Feeding baby like a bird

'Clueless' Star Alicia Silverstone Fed Her Son Like Birds By Pre-chewing His Food

There’s no one right way to be a parent. Kids need love, and aside from that, there are many ways to successfully raise a child. Some parents prefer to helicopter, others follow the attachment parenting guide. And then there’s whatever Alicia Silverstone does.

The Clueless star has one child, a son named Bear Blu. Little Bear was born in 2011, and today is 8 years old. Bear and Silverstone are very close. Although she may not do it anymore, she had an unusual way of feeding Bear when he was a little cub. 

Alicia Silverstone fed her son Bear like a bird 


In 2012, Silverstone revealed she pre-chews Bear’s food like a bird. She posted a video of herself sitting on a couch with Bear, holding a bowl of soup. She then takes a bite of food and chews it, before spitting it back out into Bear’s mouth.

The process is apparently called ‘pre-mastication,’ according to an NBC News health expert. Silverstone posted the video on her own lifestyle blog, which is dedicated to health food. 

On her blog, TheKindLife.com, Silverstone wrote that the ritual is very special. Both she and Bear enjoy it. She wrote: “I fed Bear the mochi and a tiny bit of veggies from the soup…from my mouth to his. It’s his favorite…and mine.”

The video sparked controversy and disgust in some, but there were others genuinely wondering if this is a good way to feed a child. 

Feeding mouth-to-mouth is normal in some cultures  

Alicia Silverstone | Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

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One blogger interviewed about the incident pointed out that this practice is likely age-old. Parents today were grossed out, but they may not be thinking about the course of human history.

Today, parents usually buy their baby food in the supermarket. It comes liquefied already. More intrepid moms and dads may cook their own vegetables and blend them at home. But both of those processes involve modern technology and industry that wasn’t always available and isn’t available in all parts of the world. 

In remote areas, parents don’t have access to store bought baby food, or to industrial appliances for puréeing food. So sometimes chewing it manually first is the safest and most effective way to feed a baby.

It’s still common in many parts of the world, even in the United States. Moms in East and South Asia still premasticate for their babies today, although that may be in part out of necessity. In the US, 1 in 7 caregivers says they’ve done it before. So while Silverstone’s video may seem weird and stomach-churning, moms everywhere do the same thing. 

Feeding babies like Alicia Silverstone may have some health benefits 

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There are health negatives to premastication, according to the CDC. It may be a factor in the spread of HIV from a HIV+ mother to her HIV- child. It could also transfer bacteria that could lead to tooth decay, or other illnesses like strep throat. But there may be positives too. 

Just like bacteria in breast milk may boost a baby’s immune system, some scientists theorize that bacteria in premasticated food could do the same. Other scientists think that’s unlikely. Still, others think that it could depend entirely on the food being given to the child.

Premasticating processed food, for example, probably is not protective. Although Silverstone’s video seems gross, it is important to understand that people have been pre-chewing food for centuries.

The first recorded mention of it is in 1025 A.D. No matter how a parent chooses to feed a child, mom-shaming is never okay. In the 1940s and 1950s, breastfeeding was often shamed. Now it’s recognized as a fine way to feed a baby. Maybe Silverstone is just ahead of her time. 

Should You Pre-Chew Your Baby's Food?

Pre-chewing your baby's food can boost his or her immune system. (Image credit: <a href="http://image.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/187633/187633,1215124044,1/stock-photo-mother-feeding-baby-food-to-baby-14501131.jpg">Image</a> via Shutterstock)

The actress Alicia Silverstone got a lot of grief last week after posting a video to her blog in which she is shown "pre-chewing" her baby's food, and offering it to him straight from her mouth. The "Clueless" star's 10-month-old son, Bear, appears to enjoy being fed like a baby bird. "He literally crawls across the room to attack my mouth if I'm eating," Silverstone blogged.

While most people who commented on the video were quick to voice their disgust and vilify the ill-considered whims of celebrity parents, science suggests that "pre-mastication," or the pre-chewing of adult food for infants, is actually a traditional and healthy feeding method. Standard practice among our blender-lacking ancestors, pre-chewing is still the norm in many non-Western cultures. The act exposes infants to their mothers' saliva, giving them an immune system boost that they can't get from the sterile, pulverized baby food bought in stores.

