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Alicia Silverstone: new poster mommy for pre-chewing baby food?

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Matt Sayles/AP

(Read caption) Alicia Sliverstone has been in out of the headlines recently due to a viral video showing her pre-chewing food before feeding it to her son, perhaps setting herself up as the new poster mommy of premastication. Baby food, in its artificially-pureed form, sits on a shelf in a Los Angeles convenience store.

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It’s been a few weeks now since we wrote about “Clueless” star Alicia Silverstone and her habit of pre-chewing food for her then 10-month-old son, Bear Blu, and feeding him out of her own mouth.

At the time, a video of Silverstone’s mamma bird feeding had gone viral after the actress posted it on her own site, The Kind Life. 

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The Internet community has been buzzing – and gagging – ever since, with comments ranging from the “eww” to the “gross.” (And with some  moms jumping in to defend Silverstone's technique, as well.)

Now, Silverstone herself has responded to the criticism of premastication. (Yes, the practice has a more official name than “baby birding.”)

“I can understand that it would make some people feel uncomfortable, possibly, because it’s new to them,” Silverstone told “Entertainment Tonight” recently.  “But I do want to let you know that this has been going on for thousands of years – still going on all over the place – and it’s natural.”

Indeed, in the 2010 issue of the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition, researchers argued that premastication plays a crucial role in infant health, and that it’s relatively recent abandonment – particularly in poor societies – is a significant threat to infant nutrition.  Pre-chewing food, many researchers say, helps give weaning infants iron, increased immunity and improved digestion.

As Silverstone said on the show: “It’s a part of the weaning process, so while I’m still breastfeeding, it’s just a way to introduce him to food.”

Some critics, on the other hand, worry about the health impacts premastication. They say pre-chewing food for babies could transmit disease – and worry, in particular, about the HIV virus.

Silverstone says she never imagined the video would garner as wide a viewership or reaction as it has.  But she says she’s happy it’s out there.

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And sure – nothing like a good debate over baby feeding techniques. (Check the mommy chat rooms if you want more.)  But let's not forget that there are many more issues out there that probably deserve more debate and attention.  Even in the realm of food. 

Consider, or instance:

  • New research in the journal “Food Chemistry” from scientists in the UK says leading commercial brands of baby food may be seriously lacking in nutritional benefits. 
  • A quarter of 2-3 year olds don’t eat a single serving of fruit a day, and 30 percent don’t eat a single serving of vegetables, according to findings in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Related: Are you a Helicopter Parent? Take our quiz to find out!

So I say, go ahead and chew, Alicia. 

And let’s maybe move the discussion elsewhere.