Science has shown that honey can be better than many over the counter medicines for burns, sore throats, coughs, and upset stomachs! However, I’ve always heard that babies under the age of one year shouldn’t consume honey. Now that I am pregnant, I decided to dig a little further to learn more–is this a wives' tale or solid advice?!
Turns out, the recommendations do hold some weight. While the risk is very low, babies under the age of one year that consume honey are at risk of contracting botulism, a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves and causes difficulty breathing and muscle paralysis.
Raw honey may contain a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum), which in the right environment can lead to botulism spores. The CDC explains this bacteria occurs naturally in many environments, and very rarely causes harm. Other places the spores may be found is in contaminated soil, dust, and home-canned goods. In order for the bacteria to survive, it produces spores which provide a sort of protective coating. Fortunately, if ingested, the Botulism spores rarely cause harm. It is only when the spores have a comfortable environment to grow in and multiply that the bacteria can affect nerves in the body, weakening muscles. This condition is very rare in adults because most adults’ digestive systems are strong enough to defend against the botulism spores, preventing them from multiplying. But for infants it can be a different story.
Though most cases of infant botulism are from contaminated dust and soil, doctors still recommend that parents avoid giving babies under the age of one raw honey, as their digestive systems are not quite strong enough to fend off the bacteria.
The verdict is that though the risk is clearly very low, this is one recommendation that I will be following. (And y’all know no wants a honey-loving baby more than me)! It is worth noting that doctors do not advise against eating honey while pregnant, and honey is not on the list of foods to avoid from the Mayo Clinic and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Plus, studies have found that by week 16 of pregnancy, a mother’s diet can be tasted by the baby via the amniotic fluid. You better believe this little guy is getting all the flavors of the honey rainbow! He will be primed for his first taste for his first birthday. Honey cake anyone?!