The benefits of pre-chewing have only recently been investigated, but they appear to parallel those of breast-feeding.

Babies start requiring non-milk food in their diets at six months old, but they don't develop the molars they need to chew most foods until age 18 to 24 months. According to research led by Gretel Pelto, an anthropologist at Cornell University, pre-mastication was the solution to feeding infants during this interim period for most of human history, and remains the method used in many cultures today. Rather than being unhygienic, Pelto and many other scientists think the feeding method carries on the immune-system-building process that begins with breastfeeding. By exposing infants to traces of disease pathogens present in a mother's saliva, it gears up their production of antibodies, teaching their immune systems how to deal with those same pathogens later. [Could Humans Live Without Bacteria?]

It may also prevent the onset of autoimmune diseases, such as asthma, that are very common in industrialized societies. These conditions arise when one's immune system mistakenly attacks one's own cells, and such ailments have been strongly linked to underexposure to diseases during childhood. "The epidemiological evidence [shows there are] increases in asthma and various allergic conditions in children and adults whose environments had significantly reduced pathogen exposure in early life," Pelto told Life's Little Mysteries.

The most common argument against pre-mastication is that infants occasionally catch infectious diseases from the saliva itself. For example, women with HIV are advised against pre-chewing their babies' food. However, research shows that disease transmission through pre-mastication is far less common than was previously assumed, because natural antibodies in saliva significantly reduce the infectiousness of the disease pathogens present there. Research by the immunologist Samuel Baron of the University of Texas Medical Branch has demonstrated that the risk of HIV transmission via saliva is actually very low — lower than the risk of transmission via breast milk.

Breast-feeding was outmoded in the 1950s, and has since seen a renaissance. Silverstone may simply be ahead of the curve regarding pre-mastication. "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."

Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover. Follow Life's Little Mysteries on Twitter @llmysteries, then join us on Facebook.

Natalie Wolchover was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012 and is currently a senior physics writer and editor for Quanta Magazine. She holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Tufts University and has studied physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Along with the staff of Quanta, Wolchover won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory writing for her work on the building of the James Webb Space Telescope. Her work has also appeared in the The Best American Science and Nature Writing and The Best Writing on Mathematics, Nature, The New Yorker and Popular Science. She was the 2016 winner of the  Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award, an annual prize for young science journalists, as well as the winner of the 2017 Science Communication Award for the American Institute of Physics. 

How to feed the birds? | Material around the world:

Discuss with your child if you can make a bird feeder and feed the birds in winter. This is a good way to strengthen friendly relations with children, teach them to care for the weak and helpless. A good deed can help you find new friends in the yard. You need to take on this good deed with one condition: you need to add food to the feeder DAILY. Birds remember feeders, and instead of looking for new ones, they will fly to yours every day and wait. It turns out that you will deceive the birds in the cold, endangering their lives if you forget to replenish the feeder. Feeders are relevant for feeding small birds: tits, sparrows, bullfinches. Sparrows are better adapted to life in the city, because tits and bullfinches are the most vulnerable birds in winter that need your help. Having found a feeder, some birds will tell others about it, and your bird canteen will not be empty. WHAT CAN YOU FEED BIRDS: 1. The best top dressing is sunflower seeds: only unroasted and unsalted! Unpeeled seeds are better: the birds are used to working with their beaks on their own. Also suitable are pumpkin seeds. 2. Oats, millet. Millet is unshelled millet, sold in pet stores in the form of grain mixtures for parrots. These cereals do not swell in the stomach. You can not feed rice, buckwheat: these cereals swell in the stomach and cause suffering to birds. Millet is undesirable: unlike millet, from which it is made, toxic substances are formed on the cleaned surface of millet during storage. 3. Pieces of unsalted, unsmoked fat. This feeding is especially important for tits. In frosts, the birds will also be grateful for pieces of butter. Fat can be hung near the feeder in one large piece or tied to it. Birds will sit on it and peck. 4. Bread in the form of crumbs is only white. Black is not allowed, it causes fermentation and pain in the stomach of birds. You should not put pieces of bread, especially in frost, the birds will not be able to peck at it. 5. Boiled grated egg. 6. Pieces of apples, grated carrots. 7. Nuts, dried fruits. 8. Low-fat cottage cheese. 9. Bullfinches will be happy with rowan berries, and tits do not eat berries. WHAT YOU CAN MAKE A FEEDER FROM: • Cardboard packaging from juice or milk • Plastic bottles for drinks. In the cold, the plastic becomes sharp and can cut the paws of the birds. Therefore, the entrance cut out in the feeder must be securely pasted over with electrical tape. Scotch tape is not suitable for this, as it does not have softness. • Wicker basket • Or buy a ready-made feeder at the pet store The hole in the feeder should be wide enough so that the feeder does not become a trap for the birds. But not so big that pigeons could get in there. The position of the feeder should not allow cats to approach it. If you use a rope when making a feeder, then do it in such a way that the birds cannot get entangled in it in any way. And when using wire, do not leave sharp edges that can injure the birds. You need to hang it so that it is protected from snow and wind, preferably on the south side of the tree. A window feeder is not the best option, as it is a source of garbage for you and your neighbors. In addition, birds in search of food can knock on glass and fly into open windows, which often ends in their death. Therefore, it is better to hang feeders at the edge of the nearest park or forest. Wherever the feeder is located - on the balcony or in the forest, accustom the birds to the fact that at a certain time you will fill the feeder 1-2 times a day. It is better not to pour too much, there should be enough food for the birds to immediately eat it. The birds will quickly get used to the fact that at a certain time they can feed themselves, and the rest of the day they will have to look for food themselves.

