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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 18 2012

Should You Chew Your Child’s Food?

By Mark Sisson
221 Comments

By 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?

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221 thoughts on “Should You Chew Your Child’s Food?”

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

    1. 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.

      1. Well, probably maybe: see wikipedia for premastication. It’s a sensible hypothesis.

      2. 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…

      3. 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?

        1. 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 🙁

      4. …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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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….

      2. I’m sorry, but I actually think that’s kind of sweet, even if it is a little gross.

        1. When I was a teenager, I had a boyfriend who stole my chewing gum. Out of my mouth.

          I nearly hurled.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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).

    1. that’s VERY late – were they checked for anemia during that time? Did they grow normally?

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

      2. 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.

      3. 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.

  5. I ended up doing this with both kids as we introduced meat early. It was easier for both of us.

    1. 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!

    2. 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!

    1. Ack! ACK!

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

  6. 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. ^_^

  7. 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’?

    1. If you think about it too much its probably gonna freak you out – hey, but it’s a naturalthing to do (raised 2 kids)

    2. 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!

      1. 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…

    3. 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.

    4. 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 :).

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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.

  11. 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!

    1. 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.

  12. Oh Please,God N!!,leave it to the birds…..the kids will be grow up just fine.Thats just too much motherhood for me.

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

    Does that sound rude to you?

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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. 🙂

  17. 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.

    1. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

    1. Definitely a culture shock for those in our modern society. Isn’t everyone on MDA going against social norms? Why is this any different?

  20. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing this information with us. Something to ponder for future child raising!

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

    1. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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. 🙂

  27. 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.

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. I don’t have kids yet, but I may try that when I do. Transferring some beneficial bacteria seems logical.

  34. 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.

  35. 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 🙂

    1. Us too Allison! I remember many times pre-chewing things like meat and chicken for our son, mainly out of convenience!

  36. I made all my now-21-year-olds baby food from scratch in a blender, but meat was disgusting done that way. So both her dad and I pre-chewed her meat. Its not hard to be subtle at a party or a restaurant. She grew up, went through a teenage vegetarian stage, but came back from the dark side and is now a socially-aware, animal loving, biology majoring carnivore. By the way—this is the only time that I’ve read the first paragraph of a MDA posting and went straight to the comments!! I figured they would be amazing.

  37. WOW! Thats really interesting stuff, as a father I don’t find it that weird, and as with regards to Alicia Silverstone, in comparison to other celebrity fades, there are definitely stranger things happening, LOL!

  38. I’m still not on board with this. I don’t care what history you lay out. Not every parent has a healthy mouth (smokers, drinkers,etc) and to spit food into their baby’s mouth? It’s disgusting. We’re no longer in the dark ages.

  39. I’m a mom that does this because feeding my baby (who is 9mo) mostly veggies and fruit kind of requires it…I don’t do rice/oat or any other kind of cereal and if the meat isn’t ground meat I’m not sure how he’d be able to process it at all. I didn’t think twice about it, glad to hear it’s good! Figure I’m building his immunity too…I know the food I buy is higher quality than what gerber uses most likely too so I definitely feel good about it. 🙂

  40. This post makes perfect sense to me. I wish I had found WAPF before I had kids… I gave them cereal, homemade cooked squash, applesauce and yobaby organic yogurt. They were breastfed for 18 months as well.

  41. Well, it doesn’t have as much appeal as breastfeeding, that’s for sure.

  42. Its amazing how disconnected we are from nature these days – great post Mark!!

  43. I prechewed food for my babies. I just thought of it myself. I nursed them on demand, carried them a lot, slept in the same bed with them. It just felt natural to prechew the food for them when they showed interest in my food. I guess it was not as fun to witness, judging from my husband’s reaction. He loves to describe it to the girls now. I think it’s interesting that I had never heard about it, yet it came totally naturally to me. I had no issue with it and the girls didn’t either. I used fingers to feed them the prechewed food. The whole process was much easier and cleaner than using blenders; and cheaper than buying baby food. They both nursed for a long time and took to food gradually. We mostly ate homemade, organic food so it was the best they could get. I always wondered if other mothers did this!

  44. With my two year old, I made all of her food in the blender or used a fork to mash right before feeding her (avocado, banana, pear). I have a 4 month old who’s just starting to try food. Since it’s mashed sweet potatoes, as I mash it I add some of my saliva because saliva/mastication is a necessary step in digestion. Would I chew it and spit it out? Probably not.

    Yet, no one thinks twice about spitting on a napkin and wiping a kids face.

  45. Hey – I was doing this 28 years ago when my babies were wee ones! It saved time and money and none of the three are worse for wear this many years later. Now that I am “primally aware” and see what my daughter is feeding my grandbaby (and groan inside seeing the cereal-path that she is beginning) I’m hoping to gently educate without causing WWIII. I suggested pre-mastication to her two weeks ago, and after the first look of horror crossed her face, I informed her that she had been fed that way by me. She is beginning to see the benefit and convenience. Now if I could just purge her house of all things grain… too bad CW has such a grip.

  46. I have done this with all of my girls. Oldest is 21 and youngest is 3. I think that it’s a beautiful act of love.

  47. Huh. I never really thought about it being gross; I pre-chew my baby’s food all the time. I don’t feed it to him mouth-to-mouth, but instead use my fingers to put it in front of him or in his mouth.

  48. Jane said coquettishly,”I was just using you for your good oral bacteria!”
    It wouldn’t be the last time Phil’s perfect teeth got him into trouble.

  49. I haven’t done this although I did nurse my kids beyond the “accepted” North American time frame.
    Quite frankly if I had thought about it, I might have. Seems to make sense.
    People get bent out of shape about dumb things IMO.

    I likely wouldn’t to watch a mom doing this at a restaurant when I am eating but otherwise I say it’s no skin off my nose.

