Why Is Honey Unsafe For Babies And When Can They Have It?

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Avoid feeding honey to babies who are less than a year old. This is because honey is a potential source of a disease-causing bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. When a baby consumes honey, the bacteria is consumed, too. Due to the immature digestive and immune systems, these bacteria grow inside their intestines resulting in a condition called infant botulism.

You may have read that honey should not be fed to babies who are under a year old. This is because honey is one of the foods that may cause a rare illness called botulism in infants.

Botulism is a rare but serious illness that is caused by toxins that attack the nerves present in the body. Most parents may have heard of infant botulism being linked with contaminated food.

Let’s now examine how honey may pose a threat to babies under one year and understand the severity of the illness.

Honey And Infant Botulism

Honey Can Cause Infant Botulism

As mentioned earlier, infant botulism is a life-threatening condition that usually affects babies who are under the age of one. This disease is usually caused by the presence of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum.1 This bacteria is a spore-forming organism that is found in soil and certain foods.

Honey may contain the bacteria that can release toxins if ingested by the baby.2 When a baby consumes honey, the bacteria present in it is consumed, too. This reaches the baby’s gastrointestinal tract and begins to grow. As the baby’s system is too weak and immature to prevent the development of this bacteria, the spores of the bacteria grow in the intestines causing the illness.

As the baby gets older, the digestive and immune systems develop well and can eliminate the bacteria before it can cause any harm to their health. So, it is always better to start including honey in food after their first birthdays.

Therefore, it is best not to feed your baby honey until they are a year old. In addition, honey is a form of sugar and feeding them too much honey may result in tooth decay as well.

As a parent, it is important to keep an eye out for any difference in your baby’s behavior or body functions. Let’s examine the signs and symptoms of infant botulism that all parents should know about.

Infant Botulism: Signs And Symptoms

Constipation Is A Sign Of Infant Botulism

Some symptoms of infant botulism may be mild while others may be severe. The following are some of the most common symptoms of infant botulism:3

  • Constipation
  • A weakened cry
  • Loss of facial expression
  • A decreased gag reflex
  • Slow feeding
  • Overall weakness or floppiness

When contaminated food is the cause of botulism, children may also show certain signs that parents should be aware of. The following symptoms are shown by children after consuming contaminated food:4

  • Weak feeling
  • Blurred or double vision
  • A dry mouth
  • Weak or drooping eyelids
  • Difficulty swallowing and speaking

Unfortunately, honey is not the only source that may cause botulism. Some also report that corn syrups may cause similar symptoms in babies. Being around contaminated soil and breathing the air containing the spores of the disease-causing bacteria may also cause infant botulism.

If feeding your baby is a daily challenge for you, here are some tips to keep in mind while feeding your baby.

Tips To Remember While Feeding Your Baby

Feed Solid Food To Babies Over 6 Months

Feeding time may be a challenge for a lot of parents. However, with patience, you may be able to learn how to feed them the right way. Here are a few tips that may help with the feeding process.

  • Breast milk is the best nutrition you can give your baby at least for the first six months.
  • Avoid force-feeding your baby their food.
  • Feed your baby solid foods when they are over six months old.
  • Place a small amount of food at a time on your baby’s plate to avoid wasting food.
  • Avoid foods that may cause your baby to choke like nuts, grapes, popcorn, etc.

So, it is always better to avoid feeding your baby honey and products that may have it as an ingredient until they are at least a year old. Make sure you speak to the doctor before introducing a new food to your baby’s diet.

References   [ + ]

1.Infant botulism. MedlinePlus.
2.Abdulla, C. O., A. Ayubi, F. Zulfiquer, G. Santhanam, M. A. S. Ahmed, and J. Deeb. “Infant botulism following honey ingestion.” BMJ case reports 2012 (2012): bcr1120115153.
3, 4.Botulism. American Academy of Pediatrics.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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