not at all upsetting. Before you recoil in disgust and/or horror, think about how people weaned babies before Magic Bullets, Vitamixes, Gerber baby food, and even mortar and pestles hit the scene. That’s right – they chewed their food for them. In a paper entitled “Premastication: the second arm of infant and young child feeding for health and survival,” Gretel Pelto speculates that pre-mastication was likely common practice among pre-agricultural groups and confirms that it continues today across every continent (PDF).

As to why this practice arose in humans but not other mammals, it’s the neoteny. Humans are born completely helpless, and remain so for several years (some would suggest “decades”). Newborn babies have no teeth and don’t even develop a decent set until about a year or later. This isn’t an issue at first, since they have access to plenty of delicious, nutritious breastmilk that goes down smooth. But because breastmilk is fairly low in iron (albeit a highly bioavailable form designed specially for infants), once kids run out of their pregnancy iron stores, they need a more reliable source of the mineral in addition to the milk. Nowadays, kids get iron-fortified rice cereal or baby vitamins or something silly like that, but before all that stuff, kids needed to eat iron-rich foods when the iron supply dwindled. What’s simpler and more effective for a hard-working hunter-gatherer who needs to feed her child some adult, iron-rich food – chopping up and crushing a strip of venison liver on a wooden plank with stone knives, or chewing it up and transferring it directly to the kid’s waiting mouth?

Okay, so there’s historical and evolutionary precedent for it, but is there any reason to chew your kid’s food today rather than whip out the food processor? Are there any extra upsides?

Free Mechanical Digestion

Since babies are rather limited in the tooth department, they can’t chew their food effectively, which is how most animals – humans included – mechanically digest their food. That’s why “baby food” is pureed; it’s a more socially acceptable (and financially lucrative) way of pre-chewing their food for them. And since the greater surface area of mechanically digested food bits exposes more of them to enzymatic action, pre-chewed food is more easily digested by babies (and adults).

Chewing your kid’s food is definitely cheaper than buying baby food, and it’s more time-efficient than making it in a blender or food processor.

Oral Enzymatic Pre-Digestion

Infants are born equipped with the enzymatic machinery to handle the simple sugars, animal fats, and animal protein in breast milk. They are not ready to digest a whole lot of other things, particularly dietary starch (which is often “baby’s first food” regardless). In humans who have it, salivary amylase predigests starch during the chewing process, initiating the conversion of starch into more easily assimilable carbohydrate derivatives like maltose (a disaccharide of two glucose units) and dextrin (a polysaccharide). Infants don’t come equipped with much salivary amylase right out of the box, so when a parent who wields the full array of salivary enzymes pre-masticates their food, the infant digests the food better. To get an idea of what kind of enzymatic digestion this pre-mastication is providing, let’s check the numbers:

In adults, salivary amylase (which predigests starch) is present in concentrations of 70-300 U/ml. Infants are born with “negligible” amounts, attain “appreciable levels” by 3 months, and reach 85% of adult salivary amylase levels by five months (PDF). Since Alicia Silverstone feeds her kid a vegan diet, presumably rich in fruits and starches, pre-mastication is a sound tactic.

There’s also lingual lipase, which breaks down long-chain triglycerides into glycerides and free fatty acids. Infants have lingual lipase at birth, but they have very little gastric (gut) lipase. Since babies absorb far less dietary fat than adults (65-80% versus more than 95%), a little extra lingual lipase activity provided by the pre-masticating parent combined with the kid’s lingual lipase could improve absorption rates. Hey, maybe that’s what’s causing infant obesity – a wave of pre-mastication sweeping the nation!

Unless you’re drooling into your Vitamix, the parent who pre-masticates may be giving her kid a digestive advantage.

Transplantation of “Good” Oral Bacteria

Over 700 species of oral bacteria have been identified from human mouths, and the oral microbiome of any given individual may house from 30 to more than 100 different species. While oral bacteria can trigger the development of dental caries and periodontal disease, it’s not all “bad.”  For example, many strains of oral bacteria taken from healthy children actually provide protection against harmful oral pathogens and are being developed as oral probiotics. Other strains have been shown to directly influence the immune response in gum tissues, as well as protect the host from oral pathogen-induced apoptosis and inflammation.

I wasn’t able to pull up any explicit references to pre-mastication as a transplantation method for “good” bacteria, but there is evidence that mouth to mouth contact between mother/father and offspring can transfer pathogenic cavity-causing bacteria to the child. If the “bad” can be transferred, why not the “good”?