  50. My mother did this to me and I assume my older brother. We are fine

  51. Sometimes when I can’t find a clean knife, I cut my daughter’s grapes in half with my teeth, or take bites out of an apple for her. My daughter doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, we’ve shared many apples. But I never thought to do full mastication.

  52. Haven’t done it but most definitely considered it….just never needed to. I think it’s a GREAT, natural way to start feeding babies, but i also agree with Baby Led Weaning which is the “tactic” we used with my daughter. She didn’t eat much solid food until she was 1–just relied on my breastmilk. As we introduced food, we just kept the sizes large so she could hold it herself and take tiny bites or bite/suck on the meat and veggies. They actually do great this way!

  53. Kudos to Alicia SilverstoneI I hope her sharing her predigested baby feeding starts a new trend. My own mother who was born in 1905, prematurley in the 7th month,was fed this way. She grew up to be a very strong, and healthy woman who lived a long life. She passed away at 97 years old. Had I been fed this way, perhaps I would suffer with less digestive problems.

  54. I did that sometimes with my 2 boys. When they were ready they started eating regular table food themselves, but if it was something hard I would chew it up some for them. We skipped all the jars and purees. It was super easy and cheap.

  55. We’ve never done baby food. It’s pricey, not great nutrition, and our kids always preferred our food.
    Never chewed it for them, too much work.
    If your food is nutritious, fresh, your kid will be much better for them than some bottled and over-boiled fruit or veggie puree.

  56. Yes siree indeed, I have bird fed my little cherubs before. If I am correct, I believe that one of the roles of grandparents in Japan was to premasticate the infants food.

  57. Sadly, there are people in this country who think breastfeeding is gross. Trust me, I have run head on into them!
    I have pre-chewed my children’s food, when no other form of cutting was available. That’s what those incisors are made for, right?
    I have more of an issue of Alecia Silverstone feeding her children a vagan diet than I do with her pre-chewing her children’s food. Not that I have any place to judge anyone for how they raise their kids. Is vegan a choice I would make for my family, no. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be available to anyone who wants that choice.

  58. -“Delicious” breast milk? How do you know? Lol…great post! 😀

  59. I think it’s fine. When both my children were under two I did some pre-mast, but usually things that they would otherwise choke on like nuts, croutons, and chips. My dental hygiene was always good. Everything else like fruits and vegies were mashed. Eggs can be soft, tuna can be mixed with yogurt / oatmeal. I do think the food processor sounds good for some foods that are heavier. When kids are about 2-3 they look at you like your wired if you pre-chew it, Eww ; ) Anyway it was a type of bonding that was sweet. I wouldn’t have chewed meat or given it to them other than processed, just my take on it. Besides my wife is vegetarian and would have totally freaked. : ) From what I’ve heard, bad bacteria has a hard time surviving in other healthy mouths. But yes, things like herpes and hepatitis can be transmitted I’m sure. So health is of utmost importance here.

  60. I did this on occasion when my (now 15 year old) daughter was a toddler. My father is a living-history buff who participates in reenactments of events in the late 1700s. These are very period-correct events, so even things like modern prescription eyewear are a no-no. I have to admit it was pretty instinctual to tear a leg off the freshly roasted chicken, bite some off, chew it a bit and hand it to her (I put it in her mouth with my fingers). She was hungry, I am Mom…there wasn’t any thinking about “how do I make babyfood in the middle of the woods 50 miles from the nearest grocery?” or “is this socially acceptable?”. It was just a natural thing I guess, and considering I was sitting around a camp with people scrubbing their teeth with split twigs and skinning whatever they had killed that morning, socially acceptable wasn’t really an issue.

  61. There is no need to chew your kids food. We eat a primal diet and have never had to resort to pre-chewing. Our daughter, now 195 months old had breast milk exclusively until 9 months when we slowly transitioned to supplement with solid foods. Her first food was grass fed butter, beef tallow, and coconut oil form a spoon @ 9 months. 9.5 months we added in pumpkin mixed with coconut milk at 1:1. At 10 months we added avocado and egg yolks. At 12 months, we added full eggs, ground beef, fish, chicken, and sausage. At 13 months she ate anything we ate at dinner. veggies stir fried in coconut oil(squash, egg plant, tomato, turnips, red beets, orange beets, etc…) From the 13 months, she has always ate about an egg a day in the morning and probably averages about 2-3 large avocados a week. Around 15-16 months old we started to bring in starches with sweet potatoes, very limited rice, and very limited white potatoes. People, always comment how much she eats and how she eats anything we give her. Shes 55 percentile for height and 25 percentile for her weight.

    1. Egg yolk is great. That was my daughter’s first solid food. That was even before we turned Primal. Even then we thought the rice cereal advice given by doctors just sounded wrong. How could drab rice cereal be the healthiest thing for a child when things like egg yolks and milk are designed specifically by nature for kids, and are naturally high in fat because that’s what kids need.

      1. Exactly, it was also nice to have our pediatrician agree with our feeding style. He liked how we gave her fat and cholesterol to help her development. He also mentioned there was no need for us to introduce rice or typical kid snack foods, since she was getting plenty of cals from all the fat. Having a fat and protein filled diet, also has given us the advantage of our daughter never wanting snacks just main meals. We tried giving her a bit of juice a couple times while on vacations and she spits it out. I think it was too sweet since she basically has never eaten sugar. She does love her berries though and its a food that she can easily eat on her own.

  62. Hmmm if my saliva is beneficial then I’d rather toss baby’s meal in the vitamix and then spit in it after hahaha! pre-mastication is a bit too weird for me

  63. I started eating primal after my first 2 kids were born, but before my third. With the first two, I remember trying to grind up meat and them not appreciating the texture (dry and crumbly plain, or lumpy when mixed with something) so I just put off meat until they could chew, maybe until 18 months, and gave them mashed black beans instead for some protein. Well, with my third, I knew better and I knew I wanted her eating meat much sooner. I tried blending again, and it was awful again. So I ended up pre-chewing it for her and then hand feeding her. It was so easy and I could control the consistency and moisture level and she liked it. She’s now 15 months and can chew her food on her own, but for the first 8 months she was eating solids, it was a super easy way to give her meat. I wish I had done it with my other two! But, in hindsight, there were a lot of things I wish I had done with my other two, foodwise. we’re trying to make up for it now, and they’re doing pretty good.

