When your baby begins solids at around 6 months old, it’s normal to be excited to introduce them to all of your favorite foods. But not everything is safe for a baby, and honey is one of those items. You may be surprised to learn that this liquid-y syrup is a no-go, but there’s a good reason for it. Below, we discuss the dangers of introducing honey too early in a baby’s diet, the best age for it, and how to do it.
Best Age To Introduce Honey
It may be sweet and have a smooth consistency, but honey is not one of the first foods your baby should eat. WebMD explains that babies shouldn’t have honey before their 1st birthday. This does not just mean raw honey, but in any form – baked, drizzled, or otherwise. Honey poses a life-threatening danger to young children, which is why you should steer clear.
Once your child passes their first birthday (and you get the go-ahead from their doctor), you can slowly introduce honey into their diet.
Risk Of Eating Honey Too Early
The reason honey is so dangerous for babies is that it can cause botulism. This is a form of food poisoning caused by a bacterium called Clostridium. This bacterium thrives in dirt and soil but is able to contaminate certain foods it comes in contact with.
People of all ages can develop botulism, but it can be especially severe (and even fatal) in babies. According to Healthline, 70% of infants who develop botulism need to be put on mechanical ventilation for an average of 23 days. Additionally, babies with botulism stay in the hospital for an average of 44 days.
Though serious, the good news is that most babies recover following botulism, though it’s a long process. The condition has a 2% fatality rate.
Food-borne botulism is characterized by a wide range of symptoms, including the following:
- Dry mouth
- Facial weakness
- Stomach cramps
- Difficulty breathing
- Blurred or double vision
- Trouble speaking and swallowing
These symptoms will vary depending on the age of the infected person. In babies, the first sign is often constipation, Mayo Clinic explains. You may also observe the following signs:
- Weak cry
- Droopy eyelids
- Unusual fatigue
- Floppy movements
- Difficulty feeding, sucking
Be aware that symptoms of botulism are not immediate. They tend to begin anywhere between 18 and 36 hours after eating contaminated food.
If your baby ingests honey but seems okay right after, continue to be on high alert. Contact your doctor to discuss what to do, even if your baby doesn’t have symptoms, and seek medical attention pronto if they are showing signs. The earlier the child can be treated, the better the outcome.
Other Liquid Sweeteners Can Be Dangerous
Honey isn’t the only liquid sweetener that carries a botulism risk and should be avoided in babies. For example, Healthline explains that both molasses and corn syrup should not be given to infants until they’re at least a year old.
However, maple syrup is often considered a safe choice since it’s found inside a tree and cannot be contaminated by soil like other sweeteners. Agave nectar is also a safe alternative to honey for babies. As with any new food, it’s best to speak to your child’s doctor about when and how best to introduce it into their diet.
Eating Honey While Breastfeeding Is Okay
If babies can’t have honey, you may be wondering if it’s safe for a mother to consume it while she’s breastfeeding. In short, the answer is yes. Botulism cannot be passed through nursing. Even if the mother ingests contaminated food, she cannot pass on the food poisoning to her offspring by breastfeeding.
How To Introduce Honey To Babies
Once your baby is over a year old, and You’ve got the go-ahead from their pediatrician, there are a variety of ways you can introduce honey into their diet.
The main thing is to go slowly, which is important when introducing any new food into your child’s diet. Healthline recommends using the “four-day wait” approach. Offer them honey and then wait four days to see if they have any symptoms that could indicate an allergic reaction. If they do, avoid the food and get in touch with their pediatrician.
For ways to first introduce honey to your child, consider the following ideas:
- Cover pieces of fruit in a little honey
- Spread the honey on a piece of toast
- Serve waffles or pancakes with honey
- Drizzle a little honey into yogurt or oatmeal
For more information on babies and honey, we encourage you to speak with a healthcare professional.
Sources: WebMD, Healthline, Mayo Clinic, Kid’s Health,