Development of the Immune System

Saliva contains the very same antibodies found in breastmilk, like immunoglobulin A, immunoglobulin G, and immunoglobulin M. These help establish the budding immune system and provide passive resistance to pathogens, including bacterial infections and viral infections. There’s very little research on the impact of saliva-borne immunoglobulins on infant health, but we do know that breastmilk-borne immunoglobulins are crucial to the development of an infant’s immune system, so it seems likely that pre-mastication is also helpful (especially since both breastmilk and pre-chewed food enter a child through the same orifice).

Perhaps it’s even a way for non-breastfeeding mothers to give their child a leg up.

Are there any downsides?

Transfer of “Bad” Oral Bacteria

As I just mentioned, a parent with dental disease caused by bacteria could transfer the same bacteria to their child by pre-chewing his food. If the bacteria takes hold early enough, it could be difficult to dislodge it. The same could just as easily be said for the early transfer of good bacteria, though, so it’s impossible to say who “wins.”

It all depends on the oral health of the pre-masticator.

Transfer of Saliva-Borne Disease

Transfer of saliva-borne diseases is a possibility. Those include hepatitis G, herpes, TT-virus (which is widespread and seems pretty harmless), hepatitis B (although the hepatitises are present in low amounts in saliva), and there’s mixed evidence that pre-mastication can and has transferred HIV from caregiver to child, although that probably requires an open sore or wound in the mouth.

Again, it depends on the health of the caregiver.

Pre-mastication appears to be a valid, viable way for Ma (or Pa) to deliver food to a baby’s maw. There are some impressive potential health benefits, it might save money, and it could even bolster immunity. The potential downsides, however, must be considered. Overall, I don’t think it’s necessary for parents, and the social pariahism you’re likely to face may not be worth the trouble, but I certainly find it intriguing.

How about you, folks? Would you – or have you already – pre-chew your kid’s food?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Nice follow up hypothesis: this is probably the origin of kissing!

    pieter d wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • Probably not. More likely, kissing is for increasing the sex drive of the female. The saliva of an aroused male usually has lots of testosterone, which, when passed to a receptive female, has an almost-instant effect on her.

      Howard wrote on April 18th, 2012
      • Well, probably maybe: see wikipedia for premastication. It’s a sensible hypothesis.

        pieter d wrote on April 18th, 2012
      • Wait… I’d heard that kissing was a useful way of sharing mouth bacteria and that women and men tend to be attracted to individuals who have opposite immune system markers so that their offspring would have stronger immune systems…

        Ruby wrote on April 19th, 2012
      • Come on. This is hilarious that we actually need a scientific definition to the act of kissing. lol. Can’t I just enjoy making out with my hubby?

        And not that I really need to know…but what happens when lesbian women kiss and the lack of testosterone effects?

        Annie wrote on April 19th, 2012
        • Women have testosterone too… but I doubt the miniscule amount of T that is supposedly transferred will have much of an effect anyways, same with bacterial transfer for immunocomptability compared to simply smelling/detecting nearby people’s pheromones. Armchair biologists who can’t see the trees from the forest and nitpick just to sound smart… they’re everywhere, even in scientific journal :(

          mm wrote on June 10th, 2012
      • …at the risk of stating the obvious and ruining many an armchair biologist’s career, kissing probably became popular because we naturally have a lot of sensitive nerve endings on our lips. Same reason why genital and anal sex and direct clitoral stimulation became so gosh darn popular.

        mm wrote on June 10th, 2012
    • When I was a teenager I had a friend who would chew up food for his girlfriend whenever she got her braces tightened because her teeth hurt too much to chew for herself.

      Yep, thought I would hurl.

      Jeff wrote on April 18th, 2012
      • Ugh. Thank goodness I’d already eaten my breakfast when I read that.

        Alison Golden - PaleoNonPaleo wrote on April 18th, 2012
      • I had a friend who’s bf did that when we were teenagers as well. But, they did it to gross everyone out.
        Pretty horrible to discover other teens did this.

        Casey wrote on April 18th, 2012
        • So what you are say is that you are Primal but with conditions…..I think when you need to do it do it…..I read about primitive cultures having to pre- masticate food for the elders who had lost or worn down their teeth….

