Alicia Silverstone Premasticates for Baby Bear

Ewww!

A video shows Clueless actress Alicia Silverstone feeding her son, Bear Blu.  After chewing the food she allows Blu to eat the masticated food directly from her mouth. Not surprisingly, the video has gone viral.

As Alicia, an avowed vegetarian, put it:

I just had a delicious breakfast of miso soup, collards and radish steamed and drizzled with flax oil, cast iron mochi with nori wrapped outside, and some grated daikon. Yum! I fed Bear the mochi and a tiny bit of veggies from the soup…from my mouth to his. It’s his favorite…and mine. He literally crawls across the room to attack my mouth if I’m eating.

Can I Chew That For You?

Alicia Silverstone is, by no means, the first mother to do this. The practice, called premastication, has probably been around as long as humans have. In a 2010 presentation called Premastication: the second arm, after breastfeeding, of infant and young child feeding for health and survival? researchers at Cornell make 3 important observations:

1) The need for energy, protein and micro-nutrients (from sources other than breast milk) occurs before the development of an infant’s teeth allows them to consume family foods.
2) During our evolution as a hunting-gatherers,  foods were not easily processed into a form that children without a full set of teeth could eat.
3) Populations in which adults pre-chewed foods for infants had a strong survival advantage and therefore favored in evolution.

Premastication is still prevalent in many cultures. Proponents argue that it can:

  • Provide larger amounts carbohydrate and protein which may not be available through breast milk. It can also provide essential micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin b12 which are present mainly in meat.
  • Animal sourced foods, such as beef, provides iron, which improves growth, motor and cognitive functions and prevents infant iron deficiency.
  • Provides immediate and long-term immunological resistance to infections through the antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, growth factors, and nutrient transporters in the mother’s saliva.
  • May promote the development of infants’ immune systems through antibodies present in the mother’s saliva.
  • Premasticated foods allow for better infant digestion through the presence in saliva of enzymes lacking in infants, especially alpha-amylase which aids in digestion of starches.

Why You Shouldn’t Premasticate

But many health professionals warn that there are potential drawbacks to premastication.

Premastication can transmit a wide range of diseases and pathogens from infected parents to their infants including HIV-AIDS , as well as hepatitis B virus, herpesvirus and Helicobacter pylori, from their saliva and open mouth ulcers.

This morning Delta Dental of Iowa tweeted:

Word is Alicia Silverstone chews her food for her child. Don’t follow in her footsteps. You can pass dental disease!

No disrespect to Alicia for not wanting to use prepackaged baby foods, but hasn’t she ever heard of a food processor?

What do you all think?

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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