how to make a feeder for birds and how to feed the birds in winter

On winter feeders you can often observe funny quarrels - a small but brave tap dance drives away a great tit from valuable food. Photo: Anna Lukyanchikova

Winter is a difficult time for birds. With the onset of the cold season and snowfall, birds lose access to the seeds of wild plants. In search of food, sparrows, woodpeckers, greenfinches, bullfinches, tits and titmouse move closer to human habitation. Often in the diet of wintering birds, foods that are unsuitable for them appear - spoiled fruits from landfills, salted lard and moldy white bread. Proper feeding of birds not only helps birds survive the cold, but also stay healthy. Organize a bird canteen with your child so that you can watch birds all winter without leaving the city.

Ruddy bullfinches rarely look at the feeders, and they are always interesting to watch. They love unsalted lard and seeds. By the way, only males have a bright red breast. Photo: Anna Lukyanchikova

Is it necessary to feed the birds in winter?

Birds that do not fly away to warmer climes with the onset of cold weather are called wintering birds. These are sparrows, pigeons, crows and jackdaws familiar to the townspeople - city birds that are used to feeding near humans. Forest birds are more cautious, but they also move to cities with the onset of cold weather, and then return to forest parks and green areas. In winter, at the feeder you can meet bullfinches and tits, nuthatches, pikas, greenfinches, tap dances, woodpeckers, blue tit and other species. Wintering birds are adapted to the cold, but whether they can survive the winter and in what quantity depends on the person. Do-it-yourself bird feeders help to survive not only strong, but also young, weakened birds.

Moskovka is a small tit, which is rarely seen in the city and is listed in the Red Book. But even she is not averse to eating sunflower seeds on a hemp in winter. By the way, these stumps can be used as natural canteens for birds if there are no ordinary feeders nearby. Photo: Anna Lukyanchikova

What are bird feeders made of?

If you want to buy a ready-made bird feeder or make it yourself, you should pay attention to the fact that the bird canteen must meet some requirements: Safe The feeder is designed to help the birds - so you should take care that it does not have sharp edges or narrow holes where the pichuga can get stuck. If you are making a plastic feeder, glue or melt the edges, or even better, use wood. It is better to refuse metal - the legs of feathered neighbors can freeze. Eco friendly You can make a feeder out of a plastic bottle or a milk carton, but these canteens tend to get soggy or clog up quickly. The plastic needs to be cleaned periodically and the edges made safe right away, and tetra-pak feeders will need to be changed every 2-3 weeks. A wooden feeder or any other reusable alternative would be a great option.

