Honey is a great natural sweetener that adults enjoy in porridge, on toast or added to coffee. Being a natural sweetener, parents and caregivers may think it's a good choice for sweetening children's food.
However, new parents are sometimes surprised to learn that honey is a big no-no for babies under 12 months as it poses significant health risks.
We're giving parents the lowdown on why babies can't eat honey, when honey can be introduced to babies and things to consider when introducing honey.
Why can't babies have honey?
Babies under 12 months should never be given honey. That includes raw, organic and locally produced honey, and baked goods which contain honey.
According to NHS guidelines, honey occasionally contains a bacteria (in the form of spores) that can produce toxins in a baby's intestines that they can't handle.
In older children and adults these bacteria are harmless, but in babies these toxins can lead to infant botulism, which is a very serious condition.
When can I give my baby honey?
After your baby's first birthday it's usually safe for him or her to eat honey.
Doctors and nutritionists say parents should wait until after 12 months because by this point your baby's digestive system will be mature enough to protect against the bacteria that causes infant botulism.
How should I introduce honey to my baby?
As with sweeteners in general, you don't need to rush to give your baby some honey to try.
Even after your baby's first birthday, keep in mind that honey - although natural - is still a sugar. It's not a food that young babies need to be introduced to, and avoiding introducing it and limiting intake can help prevent tooth decay.
If you'd like to introduce your baby to honey, then consider adding a small amount to porridge or spreading it on some toast.
What is infant botulism?
Infant botulism is a rare but serious condition which is caused by toxins produced by exposure to Clostridium botulinum spores found in honey.
Symptoms of Infant Botulism
The most common symptoms of infant botulism include:
- weakness, floppiness
- poor feeding
- constipation (three or more days without a bowel movement)
- weak crying
- breathing difficulties
- lack of facial expression
- drooping eyelids
- decreased movement
If your baby has consumed honey and is displaying some of these symptoms then it's important to go straight to A&E as soon as possible. It's very important to tell your doctor that your baby has recently consumed honey, even if it was an accident. It will help them make sure your baby gets the right treatment quickly.
Symptoms of botulism can take up to 2 weeks to appear, so even if they ate honey a while ago it's important to go to hospital straight away.
Looking for more weaning tips? Download our Free Weaning Guide full of expert tips and advice on introducing your little one to solids, including our full list of foods to avoid when weaning your baby.