As of late, my little man Chaim Yosef Davidescu has a neat little trick that he performs at the dinner table — well, at the dinner high chair, anyhow. He starts by putting something in his mouth — cracker, grape, or otherwise. Most of the time he will give it a good chewing and swallow. Sometimes, however, he will realize that he suddenly wants a drink from his sippy cup and so instead of continuing to process his current food, he pauses and just takes it out of his mouth. The trick comes if I happen to be near him when he makes this decision and he juts out his hand, partially chewed food in it, toward me as an offering. I have told him on a number of occasions that his Tati is just not interested in eating partially chewed food and that he is neither child nor bird.
This was before I read about a habit that Alicia Silverstone has taken with her own child, Bear Blu, in which she chews the food he will eat for him before dropping it into his mouth from her own mouth in a manner much like a bird.
First I would like to address an issue which is the tremendous amount of hostility that has been expressed toward Silverstone since she made this announcement on her web site. People have called her crazy and wonder if this is just because she is a celebrity or perhaps even because she is a Vegan. I am embarrassed for the Vegan community that it has been badly tarnished as a result of this habit which is completely unrelated to being a Vegan — I imagine that there are carnivores who similarly pre-chew the food for their babies.
The idea of pre-chewing the food, if I understand it correctly, is to be a sort of human food processor for the child. I believe that this methodology is problematic for a couple of reasons, one of which is that I imagine that it ultimately will make it that much harder for the child to transition from eating liquid foods to solid foods because if the child sees the food coming from a utensil (spoon, spork, or otherwise) they will be able to make the move to feeding themselves easier than if it is coming directly from their mother’s mouth.
I am all for healthy eating habits (we only feed our little man Chaim Yosef vegetarian food until the age of two as advised by Dr. Spock in his last update to his book on parenting, at which point I hope to move him to a more vegan diet. Having said this, even with the attachment parenting techniques that we do use we would never have imagined treating our child like a little bird. I would not bash someone for bird feeding their child, however, if that is what has been working for them.