Why Prechewing Your Baby’s Food Is Like Breastfeeding

Video of actress Alicia Silverstone feeding her infant like a baby bird – slipping chewed food from her mouth to his – shocked some mothers. It also inspired Jimmy Kimmel’s panel of parents “willing to Silverstone their helpless babies.”

Now, scientists are discussing the benefits of what they call “premastication”  – a feeding method that’s common for babies in Africa and Asia. In fact, 93% of China’s university students say their mothers prechewed their food when they were babies, acccording to a survey that Cornell University anthropologist Gretel Pelto found. Pelto believes the mother’s saliva makes an infant’s immune system stronger. She also believes premastication may prevent asthma and allergy attacks later on in a baby’s life because the baby’s immune system learns to fight pathogens in the mother’s saliva.


Pelto points out that a few decades a go, a lot of people called breastfeeding gross. Formula was considered a better way to feed an infant.  “The evidence for breast milk is overwhelming,” Pelto said. We think the story is identical for both breastfeeding and pre-mastication — they save lives by ensuring good nutrition and good development of the immune system. The evidence for pre-mastication has yet to be completed, but the logic is clear and the epidemiological evidence supports it.”

So, what do you think? Would you think about prechewing your baby’s food for the sake of his or her immune system?