C’mon, admit it. If no ones watching and you drop some food on the floor, I bet you eat it, don’t you? Maybe brush it off or blow on it, or even rinse it in the sink. But, you eat it. And, if it’s a particularly yummy piece of food and someone does happen to be watching, you always have the immunity provided to you by the ‘5-second rule’ (unfortunately, a recent study on the 5-second rule and lots of nerdy scientists tell us that it's not a very good rule).
So, how many of you out there who’ve raised kids have adhered to the 5-second rule for the kids? No lying here, I mean it, answer truthfully. I guarantee you that even the most germophobic parents (think Jack Nicholson’s character in ‘As Good as it Gets’) let their babies eat food off the ground on occasion. But, you’d never really admit it, would you?
Sure, when they’re babies, we coddle them so much. Can’t let any germs get near them! Sterilize everything, pacifiers, bottles, toys, etc. Can’t have too much hand sanitizer around the baby, wash your hands before touching them, etcetera, etcetera. But somewhere along the way, sterile procedures sort of go out the window. Sometimes it’s with the second or third kid. Sometimes it’s when they grow into toddlerhood and there’s simply no avoiding them putting anything not nailed down into their mouths.
With Jack, I am somewhat reluctant to admit that we let the microbes intermingle rather early in his life. I like to think he’s stronger and more fit because of it. A pacifier on the floor? Ah, that’s just more immunity for the baby. Licking the handrail at the busy airport…that’s ok, right? How old do you suppose that ant-covered fruit loop that he just ate under the park bench is, anyway?
Being scientists, we knew that 99.9% of microbes in the environment are harmless, and many can actually be beneficial. In fact, there’s a huge scientific endeavor afoot, spending millions of research dollars to explore just which and how many of those critters we have living on and in us (see the Human Microbiome project), as well as the positive and negative effects they have on us. Some of the more interesting results from this research suggest that the bacteria found in our guts can actually influence whether we’re skinny or fat (I’m still trying to figure out a way to market this—my latest slogan: “Poop your way to a thinner you” doesn’t quite seem to work). How do you get these bacteria in your gut you ask? Well, from your mom of course, and others you live closely with...and, no, you don’t really want to know how it gets from their guts to yours.
Anyone who’s ever been near a baby or toddler knows that anything on the floor goes right into their mouths along with the millions of microbes on that object. Toys, keys, iPhones, whatever. Heck, we were at the Children's zoo the other day and Jack grabbed some goat poop in the petting area…and, well, you get the picture. The hand sanitizer that they had provided for kids to wash the goat microbes off didn’t really seem all that relevant for our particular situation.
So, if the baby is allowed to put everything else in his mouth that was on the floor, isn’t it OK if the baby also puts food in his mouth from the floor? We all know they do it all the time, so why are we embarrassed by it? Why do we hide our behavior from other parents and our friends? Why don’t we just embrace it?
I say we should shed our inhibitions and let the toddlers eat from the floor without shame. That’s what we do at home. So, I’m going to come out here start an advocacy group to abolish the 5-second rule for toddlers. No need to hide anymore. Let’s cut out the middle-man and simply put the food right on the ground for the kid to eat.
So, you heard it here first. No more shame in babies eating from the floor. I’m going to call the group: “Babies Are Certainly Tolerant of Eating Right on Interior floors and Asphalt” (B.A.C.T.E.R.I.A.). Look for our lobbyists in DC to play a big role in the next election!
And finally, one of my my all-time-favorite Homer Simpson lines seems to be a fitting end to this post.
(Disclaimer: You might want to avoid putting the food right on the dirt, and limit it to hardwood and tile floors indoors, and cement and asphalt outside. And, as we discovered this morning, yogurt and macaroni and cheese are probably not good floor food. And, well, maybe you can keep using high chairs for meal times and in restaurants. And, those of you with dogs might have a battle on your hands, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out)