Alicia Silverstone taps long tradition of pre-chewing baby food

Alicia Silverstone: Birds do it, our ancestors did it. Pre-chewing baby food is a long human tradition not invented by Alicia Silverstone, whose video of  her premasticating her toddler's food is grossing out people on the Internet.

Dana Tynan / NBC
Actress Alicia Silverstone, shown here in a publicity photo for the 2003 NBC series 'Miss Match,' appeared in a video pre-chewing food for her 10-month-old son, Bear Blu.
Mary Schwalm/AP
Birds do it...so does Alicia Silverstone, whose video of herself pre-chewing her toddler's food is causing web buzz pro and con. The practice of premastication is ancient and still exists in many societies.

The Internet community is buzzing about a video of “Clueless” star Alicia Silverstone pre-chewing food for her 10-month-old son, Bear Blu, and then feeding him out of her own mouth. Ms. Silverstone posted the video on her own site, The Kind Life, and writes about the baby bird-like feeding method for her son.
 
 “I fed Bear the mochi and a tiny bit of veggies from the soup…from my mouth to his,” Silverstone wrote on the site. "It’s his favorite...and mine. He literally crawls across the room to attack my mouth if I’m eating. This video was taken about a month or 2 ago when he was a bit wobbly. Now he is grabbing my mouth to get the food!”
 
 It didn’t take long for the scene to go viral, and not much longer after that for the grossed-out comments to start.

 “Every time New Yorkers have seen this in mass media before, it has generally been a gross-out joke, played for laughs,” CBS New York wrote on its webpage.

 “Mayim Bialik doesn't believe in diapers. January Jones takes capsules made of her baby's placenta. And now we have Alicia Silverstone chewing up food and spitting the food into baby Bear's mouth,” noted USA Today.

 A few experts, however, have pointed out that pre-chewing food is actually a fairly common technique around the world – especially during the weaning process – and that until the modern days of commercial baby food and the Cuisinart, most mothers used the technique.

 Indeed, premastication is considered a fairly nutritious way of feeding young children, many researchers say, providing iron, increased immunity and improved digestion for infants. In a 2010 issue of the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition, for instance, authors Gretel H.  Pelto, Yuanyuan Zhang, and Jean-Pierre Habicht argue that premastication plays a crucial role in infant health, and that its relatively recent abandonment, particularly in poor societies, is a significant threat to infant nutrition.

 At the same time, other health workers believe premastication could  transmit  disease  – and worry,  in particular, about  the HIV virus.

 Silverstone’s fans tend to agree with the pro-premastication crowd. A debate has started in the comment section of her site, which is dedicated to healthy living, but many are praising her feeding technique.

  “This is one of the SWEETEST and most pratical things I have EVER SEEN!!!” writes one commenter who calls herself Lisa. :My Mama used to chew up my food when I was little too!!!  Not only are the health benefits magnificent, but the BONDING!!!  THAT IS THE BEST PART!!!  Are babies are babies for such a short period of time...THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS GIFT!!!”

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