April 30, 2024

When Can Babies Have Honey?

When Can Babies Have Honey?

The first year is very crucial for your little one's growth. It is also a phase when many questions crop up in your mind concerning food— What to give? Which foods to avoid? How much is too much, etc. Also, an interesting note is the conflicting opinions on classic questions, such as when can babies have honey? Can honey be given to babies less than six months old? How to sweeten baby foods, and so on. In this article, let us go deeper to understand and clarify all your doubts regarding giving honey to babies. Here are the questions we will dive into.

  • Can babies have honey?
  • Why can't babies less than one year old have honey?
  • When can babies have honey?
  • Which kind of honey Is suitable for 12-month-old babies?

Can Babies Have Honey?

Parents of little ones often feel they need to sweeten the food their babies consume. Besides, elders at home and friends often advise them that they must expose their babies to various food textures. Keeping this in mind, first-time parents often reach out to honey for babies, given its mild nature and role as a natural sweetener. However, they are often unaware of the presence of a bacteria called Clostridium in honey, which is responsible for infant Botulism. Though this is rare, it is a severe illness, and most of the reported cases were diagnosed in the United States.

Why Can't Babies Less Than One-Year-Old Have Honey?

Photo by: Muhammad Shakir on Unsplash

Children less than six months old are at a greater risk of being affected by Botulism. This results from the ingestion of C. botulinum spores, which gradually develop into bacteria that settle in the baby's gut, begin to release toxins, and affect the nervous system. Children in this age group have a digestive system that still needs to be completely developed to destroy these spores. Children older than six months are at less risk as their intestines are mature and develop natural defenses that move the bacteria spores away and prevent them from growing in the gut. Although botulism spores could be infested from various sources such as dust, soil, and vegetables, honey is considered the chief. Hence, it is advised that parents and other caregivers should be cautious about honey for babies and its possible outcomes. It is advised not to give honey (raw, cooked, baked) to babies under a year old.

Symptoms of Botulism:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Weak cry
  • Irritability
  • Floppiness (decreased muscle tone)
  • Poor sucking
  • Respiratory issues

Often, the first symptom of botulism is constipation, which begins within 12 to 16 hours of consuming honey or other contaminated food. However, in some children, symptoms do not show until 14 days. Whenever you visit the doctor, don't forget to mention that your baby recently consumed honey. It will help in the correct diagnosis and treatment.

When Can Babies Have Honey?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), added sugar should not be included in the diet of children under the age of 2. However, their diet can consist of the sugars naturally available in fruits, dairy, and whole grains, which are crucial for your baby's growth and development. AAP also recommends that children over the age of two can have 25 grams or six teaspoons of added sugar daily. It can be substituted by honey as long as the recommended dosage is strictly followed. Also, knowing when honey is included at the right age in your child's diet is essential. The World Health Organization (WHO), among other medical groups, agrees that honey in its natural form can be given to babies once they turn 1. It can be added as a sweetener to their food or even used raw to soothe the teething phase.

Which Kind Of Honey Is Suitable For 12-month Old Babies?

Photo by: andrzj brown on Unsplash

The next question most parents who plan to introduce honey to their year-old babies have is— which type of honey should I go for? Should I prefer raw honey over processed and filtered honey? Processed and filtered honey is less expensive than natural honey, but will it be healthy? Well, for your little ones who will be tasting honey for the first time, raw honey is the best choice. Natural honey comes straight from a beehive and is rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthy compounds. Besides, they may be high on the pollen count and may prove quite effective as a cure for seasonal allergies. Despite their benefits, even raw honey for babies under one year is not advisable.

Ways To Include Honey In The Diet of Children Over 1 Year

Now that you know the right age to introduce honey to your baby's diet, you need to find out which foods it can be added to so that not just the taste of the food is enhanced but your baby also derives the multiple nutritional benefits that honey offers. Here are some of the benefits of consuming honey:

  • Boosts  energy
  • Heals wounds and bites
  • Reduces gastric reflux
  • Provides relief from constipation
  • Protects against bacteria and pathogens
  • Works as an anti-oxidant
  • Treats inflammatory conditions
  • Promotes heart and brain health

You don't want to deprive your child of such a healthy sweetener with many benefits. But you must remember that whenever you introduce a new food to your child's diet, you must go slow and follow the 'four-day wait' method. The same rule applies to honey as well. Introduce it in a small quantity with your child's (over a year old) favorite food and wait for four days to see the reaction. If there are no visible signs that are worrisome, you are good to go ahead and gradually add it to your child's other favorite foods, too. If you notice any symptoms (of Botulism) mentioned above, contact your pediatrician immediately.

When it comes to adding honey to your baby's diet, there are no strict recipes to be followed. Here are some suggestions to add honey to sweeten your child's food and life (literally!).

Photo by: Sandi Benedicta on Unsplash
  • Use it as a sweetener for milk.
  • If your child loves yogurt, add a dash of honey to enhance the taste and nutritional value.
  • Spread honey on bread when giving a toast.
  • Add honey to smoothies to make them delicious.
  • Oatmeals taste great with a good mix of honey.
  • Honey tastes great as toppings on pancakes, waffles, and anything baked.

Points To Keep In Mind When Giving Honey To Babies

Here are some points new parents need to be careful about when giving honey to babies over a year old.

  • Honey in large quantities may cause weight gain, gastric problems, and even dental issues. Hence, moderation is the key.
  • Remember always to double-check the label for the manufacturing date.
  • Read the ingredients on the label to ensure that the honey doesn't contain a higher percentage of fructose corn syrup. In that case, your honey is not pure and hence, best avoided.
  • Once you've bought the honey, store it in a cool, dry place and secure the lid tightly to prevent dust and insects from contaminating it.
  • To be safer, whenever you buy a new bottle of honey from the store, try to use it within two months.  

Interestingly, in an article in The Guardian (2005), Bee Wilson, the author of the book 'The Story of The Honeybee and Us' mentions that honey was considered "molten gold" in many ancient cultures. Small children in countries right from Egypt back then to modern Burma were made to taste honey soon after birth for good health and protection. In fact, during the US Depression, Public Health officials used honey to bring back malnourished children from the brink of death back to life. What changed over the years, one may wonder? The answer is: Infant Botulism was identified for the first time in 1976 in 4 states in the US, and although we are exposed to the spores from various sources, consumption of honey in babies younger than a year was identified as the possible source. Hence, from 1976 onwards, pediatricians and health officers worldwide have warned against giving honey to babies, particularly those under six months. Let the first year pass; your child can enjoy the taste of honey and derive its many health benefits.

Apart from the health needs, are you also worried about your child's emotional and developmental needs? For all your questions, log on to Raising Superstars. We understand the different roles new parents have to juggle daily. Keeping this in mind, we offer tailored solutions to help you unlock the secret and transform your child into a better version of themselves. Join us to clear the maze of ever-evolving child development trends and tools and get ready for the surprising outcome.

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