Honey is a sweet liquid that has many antibacterial properties, antiseptic properties. Honey has been used for many health remedies such as in treating toothaches and is used for healing the wounds. Although honey has been widely used by Indians to treat cold and cough, but the new mommies must not give their child honey until a certain period of time as there are side effects of honey which can cause infant botulism as the baby’s immune system is not properly developed, they cannot withstand the growth and infection caused due to bacterial spores.
Honey is a clear golden colour liquid which imparts sweetness to the food products. Honey is produced by honeybees through enzymatic activity. Honey for infants has resulted in death due to infant botulism.
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Is Honey Good For Babies?
Infants are very sensitive and thus their health must be protected by all means to prevent any disease or infection that can be lethal to the infant’s health. In India, it is a culture of feeding the baby with the honey as soon as he is born. But is honey good for the babies? Are there any side effects of honey? Despite the good nutritional value of honey, it should not be given to the babies of babies less than 12 months old as it can lead to a digestive infection called infant botulism through the harmful bacterial spores present in the honey.
At What Age Should You Give Baby Honey?
Baby centre’s toxicologist and food scientist have recommended not to give honey to infants who are less than 12 months old. Honey has many spores of Clostridium botulinum that can germinate in the infant’s gut and cause botulism.
Mommies may sometimes give honey after heating it to their babies but the spores of Clostridium botulinum do not get killed by heat treatment. These spores cultivate in the digestive system of the babies and may develop harmful toxins in the body which can be fatal to the baby. After the age of one, the spores of Clostridium botulinum cannot harm the health of the baby.
Symptoms Of Botulism
Clostridium botulinum is usually found in canned foods, meats, foods from soil and honey. The spores are killed at higher temperatures around 121 degree Celsius, although, some spores may survive at this temperature. These spores can grow in the human digestive system and lead to Botulism, a type of food infection. This disease is dangerous and may lead to the death of the infant as the spores can produce harmful toxins thus making the baby very weak and ill.
Infant botulism is a fatal disease that can harm the health of the baby. The symptoms of botulism are seen within 8-36 hours and the baby must be immediately taken to the hospital if he shows one or more of the following symptoms:
· Muscle weakness
· Constipation (alarming signal of infant botulism)
· Lack of appetite
· Difficulty in breathing
· Drooping eyelids
· Lethargic and limited facial expression
· Too weak to cry or suck milk
If the baby has been fed with honey, then the mommies must be sure about the infant botulism that must have infected the baby. If possible, the mommies must carry the food sample containing honey that has been fed to the infant to the hospital for better diagnosis.
Botulism can be properly treated if diagnosed quickly. Sometimes, the baby may require mechanical ventilation to assist in breathing. The infant botulism treatment recommends breastfeeding for faster recovery.
Is It Safe For The Lactating Mothers To Consume Honey?
Now that it is clear that the babies should not be fed with honey under the age of 1, but then new confusion may arise amongst the lactating mothers if they can consume honey. Can honey be transferred to the baby through breastfeeding which can potentially lead to infant botulism?
The doctors believe that it is completely safe for the lactating mothers to consume and there is no risk of transferring the bacterial spores that may cause infant botulism. It is necessary for the mothers to wash their hands thoroughly after consuming honey to prevent the baby from coming in contact with honey accidentally.
[Also Read: Is Honey Safe For Consumption During Pregnancy?]
Can Honey Be Used For The Babies For Health Remedies?
In Indian culture, honey has been used to cure a sore throat, cough, toothaches, however, the babies of below the age of one should not be brought in contact with the honey under any circumstances. Following are the common mistakes made by the mothers of infants which must be avoided:
· Honey is commonly used to soothe toothaches. Infants may have tooth or gum aches but do not rub honey on their gums as it can lead to infant botulism
· Honey is a good alternative to cough syrups but it should not be given to babies under the age of one to cure his cough.
· Honey is added to food to make them taste sweet. This can lead to sweet tooth and also lead to infant botulism.
All this information has perfectly answered is honey good for the babies. Hence, the new mothers should be very careful while using honey until the baby is a year old.
[Read: 12 Health Benefits of Honey]
Baby Foods Containing Honey - Recommended or not
Baby foods may contain honey and there is a debate on its use. The spores of Clostridium botulinum can be killed at higher temperatures which are not possible at home through baking and cooking. The commercially processed baby foods apply high temperature that can kill the spores, making the food sterile, although some spores may survive even at these high temperatures. World Health Organization has advised that honey should not be added to water, food or infant formulas. It should not be provided to the infants of less than a year.
Also, it is important to not to offer sweetened products to the infants which can lead to the sweet tooth at a later age. If you want to add a sweet taste to the baby food, add mashed fruits or banana puree or yoghurt. These products not only impart sweetness but also contains vitamins and minerals which improves the nutrient value of the baby food.
It is always better to use the baby foods recommended by the doctor or to take doctor’s advice before using a new infant formula.
It is not necessary that all the honey for infants may contain spores of Clostridium botulinum, but recognizing which honey don't have spores and which do is not feasible. So, it is better to be safe than making your honey sick due to the consumption of honey. New mommies should breastfeed their babies for the first six months as the breast milk has good amounts of vitamins and minerals which helps in overall growth and development of the baby.