Home > Babies and Infection, Health > Do you Chew Food for your Baby?

Do you Chew Food for your Baby?

Do you chew food for your baby?  All mothers and fathers mean well and want what’s best for their babies…

Mother bird feeding babies.

As for humans, please do not chew the food and feed it to your baby.  This action has been seen quite a number of times in public and some are surprisingly even promoted on other articles and websites.  While all intentions are out of love, it really is not that good for the baby.  What one is essentially doing is transferring bacteria in the adult’s mouth and into the baby.  This type of action will bring more cavities down the road for the little ones along with other infections which can occur – bacterial, viral and even fungal.

Some may contest that this action may bolster the immune system for the infant.  Can those few confidently say that they are not harboring any oral diseases or other inapparent infections for that matter?  To make an extreme point, transmissions of pre-chewed food from a person with AIDS to child has been documented [1].  (HIV is not even a resilient virus outside of the body.)  Besides cavities, there is much greater chance of giving babies diseases via pre-chewed food ie. fungal infections such as candidiasis, bacterial infections such as strep throat, and various viruses causing colds and other gastrointestinal problems.  Furthermore, your baby’s immune system is very weak and still developing.  The baby is particularly susceptible to infections that may not be symptomatically showing in the adult.  The total immune capacity of the baby at one year of age is around 60% of adult levels.  The best course is to naturally let the normal flora of the baby develop.  The baby will best adapt to the surrounding environment without any additional help from the parent.

There are documented studies in Pediatric Dentistry [2] showing that the mothers are the primary source of Streptococcus mutans in children, the main bacteria that causes cavities [3].  Sharing utensils, giving kisses and even blowing on the food to cool it down increases the risk of transmission of Streptococcus mutans to the child.  Your baby is especially vulnerable to cavities because the enamel of the teeth is soft when they first erupt.

So what if chewed food has already been fed to the baby?  There is no need to worry about it too much.  [If your baby has teeth that are showing, it is good hygienic practice to start brushing the baby’s teeth.  One can use a moistened gauze with water and gently wipe the teeth and the gums.  Using a special baby toothbrush with baby toothpaste will work just as well.  At the very least brush your baby’s teeth in the morning and evening.]  If the baby is currently doing fine just don’t do it again in the future.  There are indeed many other factors that can contribute to oral health of the baby – genetic factors ie. amount of saliva produced, whether one is a mouth-breather or not, types of food ingested, hygienic practices, etc.  This tip is written to serve as a preventive measure and not a 100% cause and effect since every adult mouth has a unique set of microbial flora.

With that said, it is the best interest for your child’s oral health not to chew the food and feed it to your baby - instead mash it up by other physical and hygienic means.

References:

[1] Gaur, A.H., Dominguez, K.L., Kalish, M.L., Rivera-Hernandez, D., et al. Practice of Feeding Premasticated Food to Infants: A Potential Risk Factor for HIV Transmission. Pediatrics. 2009;124:658-666

[2] Berkowitz RJ. Mutans streptococci: Acquisition and transmission. Pediatr Dent. 2006;28:106–109. discussion 92-8.

[3] Law, V., Seow, W.K., Townsend, G. Factors influencing oral colonization of mutans striptococci in young children.  Aust Dent J; 2007 June;52(2):93-100

  1. Eileen
    March 30, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Sounds like common sense to me. I find it disgusting when I see parents sucking clean their babies dummy and then putting it into babies mouth. Or even just holding it teat in mouth while they strap the little one onto their buggy. Yuck

  2. May 7, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    In May 6, 2013, NPR reported on a study published in Pediatrics by Swedish scientists authored by Hesselmar et al. It is titled Pacifier Cleaning Practices and Risk of Allergy Development. In the study they concluded that “Parental sucking of their infant’s pacifier may reduce the risk of allergy development, possibly via immune stimulation by microbes transferred to the infant via the parent’s salive.” However interesting, it is important to state that further study is needed. Also the report is focusing solely on allergic factors. One can read the abstract and full PDF at this link – (Click here). The study shows that eczema but not sinus allergies had a significant correlation. Other consequences of parents sucking on pacifiers are not even mentioned nor are other diseases which may result from such action. This report does not give a green light to parents cleaning their baby’s pacifiers via sucking. It only shows that there might be a correlation with parents who clean their baby’s pacifier by sucking and eczema. While it “may” reduce the risk of allergy development, it “will” increase the occurence of cavities and other communicable diseases namely herpes (encephalitis), H. Pylori, strep throat etc. It is unfortunate and irresponsible to see many other websites supporting and even promoting this action after the NPR report.

    Happy Baby USA strongly discourages this act.

    There are many other ways to introduce “safer” bacteria to your baby such as probiotics and yogurts. For allergy sufferers there are some reports which show that regularly ingesting of local honey from your area (before the allergy season hits) will help alleviate sinus allergies from pollen. (Don’t give honey to babies less than one years of age.)

  3. Varick
    May 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    They reference articles about HIV and strep – obviously if you’re sick, that is to say playing host to unwanted and dengerous bacteria/virii, you shouldn’t be transmitting fluids. That has no bearing on healthy adults premasticating for their children.

  4. May 8, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Streptococci mutans is a well known, and well studied bacteria causing cavities. It is an acquired bacteria in which babies are not born with this bacteria. Premasticating for babies and toddlers are not recommended because the tooth enamel of small children is much softer than the mature adult tooth. Early introduction of such bacteria will cause much troubles down the road.

    It is also taught in both dental and medical school that there are communicable diseases that can be transferred from the mouth by saliva (the host may also be unaware of having the disease) – ie. herpes, hepatitis and even mononucleosis. The person is unaware of the early symptoms of “mono” and many times pass it to their partners during kissing. Thus, mononucleousis is also known as the “kissing disease“.

    There are “cultural” differences in the acceptance of premasticating of food by the adult to the children. I myself was fed with premasticated food (when the food was too hard to chew) by my mother who provided unconditional love and cared for me very much. She thought what was best for me at that time.

    However “scientifically” speaking and what we know now, feeding premasticated food from adult to child is not the best interest for the child for the various reasons listed above.

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