KatieKatie Katie Parsons is the creator of Mumbling Mommy and is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. She works from her home office on the east coast of Florida. Most often she writes about life in a combined family of five children and what it's like being a full-time work-from- home parent. You can contact her by emailing katie@mumblingmommy.com.

By Heather C.

Actress Alicia Silverstone best known for her role in the
movie “Clueless” has sparked conversations nationwide so it only seems fair
that I do a blog with my two cents as well, right? The topic at hand?
Premastication.

My oldest enjoying pureed baby food
Premastication is chewing food with the intention to
physically break it down in order to feed another. Think of the way mother birds
feed their babies. This is not a new concept. Cultures have been doing it
around the world for centuries. It’s a natural instinct for a mother to provide
for her young but is it appropriate in mainstream America?

You can view the original video of Alicia Silverstone pre-chewing food for her son below. It first appeared on her blog.

When I asked my fellow mom friends what they thought about
premastication, I got a very common response, “Ew!” Since this was not my
initial thought, I wanted to dig up more.

People Magazine published the picture along with other
celebrity moms (parenting in different ways) with the headline “Hollywood’s Extreme Moms.” The article gives the impression that what these celebrities are
doing is not normal. And while I agree that the act of premastication is not a
popular concept, that doesn’t immediately make it wrong. Here’s what I think:

We all do it. We may not realize it and we may not do it for
every meal but we all do it. On vacation when my oldest was 15 months old, we
had grapes for a snack. They were much too large for her to swallow without
being a choking hazard and we were at Seaworld. Without even thinking, I bit
the grape in half, mashed it a bit, took the piece out of my mouth and gave it
to her. It was easy. She loved the grapes and everyone was happy. When we got
home and ate grapes, I used a knife. This is just one of the many times I have done this for my daughter.

Another point; is it really much different than French
kissing? I know this is a hard concept to grasp but if premastication is broken
down, what part of it is gross? The part where your saliva is being transferred
to your child’s mouth? How often do we use our spit to clean our child’s face
or finish bites of their food that would otherwise be wasted? How often do we
share spoons or straws with them? I am a germaphobe about a lot of things but
swapping saliva, especially with my child of all people, is not one of them.

Now if the part that makes you say, “Ew” is based on your
teeth chewing the food instead of your child’s teeth (or lack of teeth), I can
maybe understand but I think I’d be more grossed out by taking prechewed food
from my child and eating it myself than the other way around. At least I know I’m using good dental hygiene.

When researching this new “extreme” parenting concept, I
came across information about the benefits of premastication and I think it’s
important to be the advocate of both sides. The benefits are:

–         
Premastication is said to provide “immediate and long-term immunological
resistance to infections and inhibits immunological hypersensitivity such as
asthma through the antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, growth factors, and
nutrient transporters in the mother’s saliva”

–         
When
used complementary to breastfeeding in infants and young children,
premastication can provide a large amount of carbohydrates and/or proteins that
may not always available through breast milk including iron, zinc, and vitamin
b12. 

SOURCE: Pelto, Greta; Zhang, Yuanyuan; Habicht, Jean-Pierre (2010),
“Premastication: the second arm of infant and young child feeding for
health and survival?”, Journal of Maternal and Child Nutrition)

The only known disadvantage of premastication (other than the ick factor, I
suppose) is listed as a concern with transmitting hepatitis B and HIV-AIDS. I
am completely in agreement that this is a huge concern but the cases of a
parent having one of these diseases and not knowing about it, especially in
America, are going to be very small. This disadvantage stems from third-world
countries and poverty level families practicing premastication without knowing
their own health concerns first.

SOURCE:   Levison, Judy; Gillespie,
Susan L.; Montgomery, Elizabeth (2011), “Think twice before recommending
pre-masticated food as a source of infant nutrition”, Journal of Maternal &
Child Nutrition)

Overall, I think
it’s important to say that I myself did not premasticate with my oldest
daughter. Instead we chose a combination of baby lead weaning and home making
baby food. I do not plan to premasticate with my youngest daughters either. I
am actually really looking forward to making their baby food one day soon. But
like I said above, a form of premastication is natural instinct and it is not
right of us to judge anyone, celebrity or not, for how she chooses to feed her
child. I have a feeling this way of feeding is going to become quite trendy
once the critics die down.   
You can contact Heather by emailing her at heatherc@mumblingmommy.com
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