October 21, 2020/Children's Health

When Is It Safe to Give Honey to My Baby?

The short answer from a pediatrician

honey being dribbled on toast

Q: When is it safe to give honey to my baby?

A: Honey is a delicious natural sweetener, but it isn’t safe to give to your baby if they are less than 1 year old.

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Babies already have ample opportunities to experience sweet flavors like those found naturally in foods like fruits. It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid added sugars and sweeteners for babies in general — they are unnecessary and may lead to excessive weight gain. In the case of honey, specifically, this sweet amber treat may also contain spores from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. While not a problem for those of us with more mature digestive tracts, in babies, the spores can cause botulism, which is an illness that produces toxins that can lead to skeletal muscle paralysis.

Botulism affects nerve function and can cause weakness. It’s important to note that botulism is rare, but when it occurs, it can sometimes be life-threatening. Symptoms of botulism in infants can include constipation, difficulty sucking, droopy eyelids and a weakened cry.

I generally recommend avoiding all honey (processed or raw) for babies, even if honey is an ingredient in baked and processed foods. This is because Clostridium botulinum spores are relatively heat-resistant.

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— Pediatrician Kimberly Churbock, MD

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