Ah, honey. One of the most nutritious and wholesome foods we always hear about when it comes to health revelations and studies carried out on an ongoing basis.
Even though you might hear different opinions from different experts in the field about whether or not it’s okay to feed certain foods to babies in general, and when it’s okay to feed babies these foods, there’s a general agreement among all experts whenever a parent asks “when can I feed my baby honey?”.
When Can Babies Eat Honey?
Most Pediatricians advise that you don’t feed your baby honey before they’re at least 1 year of age, regardless of whether it’s raw honey you’re feeding them, goodies baked with honey or food cooked with honey.
If you feed your baby honey before they’re at least 12 months old, they’ll face a very high chance of suffering from food poisoning because of their relatively weak immune system at such a young age, and because of the bacterial spores the honey might contain.
These spores that generate from a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum can lead to a serious condition called infant botulism.
And this whole food poisoning risk is certainly not to be taken lightly, as it could possibly result in death in some of the more severe cases.
Once your baby exceeds the one year of age mark, their immune system develops and is no longer as weak, which means that these bacteria no longer affect them anywhere near as much.
Babies older than one year of age will also have significantly more developed digestive systems, ones with all the acids required to eliminate toxins produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacterium.
So, the takeaway from this section is that spores of the bacterium called Clostridium botulinum are harmless to adults such as you and I and babies older than 1 year of age, but could be fatal to babies younger than one year of age.
What About Pasteurized Honey?
“So”, you might be asking yourself, “since this is all about the bacteria that might be present in the honey at the time, what if I feed my baby pasteurized honey? Surely that must solve the problem, right?”.
Well, not really, since you can’t practically guarantee that a jar labeled as “pasteurized honey” is 100% free from bacteria that might be harmful to your little one if it makes its way into their system.
For this reason, experts advise that you refrain from feeding your baby any form of honey during the entire first year of their life, whether that be pasteurized or unpasteurized honey.
Products Made From Honey
It’s important for you to know that we’re not just talking about pure honey you can find in a jar, we’re also talking about any and all products made from honey as well – regardless of what the percentage of honey that actually goes into making these products is.
So, even if you’re considering preparing a home-made treat for your little bundle of joy, any goodies baked with honey are still a big no-no.
Why? Well, even if you subject the honey to high temperatures during cooking/baking, that alone will not get rid of the botulism spores and the dangers they pose.
It takes an outrageously high level of temperature to kill toxic spores found in honey, levels of temperature you and I don’t have access to when cooking and baking our own stuff at home.
This also holds true when talking about any commercially produced food that contains honey. While some sources out there would claim that the heat these commercially produced foods are subjected to is high enough to terminate any toxic spores, that’s not necessarily true.
One can never be too sure, so even if there’s the slightest chance of a product containing small amounts of spores that proved to be resistant to heat, it’s just not worth the risk.
What Do I Do If It’s Already Too Late?
If what’s been done has been done, you can’t go back in time to change it.
If your infant ate honey or anything that contains honey, the best thing you could do is to talk to your pediatrician about it. They’ll be able to recommend what needs to be done right then and there to ensure baby’s safety and well-being.
Generally speaking, you’ll be asked to monitor your infant for symptoms that – if you notice they’re starting to show – indicate they need help (to varying degrees).
The following is a list of some of the most important symptoms you’ll have to keep an eye out for.
- Crying (usually weak crying)
- Change in facial expressions (they start making unusual ones you’re not used to seeing from them)
- Change in eating habits (usually a decrease in appetite)
- Difficulty sucking
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive fatigue and lethargy
- Muscle weakness
- Increased drooling
- Slack jaw
Talking To The Doctor Or Going To The Emergency Room
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your pediatrician right away so they tell you what the next steps are.
If your pediatrician can’t be reached at the time, don’t just wait until they’re available again – take your baby to the emergency room right away because these signs could very well mean your little one has a case of infant botulism.
Even though this isn’t always possible because of the mental state of rush you’re in at the time, but if you can manage, it would be super useful for the medical personnel checking on your baby for you to take a sample of the raw honey (or whatever goody/food/product your baby ate that contains honey) with you.
Even if your baby has a case of infant botulism from the honey they ate, there’s no reason for you to panic right away – they’re more than likely to be a-okay if they receive proper medical treatment in due time.
In most cases of infant botulism where the baby receives proper medical attention on the spot, they go on to lead a perfectly healthy life after the toxins in their system have been eliminated.
Rare are the cases where babies that receive proper medical attention in cases of infant botulism in due time continue to suffer from permanent damage or don’t end up making it.
If you don’t notice any of these symptoms, however, your baby is likely off the hook – but still talk to a doctor for further reassurance if you feel like you need it to sleep at night.
A Quick Note About Honey With Water & Formula Milk
Just to make this as clear as possible, all the risks covered so far associated with giving raw honey or foods containing honey to babies under the age of 12 months also hold true when it comes to giving babies honey to drink along with their water or formula milk.
To wrap this article up, your baby should avoid all sourced of honey before they’re at least 1 year of age. Anything and everything that contains honey, even in the tiniest of percentages, should be off limits for them until they reach that age mark.
So, the next time you run into someone who thinks it’s cute to picture their <1 year old having their go at a honey jar and making a mess out of the whole place, or thinks it’s convenient to just give them a bowl of honey cereal for breakfast (or any other commercially produced food that contains honey) to save time for other duties, you know what to do!
Even though you’ll read and hear stories from parents about how they gave their newborns honey to have a go at and nothing bad happened to them, you should keep in mind that this is all a game of chance – and a very, very risky one.
It’s true that not all babies below the age of 1 years old who consume honey go on to experience infant botulism. As a matter of fact, the ones who do experience this condition are a minority.
However, if you willingly take the risk while knowing the potential repercussions to it and your baby unfortunately does experience infant botulism, they could (in extreme cases) experience muscle paralysis or, even worse off, could die.
Why on earth would you want to risk it? It’s just not worth it, at all.