          Jo-Anne wrote on April 19th, 2012
      • I’m sorry, but I actually think that’s kind of sweet, even if it is a little gross.

        fritzy wrote on April 19th, 2012
        • Me too.

          Nancy wrote on April 19th, 2012
        • When I was a teenager, I had a boyfriend who stole my chewing gum. Out of my mouth.

          I nearly hurled.

          Jess wrote on April 23rd, 2012
      • yuuuuuuck!

        sarahemily wrote on November 9th, 2012
  2. Um, no.

    HillyRu wrote on April 18th, 2012
  3. The first time I had diarrhea as an infant was when my parents were travelling in a remote area. With no immediate medical help around – I remember my mother telling me that my grandmother asked her to chew some fennel seeds and feed it to my mouth, much to my Mother’s disgust.

    Seeing my fast deteriorating condition, she eventually took the advise and I was fine in a few hours.

    N=1 anecdote but ties in with your pre-mastication.

    Resurgent wrote on April 18th, 2012
  4. I made all of our baby food, simply cooking our food and taking some out for the kids before adding salt to it. I usually used a blender to purée it or cut it into small pieces. I don’t specifically remember ever chewing some first, but I probably did if I noticed a food that my kids were struggling with. I see no problem with it, although our pediatrician wanted me not to because of periodontal disease. I would probably put it on a spoon or in my fingers rather than go directly mouth to mouth, though, just because of basic table manners!

    Slight side note, I thought it was silly to feed “cereals” out of a box figuring babies have been eating other “first foods” for centuries. My kids first real food was guacamole. Healthy fats, calorie dense, and a flavor much better than some faux-food beige mush.

    Decaf Debi wrote on April 18th, 2012
  5. Some ancient way probably are best forgotten.

    Grokitmus Primal wrote on April 18th, 2012
  6. I think it’s a valid way to feed a wee one. However we just delayed solids with my kids until they were able to eat table food (10 and 15 months respectively).

    Heather wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • that’s VERY late – were they checked for anemia during that time? Did they grow normally?

      dr.maapkra wrote on April 18th, 2012
      • That’s actually NOT “very late” from a biological perspective. Culturally, it is normal to start “first foods” at 4-6 months, but that is neither biologically required nor biologically desirable. My daughter started solids around 8.5 months, but mostly fruits. Fruits aren’t high in iron, IIRC. Yet her iron levels were at the high end of normal.

        Karen C. wrote on April 18th, 2012
        • In Canada they say 6 months, but I felt my baby was ready for foods much earlier. Basically as soon as we gave her real food, around 4 months, the continual screaming stopped. I think every child is different a mother should go with instincts.

          AllisonK wrote on April 18th, 2012
      • My first child breastfed exclusively for the first 15 months of his life. He would occasionally try table foods or I would offer him foods but he was totally uninterested. After adding solids, he still nursed regularly till age 3.5. I think I can say with confidence that he was never anemic and is now the healthiest kid I know. My other 2 children started grabbing food earlier, 8 months and 9 months, but also nursed until 3+ years old. I don’t know if there is anything scientific about it, but my thought was that if they were interested and mature enough to grab the food off my plate, then they were ready for solids.

        Mountainmom3 wrote on April 19th, 2012
      • My daughter is 14 months and has only just started solids. It’s not too late. Breast milk has everything they need. I follow her cues and she just wasn’t ready. Her iron levels were checked at 12 months and they were great.

        Rachel wrote on April 19th, 2012
  7. I ended up doing this with both kids as we introduced meat early. It was easier for both of us.

    Happycyclegirl wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • I did this from time to time with meats only. They were really difficult to put through the food mill! I felt amused when doing it, like I should have been transplanted to Clan of the Cave Bear or something. Hey, kids gotta eat!

      yoolieboolie wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • Yeah, we definitely did it here. Not always, and not mouth-to-mouth, but it was wayyyy more convenient than hauling out the food processor every time we were about to have dinner. I actually found it very helpful to do out at restaurants, as my little guy does not have a lot of patience for delay of meat-eating. I don’t know if anyone even noticed, since I never got any sort of reaction…definitely nobody acted as grossed out as these commenters!

      Heather-Lee wrote on April 18th, 2012
  8. Makes me think of the movie “The Human Centipede”

    rob wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • Ack! ACK!

      (I guess I knew someone would go there eventually. BUT STILL.)