    On a side note, it was slightly strange chewing food and tasting it and then, 15 minutes later, realizing you hadn’t actually eaten very much of it. To get a normal meal I felt like I was eating for a long time!

  64. I pre-masticated some of my 3 children’s food until I saw fit; it was occasionally necessitated and I didn’t think twice about it. As many times as I would say chew it up well it was evident food didn’t stay long in the mouth. Don’t tell them. No big whoop. Healthy kids at my house.

  65. We don’t fully pre-chew, we call it “pre-chop”. For food that’s too hard or too big, we sometime “chop” it with our front teeth and give it to our babies. This happens mostly, when on the road or when we don’t have the tools (knife, fork, blender) available at the time. It’s a bonding process for us too. As long as the caregiver is healthy, I don’t see a problem.
    Cheers

  66. I have no problem pre-chewing my children’s food. We’re long past those days now though, as my daughters are 7 and 9. But back in the day, I occasionally did it, and didn’t think too much about it. Seemed pretty natural at the time.

  67. I always pre-chewed my son’s food when he was a baby. It was a no-brainer really. It was just easier, we sat together and I would pick bits off my plate and feed them to him.

    He could also get his own finger foods (which is important for dexterity and practice), but most of those ended up barely chewed and dropped on the floor until he was about a year old.

  68. Yes, I did chew all three of my kids’ food. I am of native american heritage and this is just how it is done. Never gave it a second thought.

  69. Thank you so much for this!
    Having read the Clan of the Cave Bear Series during my pregnancies (my kids are 2.5 years apart), I felt very ‘primal’ as a pregnant person, and as a mother of infants. That was WAY before I ever knew about paleo eating or fitness (2000 & 2002).

    I didn’t plan on pre-chewing. It started when a two-year old cousin had given my infant a corn chip! I was scared she would choke, and I told my little niece not to give the baby food. But man did my kid cry after that. She was probably 6 months old, had tried crappy rice cereal and hAted it. Had eaten some baby-jar fruit and sorta liked it, but she was ready for more FLAvor. So the (planted by the Cave Bear Series) thought occurred to me to chew my food, and form a bite sized morsel, with proper moisture content to form a little ball between my fingers, and I gave my infant pozole (mildly spicy pork and hominy soup) at Christmas time with my husband’s family. BIG hit. BIG. HUGE hit. She loved it and there was no stopping us after that.
    It made sense to me to chew for them because I didn’t have to worry about them choking. Also I knew they got enzymes which would help their bodies breakdown food, plus I knew then that they got beneficial bacteria from it.
    Interestingly, as the child gets older, the milk thins out considerably and becomes much more watery as the evolutionary machinery ‘knows’ the child needs more water and electrolytes, and less ‘food’ in the milk. Both my kids nursed at will up to 12 and 14 months.

    In my house we’ve always had a ‘you eat what I eat’ mentality. My kids have known since birth that whatever I am eating, they wIll get to share. I think pre-chewing prepared them for that somewhat. The thought never occurred to them to ask me for different food. And by the time they found out that some of their friends do that, they knew the drill. They LOVED the food I gave to them, and yes, like little birds, opened their mouths to get more as fast as I could get it ready.

    I never thought of mouthing it like the video… Not saying it’s bad, but I do think that’s probably the part that people balk at most. In public places you would have had to be staring directly at me to have known what I was up to with my alert, but quiet and contented baby on my lap…

    Oh and between nursing and this, we spent about $10 total on both kids for actual jars of ‘baby food’. For use in the RARE occasion we left our girl(s) with a sitter.

    Thanks again, Mark, for your entirely primal take on this practice. I wouldn’t change a thing about it from my experience!

  70. (raising hand, me, me, me!) I prechewed food for my children. Frankly, I was too lazy to prep food in a blender for them, and I wanted them to be a part of what was happening at the table *and* experience what was being eaten at the table, to taste the same tastes. I also wanted them to eat meat, and prechewing their food just made that all very easy for me and them. I remember reading a bio about a woman who grew up in Montana, she described seeing a Native American mother outside a burger shop prechewing her burger and sharing with her baby. That’s about the only validation I’ve seen of this practice besides perhaps The Continuum Concept (not sure if it’s in there, either) until this post today. Thank you!

  71. Interesting side note on pre mastication …. anthropologists ( notably Desmond Morris ) have theorized that it is the basis from which kissing evoled.

  72. I find that completely fascinating. I wish I had been living this lifestyle when my kids were younger…

  73. My wife and I did this instinctively with our daughter, we never bought baby food or had a grinder. It made things very simple, especially when traveling. When we were out, or when people were over we tried to do it discreetly, as we were not sure if others shared our feelings. Our daughter has always been very healthy…glad to know this might have contributed. Thanks as always Mark.

    1. Ok, I should have watched the video first, before commenting. We used our fingers to feed our baby, not our mouths…that never occurred to me…thankfully.

  74. If that’s your cup of tea go for it, but really aren’t we all about living Primal in a MODERN world?! I’ll stick with my blender and spoons. 🙂

    I enjoy making for for my baby and its still easy and cheap using a blender! And i don’t have to worry about passing on a cold virus I may not know i have.

