- Family and Parenting
Feeding Your Baby Bird-Style - Is Premasticating Nauseating or Normal?
Women who premasticate food for their babies are not unusual
Alicia Silverstone pre-chewed food for her baby - she calls it bird-style
After Alicia Silverstone placed a video of herself premasticating, or pre-chewing, food before feeding it mouth-to-mouth (what she calls kissing style) to her baby, a controversy arose. It seems that she was whole-heartedly condemned by grossed out women all over the United States, along with some members of the medical community, for her actions. In light of that, and the obvious repugnance shown on the faces of both male and female reporters when the subject was being discussed, I felt it was time for a review of how most of humanity has fed babies for most of history. It seems that we've become sadly out of touch.
However, before we get to the history lesson, let's first do a biology lesson. A baby is not born with digestive bacteria. It gets the bacteria it needs in its gut while passing through the mother's birth canal. It also gets the bacteria while it's being handled by her and while it's suckling at her breast after she's touched her own body. If it has to take antibiotics in infancy, the way it recovers its gut bacteria is, again, from its mother's handling.
Until the last couple of hundred years, a baby also received digestive bacteria and valuable antibodies from premasticated food given to it by its mother, as its digestive system developed and the mother began to feed it solid foods.
Only in our crazy, bacteria-phobic society would chewing food and feeding it to a baby be considered disgusting. What do we think happened in all of those hundreds of thousands of years when generations of babies were being weaned from the breast to solid food? Do we think people broke out their knives and forks and cut and mashed everything? Or possibly they plugged in their Cuisinarts? If so, we should think again.
The truth is, in one way they did what we do now. They chose easily chewed and soft food for their babies. Or they chose chunks of meat that were tough so the baby could mouth and gum it endlessly with no harm and some nutrition. But mostly, the mother chewed the food and fed it to the baby. (If elderly people needed this service, it was also provided to them by the women in their families.)
When you consider how many societies through the ages were migratory and wouldn't carry anything but the absolute essentials, to the point that they used a handy stick when they wanted to spear a piece of food, pre-chewing and feeding a baby from her own mouth was, by far, the most practical thing for a mother to do. Using mainly her own body, she could raise her infant from birth to the age where it could both walk and eat on its own. She provided milk, she provided digestive enzymes, she provided saliva to ease food down her baby's throat, she provided valuable antibodies and she provided her own teeth.
Alicia premasticating breakfast for baby bear
Mothers the world over chew food for their babies
Pre-chewing food for a baby is not disgusting - it's very normal
Premasticating wasn't disgusting then and it shouldn't be disgusting now. However, we've been strictly trained by marketing strategies that all bacteria is bad and that our bodies are pretty disgusting. We've also been trained by the paranoia of most of the medical establishment that all bacteria are bad.
Considering the fact that, until the last few years - after losing billions to alternative medicine - the average doctor didn't even attend classes on digestion, the medical establishment is certainly not loaded with experts on how a mother's digestion interacts with her child's.
Now the average doctor may attend two or three classes on digestion. However, as an undergraduate in health studies, I was required to take more classes on the digestive system than, even now, most doctors attend. However, through studying health in poor communities around the world, public health doctors have come to realize how healthy and helpful prematicating is for for babies. It not only makes the food easier to eat, but it adds digestive enzymes and antibodies from the mother.
There is no reason that a healthy, clean mother shouldn't pre-chew her baby's food. Not only is it more healthy for the baby's digestive system, but it's an additional bonding act between them, just as breastfeeding is. The main reason anyone would object to this is that we've lost so much of the mother-child connection in our modern world.
Until bottles were invented, pre-chewing food was the first real interaction a baby and a father had. Yes, fathers in some societies also pre-chewed - and still pre-chew - their babies' food.
If a mother was watching someone else's baby for any reason, she would pre-chew for the other woman's baby. If the whole family ate together, which most did around the world, in some societies, the babies wandered the whole eating area and were fed by whoever chose to provide food. So not only the mother, but other members of the family group, or tribe, provided this service.
We have been taught to sterilize our houses, to not let our babies get dirty, to not sleep in the same room as our babies. We've been told that we should nurse our babies in private, because our breasts are somehow improper and even disgusting if we've providing milk for our children. And now, we're reminded that a mother's mouth is too dirty and disgusting to use as a tool to feed her baby.
Mothers use their bodies to take care of their babies
Throughout time - including the present - whenever mothers have had too little water to bathe their babies, they've washed those little hands and faces with their own saliva. Those mothers have their babies with them most of the time, usually bound to their bodies in some way.
So whatever the mother has been exposed to, her baby has been exposed to at the same time. Her baby may die from bad water, from a disease like pneumonia or malaria, or from bad food that it's not strong enough to survive yet. It may also die from starvation, because its mother's milk has dried up due to her own hunger and she has no food to give it. But it won't die from a healthy mother's bacteria or saliva. It will thrive on them.
Alicia Silverstone's website
- The Kind Life
The official site of Alicia Silverstone. The Kind Life is an interactive extension of The Kind Diet where friends, doctors, experts in green living, and site members share vegan living tips, tricks and inspiration.