      Maggi wrote on April 18th, 2012
  9. No, but they’ve pre-chewed mine, meaning they started something, a candy or some-such, and didn’t like it and spit it into my hand. Not to waste, I finished it for them. ^_^

    Skyler J. Collins wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • Been there, done that.

      Dineen wrote on April 18th, 2012
      • ditto

        Dragonfly wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • I’d wager all parents have at some point!!

      KL (almostGrok'd) wrote on April 18th, 2012
  10. Sorry, I have to call you on this one. How did people wean babies before baby food was invented? They gave babies food and the babies ate it.

    There is a lot of evidence now that babies, when weaning is started at the appropriate age (i.e. when the baby is holding its head up and can grasp food and bring it to its mouth, which are developments that go alongside the maturation of the gut to handle non-milk food) it’s better to provide the food in its natural state rather than mashing and pureeing it. That way the baby learns to chew food before swallowing it. Which is an excellent skill to learn.

    Babies at that age (usually about six months old, hence the current WHO weaning guidelines) can chew pretty well using their hard gums. Even if they can’t manage to tear pieces off their meat and grind them into oblivion, they can still have a jolly good gnaw and suck out all the tasty (and iron-rich) juices. And they can certainly manage soft vegetables such as broccoli. Baby food is pureed simply because we tend to wean our babies far too early, before they’re ready to handle actual food.

    But you’re right about the ‘wave of pre-mastication sweeping the nation’ causing obesity. Not in the sense you mean, but the blending and pureeing and forcing horrible bland* food into children with a spoon (‘just a little more… good boy’) teaches them to eat whether they’re hungry or not, and to go on eating even when they’re full, ignoring their own body’s signals in favour of a perceived virtue in eating everything in front of them.

    Have a look at http://www.babyledweaning.com/ for more information.

    *Have you ever tried ‘baby rice’?

    Orielwen wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • If you think about it too much its probably gonna freak you out – hey, but it’s a naturalthing to do (raised 2 kids)

      Michelle wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • I’m glad someone mentioned Baby Led Weaning, because I was about to.

      I breastfed our son exclusively for the first six months of his life, then around that time I started giving him strips of whatever we were eating, so he could have a go. Grilled veggies, strips of meat (always a hit!), anything but whole nuts and honey (choking and botulism risks, respectively.)

      It was extremely liberating to realise that I didn’t need to puree a damn thing, nor did I need to spoonfood him, do ‘here comes the train!’ or ‘open up for one more!’ or pressure him to eat at all. He self-fed when he was hungry, and when he didn’t eat much in the way of solids, I knew he was still nursing so would get adequate nutrition that way.

      He’s nearly 2 now and eats a wide variety of foods. Current favourites are meatballs, bacon, and strawberries!

      blackcurrants wrote on April 19th, 2012
      • I have three daughters and only with the last two did I BLW. It makes so much more sense to wait until they take the brocolli off your plate and then let them loose with lots of different foods… I just cut them into ‘chip’ shape so they could grasp.

        All my kids eat well from a wide variety of foods.

        Sleeping’s a different matter…

        Fran wrote on April 19th, 2012
    • I’m so glad you brought this up, as I was going to. Baby led weaning has worked wonderfully for my husband and I and our 9-month-old. Dinner is something she looks forward to, and it’s pretty amazing what she can chew and eat without any teeth! As far as iron, like you said, she sucks all the juice out of steak, as well as other meats, and loves it (her baby chair always looks like she’s slaughtered a small animal). We also do egg yolks with her, only from organic, free range local sources. We’ve done marrow bones, too, which she absolutely relished. Anyway, she still derives about 90% of her caloric intake from breastfeeding, but she is certainly not anemic.

      Rebecca wrote on April 19th, 2012
    • Agree, we have done BLW with our younger kids, no blender, just our food and whatever was on the table was good enough for babies as well. True, they did not really eat much during the first couple of months, but they were left free to explore and try different tastes and textures which left them being really good eaters. The youngest one is actually primal, has always been even before I found out that this type of diet had a name :).

      Aknela wrote on April 21st, 2012
  11. I’ve done this for my child in home and in public. Thankfully I wasn’t eating SAD adding more risk for some sort of dental disease transference. She actually seemed to prefer it. Maybe because she was interested in what I was eating. Also you can control the mushy/chunkiness by feel thus get a feeling for your childs’ real food transition.

    Another note however, is if your child has or is suspected having a food sensitivity you may want to be very aware of what you ate before pre-masticating. You may need to at least brush your teeth before hand or just abstain from such foods.

