Is honey bad for babies? The not-so-sweet truth
Fact-checked by MFine | Last Updated : November 6th, 2019
Honey has always been associated with a lot of health benefits. However, many experts don't recommend feeding it to your baby. Find out why honey is often considered harmful for babies below 1.
The birth of a baby all around the world is a reason for celebration. In India, there are certain rituals and ceremonies that mark every auspicious occasion. One of these is feeding the baby a little honey, sometimes as early as two hours after birth. The reason behind this age-old tradition is the belief that it gives your little one a sweet start in life. Recently, however, there have been many concerns raised about the safety of honey for babies. So should you stop sweetening your baby’s food with a little honey? After all, Ayurveda says that honey has numerous health benefits for babies. Here is all you need to know to decide. Also read our blog on How to Stop Vomiting in Children: Use These Proven Home Remedies
The bad news about honey for babiesMedically, many experts advise parents to skip honey until their child is at least a year old or older. The scientific reason behind this is that honey can contain botulism spores, which are very dangerous for infants. These spores are usually dormant in honey and cannot be removed even during processing. This means that both raw ‘pure’ honey and the bottles of processed honey you can find on your store shelf are equally bad for your little one. Honey is also often found in pre-packaged baby foods, so make sure you read the ingredient label carefully before buying them. It’s always safest to make your own baby food recipes with a complete baby food chart so you have full control over what goes into your baby’s food.
How do botulism spores affect your baby?Your baby’s immature gut does not have any defense against botulism spores. Their stomachs are not acidic enough to kill these spores. Clostridium botulinum spores find it easy to germinate, multiply and release toxins that can lead to a dangerous condition called infant botulism or food poisoning. But is honey dangerous for babies of all ages? The answer to this is, no. Toddlers and older children have had time to build up defenses that inhibit the germination of these spores. Some might argue that babies have been fed honey for hundreds of years with no serious consequences, so what’s the harm now? The answer to this is that honey today is more likely to be contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. Honey is not a regulated food and does not follow any set standards. To be on the safe side, it is always best to remember that the minimum age for honey to be given to babies after they are a year old.
Symptoms of infant botulismSince honey is a thick liquid and does not contain protein, the spores will remain dormant in it, ready to spring into action when the environment is right. The symptoms of infant botulism take about 8 to 36 hours to appear. Some of these symptoms of botulism include:
- Constipation, often accompanied by lethargy
- Difficulty in breathing
- Lolling head i.e loss of control of their head movement
- Reduction in sucking reflex
- Drooping eyelids