    Very interesting article to say the least though! 😉

  75. Have to admit, this is a new one on me. I am not repulsed though. My daughter (who turns 40 this summer) was an “Adele Davis” baby. I had a mentor that helped me in the breastfeeding department as nursing was just then becoming more popular–we lived in a teeny tiny Iowa village where my husband taught high school. I was the only pregnant lady that whipped around town at 9 months preggers on a man’s bicycle (the old ladies on the block were shocked about that) and then all around town with my baby strapped into a seat on the back later on. I told my daughter last week I used to feed her spoons of cod liver oil and had one of those small grinders that I used to make her food. I was considered a bit odd, but she NEVER ever had an ear infection or any of the other common maladies of kids then, except colds now and then. I kind of remember we ate paleo-ish back then in the middle 70’s. Didn’t have money to buy lots of snacks and crap food. If moms want to do what Alicia is doing–go for it! Mark’s info sounds compelling.

  76. Great dialogue here! It’s lovely to live a modern life where the choices are endless and there’s not just one “right” way to have to go about doing anythihg. Do what’s right for you and yours!

  77. Ever since my brother-in-law idily wondered aloud “I wonder what cave people fed their babies…” while I was feeding our 8 monthish daughter (she’s now nearing 11 years), my husband & I have fed our kids prechewed food. Not so much with the first born, we were still beliving what the ‘experts’ told us. Prechewed food makes sense. Especially since our kids never had a highchair.When they were tiny,I would sit at the table & nurse them & try to eat my own meal before it cooled. As they grew older they would sit on our laps as we ate & eventually would forage off our plates. I was determined to ‘get it right’ with our last child. He didnt get any baby cereals (anti grain for babes by that time, nursed the full 2 years, & wasnt going to introduce ANY solids till he was at least 6 months. His first food was fresh corn on the cob at 5 months when he grabbed it off my plate & started eating it! They are all healthy, robust, energetic kids. People still think we are strange sometimes – but that’s fine!!

  78. I never did this (nor would I want to) but I did play loosey goosey with sharing food and utensils and ended up getting my kid off to a terrible start in the dental department.

    I do hope whoever is doing anything like this or even more common things like letting your baby stick their hands in your mouth, etc. takes into consideration the state of their own oral health. Anyone with signs of dental disease should err on the side of caution and not share bacteria.

    We resolved our issues and are on the straight and narrow but it was a lot of work, extra expense, stress all around and boy does it feel crummy to have messed up your kid’s teeth. We’re lucky kids get another set for a do-over.

  79. My wife’s parents fed her and her sister meat this way when they were very young, and it’s common in their culture (SE Asia). It works so well that we have carried the torch and fed our son this way until he could chew such food on his own. We’ll do the same thing with our daughter, who is only just now eating solids of any kind.

    That said, we don’t do it “birdie style,” nor do folks from my wife’s homeland – one simply removes the food from one’s mouth and feeds the child by hand.

    It’s not a big deal, either way. Healthy parents feeding healthy children – you gotta do what you gotta do – who cares what anyone else things? I’m not going to put jerky in a blender or spend five minutes chopping it up into dust when I can chew it and feed my kid, as needed.

  80. I’m going to pass on this one. Sure, we’re all challenging social norms here, but I’m a Primal girl living in a modern world. To that end, I am going to live in a way that maintains my health and happiness without giving up every modern convenience.

    Using a BabyBullet someday will probably be one of those modern conveniences.

    After all, I’m not going to up and quit my job, find a secluded place in the forest, snuggle down into a cave, and live as a hunter-gatherer for the rest of my life.

    Not that the thought isn’t tempting sometimes…

  81. Yes. I chewed food for all three of my babies. I also breastfed them as long as possible. After all, that is the way we were designed to exist. Technology and social dysfunction has impacted our existence greatly…and not always necessarily for the better.

  82. Haha, I totally get it, and more power to those of you who go this way – but personally, I think I’ll stick with a food processor 😉

  83. Thank you for posting this article. When I saw the report of this topic on my local news channel, and their aghast reactions, I was very peeved. I had been thinking of birds, as shown above, though mostly wolves. Wolves actually regurgitate meat already swallowed. It just makes me shake my head more at our race and why seem to think we’re so different(which we are, but not in everything!)than our fellow animals.

    I, personally, would pre chew food for my child. If the need was there, I would.

  84. I never considered this do not have children yet but this was so interesting Mark! I am not sure how I would feel about it…. I can say this though if the apocalpse happened and electricity ceased you can bet your arse I would try this if I had a little one…. on a side note hasn’t this sort of thing occured with very sick adults in past times?

  85. This may be a bit off topic but I chew chicken before I give it to my 21 year old cat.

  86. Canines do this, too, as do birds and others. Makes tons of sense to me. Don’t have human kids but pups I have raised doing this occasionally with, bonded that much closer. (If you don’t have the rough-and-tumble, smootchie-wootchie relationship I have had with my dogs, you night want to put it on a plate.)

    Brindle

  87. I think the iron in breastmilk is undervalued here. It is almost 100% digestible, so even while low, it’s still high enough to keep a baby healthy (unless the mom is deficient) well past 6 months. We did baby-led weaning (or baby-led solids) and we didn’t have to chew any food for our daughter. She didn’t start ingesting food until around 9-10 months, but that was perfectly normal and her iron levels were more than sufficient. Babies can gum food and suck on meat at an early age, if given the opportunity. To each his own, but I wouldn’t chew up food to give to my kids. They can handle it on their own and we practice extended (aka normal) breastfeeding, so there are no worries in the iron department.

    1. +1!

      We did much the same with both my kids. Although I did sometimes pre-masticate for my son (older child), I didn’t much with my daughter.

  88. Its how my dad says that his mom fed him 80 years ago during the depression on the farm, so when I heard the story, I thought nothing of it.

  89. if you couldnt chew it up cause you were sick, or had cold sores or something, would you ask someone else to chew and spit in your child’s mouth?

    is this a parent only thing, or would you allow someone else to do it for you?

    how about pets? can you get your dog to chew your child’s food?

    is there an acceptable line of ick, or is there no bounds?

    could your other children do it for each other? what about in laws or step parents?