    Other than that and the other issues listed. It is Free, portable, less dishes to wash, and also primes your child to the flavors that represent your table.

    dave wrote on April 18th, 2012
  12. This makes sense to me. If I were to do this all over again, I’d probably consider it but in the end, I’d likely pass. I like the idea of delayed solids and breast milk much better.

    Alison Golden wrote on April 18th, 2012
  13. My child is 20 now, so my memory is a bit faint. Although I didn’t specifically pre-chew food for her… Kids are always interested in what a parent is eating and I would sometimes take a bit out of my mouth and offer it to her when it was a new food and she was very young.

    Zusiqu wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • Your comment reminds me of the first time one of my boys tried bacon. I gave him a little piece of mine and started to eat the rest. He was one and he reached over and took it out of my mouth and ate it! We all laughed so hard. It’s been 9+ years and he still loves hearing about that!

      Kiki wrote on April 18th, 2012
      • me too. although I only just remembered it now, the same thing here with bacon. Definately not letting that go to the dogs!!
        Although, I wouldnt do it in public due either! Interesting stuff.

        KL (almostGrok'd) wrote on April 18th, 2012
  14. LOL! Mark, I love the way your blog stretches conventions. The closest I came to chewing my toddlers’ food (they are now 9 and 7) was when I would pit summer cherries with my teeth. I’d eat one half and they’d eat the other half. It took time and I was glad I didn’t have to do that with all of their food, but good cherries are hard not to share!

    BootstrapsOnMyFivefingers wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • I spent so many summer hours doing this with ALL the fruit! Haha, I’d forgotten about that! It was so cute because though they were pre-verbal, they’d take a small bite off of what I’d given them and beaming, try to put it back in my mouth. Awww, happy memories. I guess I did his more than I realize.

      yoolieboolie wrote on April 18th, 2012
  15. Oh Please,God N!!,leave it to the birds…..the kids will be grow up just fine.Thats just too much motherhood for me.

    Melinda wrote on April 18th, 2012
  16. “It all depends on the oral health of the pre-masticator.”

    Does that sound rude to you?

    mikeinmadrid wrote on April 18th, 2012
  17. Yeah… There’s definitely nothing that’s going to make me wish my parents had fed me pre-chewed food when I was young. :-X

    OkieCaveman wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • +1

      PrimalGrandma wrote on April 18th, 2012
  18. I posted a thread about this topic on the forum :)
    It does seem like there are benefits, and it still seems a bit “icky”; I’m not sure if we’ll be doing this with any future babies. But I certainly won’t oppose any parent who chooses to do this.

    Jenna wrote on April 18th, 2012
  19. At first I though “oh”…then it made more sense…since I drink raw whole milk kefir every day…the kefir grains in it predigest it. Same concept. Our son is now 22 so I can’t say if I would go that far. I guess knowing what I know now…if he had digestive issues I might try it…via a spoon. I would also get him on some raw organic whole milk kefir ASAP as well as some colostrum…maybe a little raw organic liver as well. I breast fed him for 19 months so he didn’t have issues. Just my cent. :)

    Penny wrote on April 18th, 2012
  20. I think all the controversy is hilarious, pre-chewing your babies food is perfectly normal and has been for ages, before this current time of “freak out about germs”. I mean, after all, the kid came out your vagina, talk about inoculation with germs! That’s where they get a start on good gut bacteria, and they get more when you feed them from your mouth, of course, this only works if you have healthy gut bacteria, a hard thing to find in today’s age. But it’s hopefully more present in this community. I don’t regularly chew my babies food, but I do it every so often as needed, and I eat stuff they won’t finish or spit out, as I hate waste. I don’t use baby food, they eat what we eat, and that sometimes requires a bit of help. Of course extended breastfeeding means they don’t really eat much solids til 18 months or so, making it much easier for them to chew as they’ve got teeth by then.

    Marie wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • Great points, Marie!

      MamaGrok wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • Fantastic, realistic reply!
      Would like folks to know that, although I never had children, I do this frequently for my parrots.(25 and 12 years old) Always wondered about my own digestive enzymes being OK for them, but THEY seem to know it’s good.

      martha wrote on April 18th, 2012
  21. While I didn’t do this with my three kids like Silverstone does, I did bite food into small pieces when they were ready for “finger foods.” Things like strawberries, grapes, etc. I could then hand feed them or let them grab the tiny pieces out of my hand. I did do this in public, at a birthday party once. No one said anything, or even really blinked, but it was full of very natural, baby wearing mamas who were part of La Leche League. Good company, there!

