Babies cannot eat honey before their first birthday!
Many parents and caregivers are aware that some foods are off-limits for babies during infancy and early development. These foods are mostly either hard-to-digest or pose choking hazards and allergies to babies. An often overlooked food in this category is honey. Honey should not be given to children under the age of one; In fact, honey can be dangerous to these children.
Why Can't Babies Eat Honey?
Parents or caregivers are advised to wait 12 months before introducing honey into the child's diet. This is not because of concerns over choking or allergies, but because of a serious condition called infant botulism. Infant botulism is caused by toxins from Clostridium botulinum, a bacteria found in honey and honey products.
Symptoms of Infant Botulism
Once the baby ingests Clostridium botulinum spores, the bacteria starts to grow in their intestinal tract and makes toxins. The signs and symptoms of infant botulism appear within 18 to 36 hours of ingesting the bacteria. Constipation is usually the first sign, and others such as irritability and tiredness follow.
The baby may also exhibit floppy movements or decreased movements as a result of muscle weakness. They might also have trouble controlling the head. Other symptoms of this disease include weak sucking during breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Feeding may also be difficult as the baby may have trouble swallowing.
Excessive drooling, weak crying, and drooping eyelids are also symptoms that point to infant botulism.
How Serious is Infant Botulism?
Infant botulism is treated as a medical emergency. In severe cases, it can cause dehydration and pneumonia. It's usually treated in the intensive care unit (ICU), as about 70% of babies diagnosed with infant botulism require mechanical ventilation for about three weeks. On average, they are hospitalized for about 44 days.
However, despite the seriousness of the condition, infant botulism has a fatality rate below 2%, and most babies recover with treatment.
Why is Honey Safe for Babies One Year and Above?
While the bacteria may be quite harmless to adults and older babies, it is not so with infants below the age of one for they have less developed digestive and immune systems. However, after one year, the intensity of acids in a baby's digestive system is enough to fend off the toxins produced by the bacteria.
Can I Give the Baby Pasteurized Honey Instead?
Many people ask this question believing that the pasteurization process will remove all traces of Clostridium botulinum spores hence rendering it safe for infants. However, these spores are extremely resistant, and they can survive the pasteurization process. The answer still remains: no honey, whether raw or pasteurized, for babies under one year of age.
Since the window that babies are vulnerable to botulism is short, the risk is simply not worth it, and it's better to wait for a year before your baby can enjoy the natural sweetener.
Are Baked Foods Made with Honey Safe?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has removed many foods that used to be off-limits for babies from the list of their food restrictions. Nevertheless, all products made from honey, including baked foods made with honey, should wait until the baby is at least a year old. This is because botulism spores are not destroyed even by the high temperatures of cooking and baking.
If your baby is already above the age of one, you can introduce honey into his diet as a natural sweetener and cash on its numerous nutritional benefits. At Apis Mercantile, we have local honey for you wherever you are. Shop with us today to enjoy your local natural raw honey.