  90. I didn’t give my child food until she started to ask for it. Then I let her choose from the healthy options I provided. She had teeth by the time she started asking for food. And she chose chicken and beef liver mostly, and it was pretty easy to chew for her with just a few teeth. I didn’t cook it much, just a touch on the outside. She didn’t ask for muscle meat or other hard to chew foods until much later when she had a mouth full of teeth. She was on her own by then. I did do the pre-mastication thing once or twice but it really wasn’t necessary in our case.

  91. Great article, Mark. Very informative. If I were to start the baby-period all over again, I would definetly consider this way of feeding my baby. I think the benefits are more than we asume. In the GAPS-diet Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends to give the baby a little of whey in the food to help the digestion.

  92. The controvery around this is bizzare. I’ve breastfed my baby and started her on minimal solids at 6mos and found the best and easiest way to expose her to a wide variety of foods with different textures and spices was by chewing it for her. It is way faster and cleaner than the food processor. Also, I wanted her to have as “real” an experience of eating as possible. Eating puree does not prepare her for texture and taste as well because she’d have been eating mush. She is 2.5yrs now and eats everything and anything and chows at each meal and loves spices and eats Paleo. Glad you addressed this, Mark. From one proud Paleo mom whose raising a Paleo child who has NEVER eaten baby food.

  93. I think the real travesty here is feeding her kid a vegan diet. There just will not be enough beneficial fats to sustain sound cognitive development…

    Premastication, meh. I never thought it was that crazy because it makes sense for all the reasons listed here. I DO think it might be crazy to announce it to the world, however…we’re all so judgmental 🙂

  94. I did pre-chew for both of my babies. It wasn’t something I had ever read about. It was something my husband and I saw in nature’s design and didn’t question. It made sense on so many levels. My babies loved the food and thrived on being part of meal times as their personal readiness dictated. Great article Mark.

  95. It’s an interesting idea.
    Could a similar effect be achieved through adding digestive enzymes to the food instead? Similarly to how there’s baby probiotics now.

  96. Lost in these comments is the fact that Silverstone is feeding her baby a *vegan* diet. We should email-bomb her, telling her what a horrible idea that is.

  97. I lived with a family in a developing country for a year as an exchange student back in the early 90’s. Pre-mastication was a normal practice, when the food required it (tough vegetables, for example). The people had a belief that it made the child love the mother more (sealed the bonding). Using a small wooden spoon or a thumb to mash up banana or boiled rice was also common and even more widely accepted. Breast feeding went on probably longer than here in the States–until the kid had teeth and could manage most solid foods on his/her own. No one ever said, “hey, the kid obviously needs more iron now so lets start chewing meat for them.” It was more about gradually expanding the range of foods the kid consumed and, as stated, the folk belief about bonding.

  98. oh sure, i’ve pre-chewed food for my kiddo if it was tough or a bit too dry. he’s got good chompers at 3 yrs, so there’s no more need!

  99. I would DEFINITELY do it. Think of all the saved time, dishes and cleanup time!!

  100. I remember my mother pre-chewing my meat as a toddler, I thought she was the only one who did this. I didn’t continue the practice with my own daughter.

  101. I breast fed for six months and with the last two I didn’t worry about food until they took an active interest in what was going on at the table which was just around the time they were getting teeth oddly enough. I simply mashed stuff up with a fork and put it on a plate for them. They were happy healthy kids with no overt signs of iron deficiency.

    I question the wisdom of dropping solid food into a child’s mouth before the equipment is there to chew it.

  102. Well, this was interesting. I lived in the bush of Alaska for 14 years. I did have a baby while I was “outside” civilization and I did chew her food as the other mothers were doing. Mainly soft dried fish. She would wait while I chewed it and if it seemed like I was taking too long or might eat it myself she would poke my cheek. She is 40 now and living in Alaska. She also has beautiful teeth. And an MBA ;D

    On a side note – I read a book about owls last year. The zoos had almost no success raising abandoned baby owls but only realized when a domesticated owl mother produced copious saliva when giving her baby food that the parent was giving the baby owl something critical. They did an analysis on the saliva to find the critical enzyme to keep their baby owls alive.

  103. Just had to chime in (as an anthropology major) and say that a lot of cultures pre-chew the food children eat while they are being weaned. Not sure why it’s so shocking to American, but…

  104. I am both intrigued and disgusted by this article. Do you prechew and mama bird it or put it in a bowl and serve it with a spoon? Baby humans are lots of work! 🙂

    1. I prechewed as needed and put it on her plate and let her eat it. Didn’t prechew everything, just things she couldn’t eat yet. She loved it!

  105. Thank you, I see no problem with feeding your child in that manner. It is her child and her decision… I have fed my child in that manner but not a lot. My daughter who is now 18 years did not receive her 1st antibiotic until she was 3.5-4 years old.. I breast fed her until after her 1 year birthday. She is a really healthy young lady.. I think all of these actions have been to her benefit…We are giving our best effort to the PALEO way of life…

  106. Ewww! Nope, it never, ever crossed my mind. I would have to be hard pressed and in some dire straights to do that to my child.

  107. Hmmm I can grok this …
    The other article a while ago about eating dirt … noooo

  108. EXACTLY how I fed my kids (11 and 7)….cannot believe that this is even a social issue…

  109. I did this with both of my children….no blender required! With a a bonus of enzymes for those early eaters! yep, breast milk IS the best – my kids started eating at around 9 months….chewed up mama-food, that is!

  110. Hello

    I was too lazy to pre cook separate food my kids, but wqhy should we.

    I did the same chew if I was out and guess what my kids eat everything. Curry the works.

    May look feral but its practical and the kids dont choke and they get some of germs which I think is good for the immune system.

    Thats my take

  111. Yes, I have chewed my children’s food. No mouth to mouth transfer, but I did breastfeed all three of my children for an extended period of time as well as give birth naturally with NO medications and NO interventions at all. I think Silverstone is using this to stay in the “spot” light, but it isn’t strange in most cultures.