    Mamaelijah wrote on April 18th, 2012
  22. I think it’s more of a culture shock to most people than anything. I’m not even in my 30’s yet but can definitely remember that our mother did the same thing. She did it mainly because we were fed what was cooked, and not cutesy processed toddler food or junk, and some veggies such as collards could pose as a choking hazard if not chopped finely. Same thing with feeding us steak or chicken, she’d chew a bit to break it down for us to eat safely. My grandmother even used to feed us with her hands.

    KP wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • Definitely a culture shock for those in our modern society. Isn’t everyone on MDA going against social norms? Why is this any different?

      MissJenn wrote on April 18th, 2012
  23. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this information with us. Something to ponder for future child raising!

    Stacey wrote on April 18th, 2012
  24. My understanding is that people did this for the elderly and sick as well.

    Folks who are icked out, our war on germs has been devastating to us as a species. If you continue to have autoimmune issues after going Primal/Paleo, you should check out Kurt Harris’s ideas connecting Graham Rook’s Old Friends hypothesis with Paleo.

    Because this is something natural to human history, it may very well be a missing link to what ails us now.

    Karen P. wrote on April 18th, 2012
  25. This topic inspired me to comment-which I never do-because I’m excited to see someone bringing it up (I was not aware of the video and I’ll have to watch it).

    We pre-masticated food for both of our boys, and I’ve never met another parent who’s done it. My assumptions about its benefits and drawbacks match your article.

    It made our life much simpler. Of course, it’s not “necessary”, and we didn’t chew every bite our kids ate, but little conveniences add up in busy family life. Less food grinding, less preparation of separate meals. It’s easier to mix foods together that might no be so palatable to your child as single ingredients. And we got to share our bacteria to develop their guts at a crucial developmental stage. It even provided a way for me, as a dad, to bond a bit more with my children when they were still mostly breastfeeding.

    One drawback, however, was that I couldn’t pour on the spice the way I like to.

    At the time, I felt we had to keep our pre-mastication relatively hidden because of the “ick” factor. But we got pretty good at quickly slipping a bite from one mouth to another when out and about in public.

    Unless it’s shown to cause harm, I recommend it as an option for parents who are in good health-though I’m not so sure I’m ready, even having done it myself, to watch everyone doing it in public.

    TJ wrote on April 18th, 2012
  26. I am not so keyed into the overculture that I have seen the video (but not so out of the loop that I don’t know who Alicia Silverstone is). The idea is intriguing, I agree. I will also admit that the most efficient way to remove seeds from my young daughter’s orange segments is to bite them out myself before passing them to her. If that disgusts someone else, then let she who hasn’t shared a spoon or napkin with her child be the first to say, “ewww!” But then, I don’t film myself sharing oranges with my kiddo to share with the world for opinions to be flung at me from far and wide, either.

    Dineen wrote on April 18th, 2012
  27. I have no problems with pre-chewing food. I’m not sure if it’s a complete Asian thing or not, but my mom did it, I did it and a lot of my Asian friends do it. It never occur to me that it may gross some people out until someone asked about it.

    Sonia wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • Same here. I never thought it was all that strange myself…

      I can only speak from experience, but pre-mastication is a pretty common practice in China. I grew up with my parents chewing my food for me and coincidentally rarely ever became ill as an infant or a child. Could be either genetics or the chewing, but most likely it’s a combination of both.

      n wrote on April 21st, 2012
  28. TOTALLY unnecessary!

    Cláudio O. wrote on April 18th, 2012
  29. I’ll have to add that with baby-led solids, I think her first ones were pre-masticated because she snatched them out of my mouth.

    Dineen wrote on April 18th, 2012
  30. Awesome! I’m going to try this. I can see the look of delight now on my sixth-grader’s face when he opens his lunchbox to find this extra-nutritious treat. :)

    Joseph Nichols wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • ROFL

      Jen wrote on April 18th, 2012
  31. I’ve fed three babies and by the third we didn’t bother with any complicated food preparation, nor did I pre-masticate the food for them. They all nursed exclusively the first several months and then gradually added foods they could eat on their own, which turned out to be small scraps of soft meat (roast pork or beef stew, for example), cooked veggies simply mashed with a fork on the plate, bananas, yogurt, hard boiled egg yolks, and so on. Other than cooking food long enough to soften it and cutting food into small pieces I pretty much let them feed themselves how they wanted to. I do pit olives and cherries for them in my mouth before they eat them, so that’s a type of oral pre-processing, in any case.

