You may think that offering a little bit of that sweet honey will not do any harm to your cutie pie. It is a natural sweetener after all, what harm can it possibly do? Honey contains spores of a type of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum which can cause infant botulism which is a rare yet fatal illness. We have mentioned this in our previous articles as well but there is a need to stress on the topic of feeding honey to babies and why it is harmful.
Although this bacteria is generally harmless to adults and babies above the age of 12 months, it is dangerous to feed honey to infants less than 12 months. When they grow older, their digestive system becomes mature and hence, they would be able to digest this bacterium and expel it from their body without causing any harm. But while they are young, their developing bodies will not know how to deal with this foreign substance.
What happens when an infant consumes honey
As mentioned earlier, honey contains a bacteria of the dangerous kind. If a baby consumes this honey, they consume the bacteria present in the honey as well and thus, the bacteria finds itself inside the baby’s digestive system.The bacteria will then grow in the baby’s body since their tiny developing bodies aren’t mature enough to fight it yet. It is when they start growing in the baby’s intestines that they may fall sick.
This is the reason why you should avoid feeding honey in any form to your baby until they are more than a year old. This not only includes raw honey but also food that is cooked with honey. The spores will remain even after you cook them so it is better to avoid feeding your baby anything that contains honey even in the smallest amount. Processed food like biscuits and cereal that contain honey are also to be avoided.
Now, it may be noted that botulism is not only caused by honey, but also through contaminated food. Few have reported that corn syrup (dark and light) may contain traces of this bacterium. This is why you should stick to food that your doctor says is completely safe for your baby. Even after taking all the precautions you can to prevent your baby from consuming honey, corn syrup and contaminated food, they may still unknowingly consume it. This could be food offered by a guest or something that they find lying around. It can also affect some babies who are more than a year old so, it is best to watch out for symptoms.
Symptoms of Infant Botulism
1. Your baby has digestion problems - constipation, nausea, vomiting.
2. Pain in the abdominal area.
3. Drooping eyelids and/or dilated pupils.
4. Dry mouth
5. Drooling and difficulty swallowing.
6. Dizziness or fatigue.
7. Loss of appetite.
Parents often add honey with the intention of making their baby’s food more appetising and flavoursome. To add more flavour to your baby’s food, you can add other natural and harmless things like mashed or pureed fruit. You should, however, avoid giving them fruit smoothies or sweetened yoghurt since they may also contain honey in some amount.