How can I convince my daughter-in-law that it’s unhealthy to pre-chew food for my grandchild?

I went out to lunch the other day with my daughter-in-law and four-month old grandbaby. Everything was going well until shortly after the food arrived. Of course, my grandbaby wanted to dine as well, but you can imagine my surprise when my daughter-in-law chewed a bite of food and spit it into the baby’s mouth. Disgusting! I couldn’t believe she did that. This continued on through the whole meal. Not only did I lose my appetite, but I can’t believe she’d expose her child to germs like that. How can I get her to see how disgusting and unhealthy this practice is?


A dismayed grandma

Dear Grandma,

The process of premastication (prechewing food) has been around for as long as people have. Of course, the advent of puréed baby foods and cereals has largely done away with the practice, but it’s still done throughout the world.

It certainly can be unhealthy. It’s been said that as many as 500 different bacteria can be transferred in a single kiss- premastication is no different. In addition, both actions can pass on viruses and disease. Anything from the common cold to periodontal disease to Hepatitis B can be spread through saliva. Recent studies have even suggested that if there is an open wound, HIV can even be spread through premastication. That doesn’t simply make the process disgusting, it can make it deadly.

With that said, you may have noticed that I used the word “can” several times. This is because sharing saliva also has the potential to be beneficial. In a healthy mouth from a well person, saliva can pass on good bacteria, antibodies and digestive enzymes that will help a baby digest the food easier. Interestingly enough, some scientists actually believe kissing is a result of our ancestors prechewing food for their offspring. There’s also a few studies that suggest kissing evolved (much like premastication) as a form of inoculating a woman against illnesses that could harm her or her unborn child if she became pregnant. Either way, it’s clear that there is a real basis and benefits for this pastime.

I don’t know your daughter-in-law’s oral health status. If she is healthy, there’s really no medical basis for her not to feed the baby this way. As for it being disgusting, I can’t argue with that. It’s not something I would ever do and, although I did see Alicia Silverstone feed her son this way in a video that went viral a while back, I have never seen someone do it in real life. Unfortunately, if your daughter-in-law has no medical or oral health concerns, your argument is solely opinion-based. All I can tell you in regards to that is to choose your battles wisely. Good luck!

This blog is sponsored by Elgin Dentist, Dr. Steve Sirin.

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