Remember when Alicia Silverstone admitted that she fed her child like a bird? In an interview, she said that she chewed up his food for him and spit it into his mouth, a method that's referred to as pre-mastication and is common among both birds and humans in ancient cultures.
At the time, I was pretty grossed out by it. I certainly didn't understand why Silverstone was going public with it. "Dude, do what floats your boat and keep it to yourself," I thought to myself. But then I tried feeding my baby like a bird for myself, and I gotta tell you, I kind of want to shout about it from the rooftops, because it was actually pretty great.
I have now parented three babies. My least favorite part of the first year is introducing solid foods. There are a lot of reasons for this (the most obvious being the changes in poop odor), but the biggest one is that mealtimes suddenly become a nerve-wracking part of the day. When you're introducing solids, babies have to learn how to move the food around their mouths so they don't gag, and you constantly have to make sure they aren't choking. And if you're feeding purees, then your baby is just grabbing the spoon from you and most of the food gets splattered everywhere.
With my third child, I mostly do baby-led weaning, meaning I just give him whatever food we are eating and have him feed himself. Either I break it into tiny pieces for him to try to shovel into his mouth, or I hand him things like red pepper sticks or pizza crust to gnaw on. I seriously can't be bothered to puree my own food. (That's something I only I did for a few weeks with my oldest, and he essentially hated all food until he was ten months old. It was a lot of effort for nothing.)
My youngest child, however, absolutely loves food. He enthusiastically says "more" and waves his arms around to get our attention. He shovels his food into his mouth faster than I can break it into tiny pieces, and I can't even recount how many times he's gleefully pulled my plate toward him so he could have more food. It's incredibly messy and hectic, so I was looking for a better way. Feeding him from my mouth seemed like a good idea, especially for chewy things that he could potentially choke on, like meat.
The first time I tried it, my partner made this amazing barbecue chicken. My baby really wanted some, so I decided to give it a go. I chewed the chicken into mash, and I just gave him a kiss and sort of pushed a tiny bit to my lips. He slurped it up.
My baby and I share everything — including, I guess, chewed food.
Admittedly, writing the word "slurp" makes it sound kind of gross. I also acknowledge that there are people who might be grossed out that we share germs, particularly if they fall on the anti-side of the "is it OK to kiss your child on the lips?" debate. Because I fall on the pro side, we likely exchange spit on a regular basis, so I wasn't that concerned about pre-chewing his food for him. I'm sure there will come a time when I'm more grossed out by his bodily functions, but, for now, my baby and I share everything — including, I guess, chewed food.
The one downside to me feeding him like a bird is that now, when I'm eating something he wants, he will attack my face. But, whatever, if he wants some, I've got more than enough for him to have a taste. To be honest, it feels perfectly natural to feed him this way.
The best part about pre-masticating my son's food? The clean-up is easy. His hands aren't sticky. There isn't puree splattered everywhere or cereal all over the floor. His face doesn't even get messy. One of the tasks that wears me out the most is washing my kid's sticky hands and face in the sink, and by pre-chewing his food, I'm more than happy to take the post-meal cleanup out of the equation.
To be honest, it feels perfectly natural to feed him this way.
That said, I wouldn't pre-masticate my baby's food all the time. I think my baby learns a lot about how to eat food when he puts it in his mouth himself and chews it up, which is sort of one of the main goals of baby-led-weaning. But if he's attacking his food with great speed, or if we're on the go, I'm sure I'll keep feeding him like a baby bird. I might not do it in public, because of the looks I'd get. But, honestly, I just admitted to all of you that I do it, so maybe I shouldn't care.
People can judge me and Alicia Silverstone for pre-masticating our babies' food. But in response, I'd like to quote a classic line from her most famous movie: Whatever.