With the American Academy of Pediatrics new and more lenient guidelines on infant feeding, almost anything goes. However, one rule has remained the same: babies under one year of age should not eat honey. You may know the rule but do you know why babies should not eat honey? We have the answer!
In short, raw honey may contain Clostridium botulinum or botulism, which are harmful bacteria spores that a baby’s immature digestive system cannot handle. If a baby under 12 months does get botulism from honey, it may be fatal. Since honey is not typically pasteurized, babies should not eat honey. After a year, a healthy baby’s intestine can normally combat the negative impact of a small amount of botulism.
Where does Botulism Come From?
Bees feed on flora in the soil that contains Clostridium botulinum. Therefore, raw honey can become contaminated with botulism. The Centers for Disease Control says that botulism is more common in rural areas of the eastern and western United States.
Baking with Honey for Babies
Botulism can be destroyed through boiling, pasteurization or cooking at extremely high temperatures, however normal household baking or cooking with honey would not kill botulism spores. Therefore, making food items for babies using honey such as breads, pastries or pudding, should be avoided. On the other hand, commercial goods are cooked at high enough temperatures to ward off botulism and are deemed safe for babies.
Alternatives to Honey for Babies
Some parents seek natural alternatives to honey for their babies. Corn syrup and molasses are not good alternatives as they may also contain botulism because they are not processed or pasteurized. Pediatricians generally agree that pure maple syrup is the best natural sweetener alternative to honey for babies. Although it is also consumed raw, it is extracted from the inner sap of the maple tree where it is highly unlikely to be contaminated.
Understanding why babies should not eat honey can help keep your little one safe. If you’re offering your baby something sweet and homemade, ask about its ingredients first to avoid any risk of botulism.
Sources: Babycenter and Momtastic’s Wholesome Baby Food