The feeder in the photo is a masterpiece of carpentry, but it is not difficult to repeat it in a simplified version. Materials are easy to pick up at a hardware store or use the remnants of your building materials. It remains only to connect all the parts and treat them with a wood preservative that is harmless to birds. Photo: klimkin, Pixabay

Easy care The feeder should be cleaned regularly to keep the food from spoiling and bacteria from accumulating in it. If the bottom is wide and access to it is open, you can easily remove the remnants of food and fill in a new one, and after the end of the feeding season, thoroughly wash the feeder. Constantly filled Birds perfectly remember feeding places and fly there every day to dine. It is better to fill the feeder constantly so that the birds do not waste their energy, but even if your feeder is sometimes empty, it's okay. After all, birds have a whole map of places in their heads where they can eat. It is best that the food in the feeder is in the evening so that the birds can eat before the cold night. And if you don't always manage to put down the feed, you can team up with neighbors and friends who will also fill the feeder.

Greenfinch, like other wintering birds, enjoys shelling sunflower seeds in a wooden feeder. Photo: Anna Lukyanchikova

Well-designed At the bottom of the feeder, you need to provide bumpers so that the food does not spill out, and close the building with a roof on top - this way you will not only extend the shelf life of the food inside, but also hide the pichug from predators like hawks. Bird friendly It is not very comfortable for birds to feed in an open place - dangers await them everywhere. It is best to place the bird's dining room near the bushes or among the trees - so the birds will be more comfortable. The height should be convenient for filling the feeder, and the food should be accessible to the birds.

Another version of the feeder is mesh. The design allows you to lay a large supply of food at once, and the net allows you to feed even when the lower part is covered with snow. There is a large hole at the bottom of the feeder, in the photo it is covered with snow, but birds can peck seeds through the cells. Photo: Forest Simon, Unspash

What materials should I use to make my feeder?

Plastic Acrylic and polypropylene are resistant to temperature changes and are easy to clean. Acrylic also has high transparency - a great option for those who like to photograph birds and watch them. Metal If you choose a metal feeder, only a metal mesh will do - if a large area of ​​\u200b\u200bthe feeder is made of this material, birds can freeze to it with their paws. Wood Wood is a classic and suitable material for making a feeder. Before hanging, the house should be covered with an antiseptic or varnish in order to protect it from weather conditions and mold, but you should pay attention to the composition - the coating must be safe for birds. For example, used oil is not suitable for lining the feeder.

Tap-dancing birds are small forest birds that enjoy eating sunflower seeds. Males have a red spot on their heads. Photo: Anna Lukyanchikova

What to feed the birds?

In winter, birds need high-calorie food. The basis of filling the feeder should be raw unsalted seeds and nuts . Tits, nuthatches and bullfinches will appreciate butter and lard (the main thing is not salty). And woodpeckers and jays will rejoice acorns . You can add fresh and dried fruits, berries, and whole grains such as millet or corn . In small quantities, dried white bread is also suitable, but plant foods are still better. The more different foods you put in the feeder, the greater the species diversity of feathered guests will be.

On the video you can watch different birds and listen again to the basic rules of winter feeding

Interestingly, many ornithologists and birdwatchers argue about whether it is possible to put shelled sunflower and millet seeds in the feeder. The thing is that these products quickly oxidize and deteriorate. Therefore, if it is not possible to put something else in the feeder, add peeled seeds and millet in small quantities, and if they lie for a long time, clean the feeder from these products.

Two in one: a solid wooden feeder next to a bird biscuit on which a nuthatch sits. Photo: Fabianna Freeman, Unsplash

How to make a feeder with your child?

Making and caring for a feeder is a great opportunity to introduce your child to different types of birds and instill a love of nature. Make a bird feeder together and take care of it during your daily walks. Below you will find some interesting 9 feeder options0022, which are suitable if there are no boards or plastic bottles at hand. Edible feeder The simplest version of the feeder, which does not need to be washed and cleaned. Mix seeds, pieces of dried fruit with melted lard or fat, pour into a silicone mold and put a string in it. Place the food in the freezer to chill. Make bird cakes regularly and hang them in the same place. Remove the empty ropes and, if possible, reuse them (after all, if you leave the rope on a live tree branch, over time it can pinch the branch, and it will dry out). Purchased feeder If you do not have leftover building materials or the opportunity to make a feeder with your own hands, you can purchase a ready-made version. Usually such feeders are made of plywood - with a child, you can paint it in any colors and give an individual style to your own bird cafe.

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