  112. Pretty interesting! My mom did this a little with my little brother, but we mostly fed him Gerber. Btw, while we are on this subject, I was wondering about Weston Price’s stance on making your own baby formula with raw milk, with added gelatin for better digestability…to me it sounded as stuff like raw milk and might be too harsh on an infant’s stomach. Do babies have a weaker digestive system (maybe less hydrochloric acid) that may prevent them from being able to consume certain foods?

  113. I had no idea that there was a “problem” with this. My 10 month old twins, as well as my 11 and 13 year olds when they were infants, have all eaten pre chewed food from Mommy at some point. It isn’t every meal or even everyday, but it is definitely very common and normal in our home. It’s instinct.

  114. I have a similar story–the flipside. My sister-in-law from Antigua sucked the mucus out of her baby’s running nose to clear it. I had an initial feeling of yuck, but then thought about how ineffective my own efforts were with my own baby later and GENTLY tried it to help her breathe. Worked great. Better than the rubber bulb syringe thing. And she held still for me when it was my face doing it instead of some device.

    1. I’ve never even thought of that before. My first reaction is “eewwwww”, but I get where you’re coming from with the wriggling!

      Off topic I know, but it might help other breastfeeding mums out there – breast milk works great to clear stuffed/runny noses. Plus they can eat it. It’s not instantaneous, but sure helped my (then 7wo) daughter breathe better when she had a cold!

  115. It’s all moot when you realize that babies don’t need food until they show interest and start trying to eat it. In other words, breast milk is sufficient–that is, as long as the mother is getting sufficient nutrition. Until an infant starts reaching for your own food, I wouldn’t worry about trying to feed them mashed up or pureed food.

    I believe there is misinformation and over concern regarding when an infant should start eating. The myth, as far as I’m concerned, is that they should start on “real” food as early as 4 months, and certainly by 6 months. Usually, it is encouraged that they eat “easy to digest” crap like rice meal. Not much nutritive value there! Not to mention that parents are often found force feeding their kids, pushing spoonful after spoonful of that crap in their child’s mouth as the child spits it out or pushes it out with her tongue (I might do the same if someone was shoving food into my mouth!).

    Look into baby led weaning. When our daughter was about 5 months old she started reaching for our food. We offered her things she could handle, such as sticks of veggies (carrots, cucumber, celery, broccoli, etc.)…It was more about playing and exploring at that point. A few months in, she would bite pieces off (with no teeth). At 6 or 7 months she was eating 3/4ths of a pear with no teeth.

    Important to recognize the difference between gagging and choking too. Parents are often afraid their child might choke. But realize that gagging is 90% of the time what happens, it’s an important reflex and they actually benefit from it by learning to navigate the process. As far as the risk of choking, I suggest ALWAYS monitoring your child at that age when eating, and learn infant CPR.

    Lastly, about nursing…a reminder that the world average age for weaning is something like age 4…So many benefits (immune, emotional, nutritional) it’s sad we are culturally conditioned by early weaning and formula.

  116. I chewed my babies food, the benefits were enormous. Not only for health reasons, but convenience reasons. We didn’t need a huge stash of baby food nearby. Or blend up portions of food. She could eat whatever we were eating. We could go out for dinner and she could share. I even took her camping at 6 months of age and she could share with us. Of course, I didn’t feed her hog dogs and such, but real food. Some comments and looks I got were pretty nasty, but most people just ignored it. It’s not like a bird that spits it straight into their babies mouths… I would chew it and then offer it with a spoon or fork or put it on her plate for finger food. I did not do this with my first child, but this time, it just felt so natural. (probably helped that my diet is so extremely different this time… last time I couldn’t chew up my chinese food or pizza for baby)

  117. Interesting article!
    When is the right time to start this method?
    At 6months ?
    Thank you

  118. I did it with my baby when she was i think about 7 or 8 months old without even really thinking about it, just handed her some stuff i had chewed up slightly like steak, chicken or pork. That way i knew she wouldnt choke or have trouble with it. These days i just chop it up for her now shes got most of her teeth (13 months old now).

    1. also should add my baby showed interest in “real” foods at 3 months of age pulling things off my plate and trying to jam them in her mouth it got to the point i had to lay her down in her bouncer while i ate. i didnt start her until 4 months she was more than ready according to our pediatrician and she took to the food quickly and easily. every baby is different levels some dont even show interest until 12 months old – a girl in my mothers group still had trouble with her baby and food he is 13 months old and she is working him through foods but he refused to eat and only screamed at the sight of it.

  119. I find all the hubbub quite amusing. Coming from a 3rd world Asian country, having mom pre-chew an infant’s food was the norm. This practice continues to this day but not in public because anything not politically correct risks the invitation of CPS from nosy folks who don’t understand the culture. I don’t do it because we don’t have kids but I bet you will wonder about it the next time you see an Asian mother and her infant. LoL…

  120. I don’t agree with practice of pre-mastication even though it may have advantages and is found common among other animal species.

    There are many recipes for natural baby food and ways of preparing them to your child to compensate this practice.

    1. Recipes? Who needs recipes when there are hundreds of natural foods right there ready to eat and a few chews away from feeding it straight to your baby.

  121. I have a anthropologist friend who spends his summers living among a hunter-gatherer band in South America. He says the women carry on a peculiar tradition. They collect starchy fruits or tubers, mash them up with mortar and pestle, chew on a bit of it and then spit the contents back into rest of the pot full of mashed starch. After a few days, it’s fermented. The woman then goes about the group, sharing it with the men. I asked my friend if he’s tried it and he says he has. He says it’s not so bad when it’s being offered to him by one of the younger, more attractive women, but when an older lady offers it up, he feels a little grossed out by it.

    Back to the subject of masticating food for the kids, it could be worse. Herring gull parents swallow fish caught at sea, return to their baby chicks in the nest, and regurgitate the contents for the chicks to eat.

