Honey is a delicious and nutritious food for everyone. Well, almost everyone. On every single jar of honey you can find a print saying that you shouldn’t feed your babies under 12 months with honey. Have you ever wondered why? Let’s dig deeper.
What’s the problem?
You might think it’s cute when your baby tries to eat honey, but you could actually be putting your child at risk of developing a life-threatening infection. Honey can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum bacteria. These spores are harmless to adults and children over 12 months old, but they can be dangerous to babies under 12 months old. Why? Infant’s developing digestive and immune system can’t handle it yet. They lack the protective enzymes needed to break down the sugars in honey. In fact, honey has been linked to many infant botulism cases in recent years.
Infant botulism results from eating the spores of C. botulinum or C. baratii and then developing a toxin from them in their digestive system. The toxin affects how nerves send messages back and forth between the brain and other parts of the body.
Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by nerve toxins released by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The spores are common in soil and dust around the world, and they can survive if they find their way into foods. Then they can grow into active colonies that release their toxins into food or drink.
The symptoms of botulism usually appear between 6 hours and 2 weeks after eating contaminated food, although sometimes symptoms don’t appear for up to 3 weeks after exposure.
In the UK, infant botulism occurs in about 1 in every 100,000 babies born each year. Infant botulism is rarer in the UK than in other countries but it is still important to know what symptoms to look out for so that you can get medical help fast if they are needed. If you don’t notice any symptoms in the first two days after exposure, it’s unlikely your baby will develop any problems.
The Bottom Line Most babies are not ready for honey until they are at least 12 months old. However, if your child has had an allergy to honey or other foods, it is best to wait until he or she has been eating solid foods for at least 12 months. Honey can be a source of food allergies and may cause a reaction in some infants. If your baby does not have any allergies, you can give them a small amount of honey when they are about 1 year old. But remember that all foods should be introduced one at a time, so that you can tell if there is any allergic reaction.
The safest thing to do is to wait at least until his or her first birthday has passed before giving your baby honey.