Pre-chewing food is one way for mothers who have no access to commercial baby food – or who simply can't afford it – to prepare puréed food for their babies. The practice of pre-chewing food usually is associated with poor countries. Occasionally, though, mothers and care-givers in the developed world engage in the practice – perhaps as a way to induce a baby to eat.
The practice of feeding pre-chewed food was already known to increase the risk of early development of tooth decay in children. Now, researchers at St. Jude's and the CDC have discovered that pre-chewed food also can transmit the AIDS virus (HIV) from mother to child.
The research report, which will appear in the August 2009 issue of Pediatrics, documents three such cases of AIDS transmission in the United States. HIV is not transmitted in saliva; blood must be present. This can happen if the person doing the chewing suffers from bleeding gums. The baby, too, must have an open sore in its mouth – perhaps as a result of teething.
While the practice of pre-chewing is uncommon in developed countries, it is not unheard of. A quick Google search turned up several websites where the practice is discussed: Alternative Baby and Yahoo! Answers, to name just two.
If, for some reason, you feel compelled to engage in this practice, be sure that your dental hygiene is impeccable. Otherwise, your baby will receive an unexpected and unwanted dietary supplement – a smorgasbord of all the bacteria and viruses that live in your mouth.