    Pre-mastication would make more sense if cooking weren’t an option or if you preferred raw foods but otherwise it seems unnecessary to me in today’s world.

    And as a side note, all three of our babies liked fruit and meat as soon as they tried them and they all hated commercial “baby food”, especially the mushy cereals. I stopped buying them after the first baby but there were always free samples to try, which were always firmly rejected.

    Dawn wrote on April 18th, 2012
  32. Wow – where else can you find interesting articles like this besides Mark’s site? It was fascinating. I thought for sure that Mark was going to eviscerate this technique of feeding a child but lo and behold, I was dead wrong!

    Vince N. wrote on April 18th, 2012
  33. This weirds people out? Hmm. Chewing my babies food seems perfectly normal to me. I don’t have children yet, and even before I read anything about premastication this just seemed like the right way to do things. Maybe I’m more in touch with my instincts than I thought.

    Cherice wrote on April 18th, 2012
  34. I do this everyday! It is so amazing to me that anyone would find it offensive or not natural. We do have some pretty solid instincts and that is one! The other two things that weren’t mentioned, I think of note, are that you don’t need to use water and the social aspects.

    When we’re out for dinner, we do this (both me and my *husband* – yeah guys, you can too! ) to give our 9 month old what we are eating, which is more balanced than a jar of processed-one-food. The saliva helps moisten the food without the use of water (water has so many contaminates) as a diluter and adding all our juices to help him digest. It also has a social aspect. Both my sons felt so loved when I did this for them and took it with reverence and eyes glowing. It is very satisfying to feel like a momma bird! I fed them on my lap and they are so neat and tidy when you feed them this way. Most of the spit-out is from it not being chewed enough so they expel it and then you feed it again so they can fully chew it. There is no ick factor for them and they are eating at the table with everyone else socially instead of strapped in a chair eating something else.

    Darwinism is among us if you think that the only way to feed a baby is a jar of crap separate from the rest of the family.

    Beth wrote on April 18th, 2012
  35. My first instinct upon seeing the video was 1. Good for her and 2. People who think this is a big deal are completely out of touch with what is healthy and what is not. Most of the people who had a problem with it would have no problem feeding their child a soy based pasteurized milk cocktail before eventually weaning them to a healthy diet of McDonald’s and Coke products. I’m guessing can’t imagine a time when baby “food” didn’t come in little jars or formula in powdered form either.

    Chris Bracey wrote on April 18th, 2012
  36. My totally post-agricultural grandmother (b. 1917 in Georgia) told me that all the mamas she knew when she was young pre-chewed the food for their babies. She was laughing and a little embarrassed and admitted it was probably a bad idea in light of today’s knowledge.

    I think they were right on. I never feed my babies baby food, and they always eat what is age-appropriate from what I have on my plate. Only rarely do they need help with it, but I’ll offer it if they do.

    We NEED the germs of the adults around us. Healthy immune systems need & thrive on it, and resist easily problematic bacteria. My five kids NEVER get sick – nothing more than maybe one cold per year. No flu. No strep. No rotovirus. No ear infections. Nothing.

    Germophobia is destroying our health.

    MamaGrok wrote on April 18th, 2012
  37. Thoughtful response to this story.
    New to Primal…loving it.

    eatsleepswim wrote on April 18th, 2012
  38. I don’t have kids yet, but I may try that when I do. Transferring some beneficial bacteria seems logical.

    Nionvox wrote on April 18th, 2012
  39. I don’t really see the point of pre-mastication – just give the child sticks of food from 6 months, as per baby-led weaning. They have complete control over their food, eat what you eat and take part in family meals. It was incredible for us with our son, who is now 2.5.

    Erin wrote on April 18th, 2012
  40. My husband and I often chewed and broke up pieces of food with our teeth for our babies… probably because it was just easier than getting a knife or blender or whatever. Great to know that it might have even been beneficial to them :)

    allison wrote on April 18th, 2012
    • Us too Allison! I remember many times pre-chewing things like meat and chicken for our son, mainly out of convenience!

      mars wrote on April 18th, 2012

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