  122. Pre-chewing food for my kids, Elle now 23 & Atomic now 21, came as naturally as breastfeeding and holding their little hands as they learned to walk. I never thought much about it being right or wrong. No one ever told me TO do this or NOT to do this…it just happened quite naturally out of convenience. They each were breast fed between a year and two years a piece until they were anxious and curious to eat solid food. I remember Elle in a movie theatre with us around the age of two. I LOVE popcorn and she would not be quiet or satisfied to not try some too. But of course the hard kernels are dangerous for little ones so her dad and I spent most of the movie biting off the kernels and feeding little Elle the puffy parts to her great delight. But that was just one of hundreds of new tastes for her/them that passed our mouths first. Everything we ate, they would taste until they were acclimated. Fresh fruit, finely chewed meat or vegetables or anything that required more teeth than they yet had. This never seemed weird in the least bit. What did seem weird to me was the nasty goop in little jars. BTW, both my kids developed a FULL palate at a young age and stellar immune systems to boot. My daughter now jokes that she is so healthy because I let her eat dirt as a kid. Though I don’t remember it quite that way, I think she is referring to the fact that I was never a germ-a-phobe. The kids spent many summers playing naked in the mud puddles followed by a warm bath before bed. It makes me sad to know that all natural wood chips are no longer considered safe floor material for a children’s playground. Whoever decided that probably thinks that Gerber makes a better banana than God.

  123. I tended to pre-chew food for our two children when they were little, but my ex-wife was not very keen on it. Now I know I was right all along!

    How else are they supposed to manage a big bit of meat if you don’t chew it up a bit first?

  124. I have an 8 month old and I have been prechewing occasionally for her. It CAN gross other people out, but generally any complaints are quieted with my asking “Well, how do you think they did it back in the day?” Everyone pretty much knows that I’ve been doing everything as natural as possible from the start, so I’m already seen like the crazy hippie mom anyway. =)

  125. Eskimos/Inuit women certainly chewed food for infants. The down side was that it wore their teeth away over the course of time.

  126. my mother told me that this is what her mother did with her, chew the food first, a common practice in the early 1900’s among the poor.

  127. I don’t have any kids but I do have a cat. He gets lumps of pre-chewed food all the time and loves it. He doesn’t need it pre-chewed. It is just the chewy parts of meat that, I can’t finish, that I plop into his dish. He is quite happy with this arrangement.

  128. I had no idea this used to be common practice before the rise of “baby food”. Always fun to learn something new.

  129. +1 for baby led weaning. I used to occasionally pre-chew a few things, but not regularly. He’s 17 months now and still probably 75% of his calories are from breast milk. He’ll go days with only eating a couple bites of solid food, some days it seems like he eats his weight in beef and eggs.

    Those of you who are icked-out may not have spent much time with toddlers…I get drooly kisses all day long, he puts his pre-chewed food in my mouth…sharing spit is an unavoidable part of parenthood!

  130. To all the people who are grossed out: the kid is going to be eating dirt in another few months. What’s the big deal?

  131. I LMAO when I saw it. It didn’t bother me one bit.
    The Inuit in the far North pre chew raw seal meat/blubber for their infants. I used to pre chew some tough meat for my little ones when they were little. But not often.

  132. Yeah, great way to pass on Epstein Barr Virus without knowing it to your infant, who later develops autism from it and strep. I did not realize I was an EBV carrier until it showed up on his blood test results and then I remembered I’d had mono and have autoimmune disease, and he’s unfortunatly got that as well from me. A poor choice to share a sippy cup with him or a fork. Poor boy.
    Parents, please, please think twice about doing anything like this. Our children are already born with a disadvantaged due to all the toxic chemicals in our bodies and society. Don’t introduce more potential bacterial or viral pathogens to their already weakened immune systems.

  133. I have no problem with it. Not my cup of tea though. Thing is, we *didn’t* regularly wean our babies in the days before vitamix. In hunter gathere societies, kids breastfed until age 3+, when they were perfectly capable of eating with everyone else. My kids have mostly gone straight from exclusive breastfeeding, to increasing portions of table food, and skipped the nasty stuff in jars all together.

  134. I did pre masticate when in a bind away from home. My daughter was happy to receive. When I think back on it, it seemed like the natural thing to do. Right, somehow. I wasn’t aware of grossing anyone out. Frankly, I didn’t care.

  135. I’m more interested in the fact Alicia Silverstone’s vegan and is probably feeding her baby vegan as well. That bothers me more than the pre-mastication.

  136. They do this in Nigeria. Nobody bats an eye. It’s funny to me what we find “gross.” It’s all in our heads and how we were raised, yet we – as all humans do – confuse opinion with fact nearly 100% of the time.

  137. This is one of the most disgusting things I have ever heard!! There is NO excuse for chewing food for anyone!If for some reason a baby or any person can not chew their food then simply need to use a blender,food processer, or just mash it up with a fork. Some people are so disgusting it is appalling.

  138. That is so inappropriate, no matter who you are. That is filthy to fully eat but not swallow your childs food and then let him eat it from your mouth. A babys immune system cannot fight things off the way an adults can. way more things can go wrong then mentioned. Anyone else who works in the med field will also know how bad this is to do.

  139. I say I never thought I would do this until I had my 2nd Child. I had to start chew food because she has a high metabolism was loosing weight I was told to stop breast feed loosing weight because of suckling on breast. Who knew.. She was always hungry this little slender baby was loosing weight. She had to sit up to feed her at 2 weeks we started her bottle had large wholes in nipple. To prevent her from suckling to hard. Started eating from a spoon at three months per doctor request. Yes this baby try to snatch food of my mouth when we sat at the dinner table. She was hungry. Yes, I carried baby food grinder in her baby bag or when I travel. I went to other countries found out that it quite common for mothers to chew their baby food. Not everyone can afford baby food grinder.
    To each his own. There is no perfect manual how to feed your baby. You do the best you can to have a healthy and strong baby.

  140. The dental bacteria transfer theory is a load of bull, fwiw. Mark (and anyone who is interested in healing naturally), I beg you to read “cure tooth decay” by ramiel nagel. It’s based on WAPF studies, promotes paleo/primal eating, and shows how dental caries are the result of hormonal imbalance from the SAD, NOT from bacteria and plaque, etc. Please read it 🙂 it healed my sons teeth. They are ugly, but strong, and they will be around til he is ready for them to fall out at age 6ish. Before I started reading it, the dentist was reccomending full extraction of the front 4 and two molars on a 15 MONTH OLD. I figured trying to heal it before having to put my baby under for an invasive procedure was worth a shot. And today at 23 months, his teeth are in excellent, healthy condition.
    For those of you who don’t want to for our $30 for a hard copy, the book is $10 on kindle.

  141. My sons nursed for the first year. They did not like cereal. My La-leche league teacher told me to feed them meat. So I did. I had a baby food grinder. I would have done whatever it took. Even prechewing if I had to. Our second son would eat 4 pieces of roasted chicken at 18 months for dinner. I was amazed at his appetite for meat early on.

  142. We decided to freeze and grate grass-fed chicken liver as our now 9 year old daughter’s first food. She loved it and the pastured egg yolks! For young parents on this leg of their life journey, I recommend Nina Plank’s Real Food for Mother and Baby. (pre-mastication not required!)

  143. Can I just say that the risk of dental caries may not be very high because the main bacteria species implicated in initiating a carious lesion in a tooth is Streptococcus mutans. They aren’t found in mouths without teeth, and what is more, don’t colonise the mouth until aroud 18 months to 2 years, during a ‘window of infectivity’. This may be due to a tailing off or loss of protective factors in breastmilk. (I’m not sure how this stands for artificially fed infants.) Of course, there are other bacteria implicated in the carious process, but again I’m not sure how important they may be in this context.

  144. My 10-month-old was not interested in the joys of eating. I tried store-bought purees. I tried mashing up yams and rice with breast milk. I tried finger foods to give him control. He showed minimal interest. Yogurt was the only hit for weeks. We’d sneak fruits and veggies into it. But he was passionately interested in anything we ate. One night I looked at my plate – it was all great, organic, simple food. I gave him some out of my mouth without even thinking about it. It was an IMMEDIATE hit. He couldn’t get enough. In the back of my mind I wondered if it was gross, but it seemed so incredibly natural. Some genetic mom part of my brain knew what it was doing. Since that night, he has loved eating and will now feed himself. I still pre-masticate (amazing to know there’s a term for this) some things, but he’s well on his way to becoming an independent eater. Pre-chewing makes a million times more sense than using our Magic Bullet every meal. Thanks for providing some beneficial science!

  145. I think this idea has plenty of merit. At least it’s just chewing the food, unlike wolves who throw up partly digested meat to feed their young.

  146. Yes I’ve done it, when your baby’s hungry and you’re eating and there’s no way to get baby food, it’s just the logical thing to do, I don’t even think about it. I don’t do the mouth to mouth thing, I usually spit it onto a finger and put it in his mouth. Quite often baby prefers to eat off my finger than his spoon. I just go with it, it’s natural he likes the skin contact. It’t not like they do this forever, so I enjoy it while it lasts.

  147. Pre-mastication of food for babies really isn’t such a crazy or even new concept at all. When I was a baby in China my grandfather was the one who chewed up food for me and fed it to me directly from his mouth. In China this practice is quite a traditional approach for many families and normal, especially considering that many people there (and from other cultures too I’m sure) do not buy commercial baby food for their infants as is now the norm for many families in the US. Providing babies with whole-foods pre-masticated has benefits that far outweigh buying processed packaged baby foods, and healthy babies around the world have been brought up on pre-chewed foods.

  148. My mom chewed certain foods then fed them to me because i refused to chew them myself, but when i think about it as an adult it makes me want to vomit

  149. I have a few extremely early memories of my infancy. In one I am sitting in a high-chair and my Japanese mother is chewing peanuts and putting them in my mouth with her hand . As gross as it sounds now, I remember liking it 🙂

  150. Wow I am really late on this comment but wanted to share. I didn’t know anything about the Alicia Silverstone thing. I was just looking up on the web more info about pre-masticating food for babies. The thought popped into my head one day when I realized my baby opens his mouth every time I go in to kiss his lips like he is expecting something. Then it got me thinking about the people who say that saliva cures pink eye because of all the beneficial bacteria in saliva. If ever you get pink eye, rub some saliva in it or have someone spit in your eye if you trust them. Anyway, I think it would be good for you child, if you have a good diet and mouth hygiene. Lots of animals do it for their young. I’m not saying regurgitation, that just is yucky, but I think chewing is fine.

  151. I chewed up my 6-10 month olds meats. I did it before I even knew there was a name for it. I am a ‘crunchy’ but also ‘normal’ mother, and I’m proud of being a pre-masticator!

  152. Does anybody read this anymore? I noticed my 3 month old has been making an “o” face a lot when you look at him (no not from Office Space). Recently I noticed that he made that face when I went to kiss his nose. Out of curiosity, I stuck my open mouth next to his and he did it again and stuck his tongue out like he was ready to take in food (or at least that’s what I thought). I understand 3 months might be too early for solids, or even pre-chewed solids. But I’m curious for those who have done it for a baby of around 6 months, how much did you chew (i.e. what was the consistency like in YOUR mouth)? And how much from each bite? My concern is choking more than anything.

  153. Generally, it seems that civilized Western Society finds “kiss feeding” to be a nasty carryover from a time long ago. Why in the world would any mother kiss feed her child?
    Forget about all the science and consider that a mother might kiss feed her child out of simple, pure love.
    Take it a step further. How do you feed your elderly parent or a loved one who is too sick to chew that fine piece of meat you just roasted?
    How?: Pre-mastication
    Why?: Love