I’ve been getting a lot of questions about honey lately, and it’s no wonder! As a natural substance, honey seems pretty innocent and harmless. So it can be pretty surprising for parents who learn that honey is actually not safe for babies, and should only be given to toddlers in moderation. Today’s post addresses the FAQs I get around honey, from “is honey safe for babies?” to the pros and cons of raw honey, and everything in between.
Is honey safe for babies?
No, honey is not safe for babies under 12 months old. It’s best to avoid this sweet, sticky substance altogether until their first birthday.
What if the honey is cooked?
Even if cooked or baked in, honey still is not safe for babies under 12 months old. You should check labels of any packaged products you plan to feed baby just to make sure there’s no honey in them.
Why isn’t honey safe for babies?
Honey can be contaminated with spores of a bacteria called clostridium botulinum. In babies under 12 months old, the spores can multiply and produce a dangerous toxin that causes infant botulism.
Babies are at the highest risk for botulism when they are under 6 months old. Experts agree that by the time babies are 12 months old, the risk is no longer present.
Why does honey become safe at 1 year old?
For children over 1 and adults, the spores are harmless. Our digestive tracts can process the spores if we ingest them, which prevents us from getting sick.
Is honey safe for toddlers?
After age 1, the risk of botulism is no longer an issue, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding added sugars for children under 2. Honey is natural, but it’s still considered an added sugar, so you should avoid serving it until your child turns 2.
Instead of using added sugars, I recommend using fruit to sweeten foods. It’s best to do this all the time for your baby, and most of the time for your toddler. My No Sugar, Still Sweet Ebook has a ton of amazing toddler-friendly recipes that are only sweetened with fruit if you need some ideas.
That being said, there’s no need to scour labels for honey after your baby turns 1. A little bit of honey in a sauce, a salad dressing, crackers, or a bar is not going to be an issue. A small amount of honey (or maple syrup) is not the end of the world.
And, after they turn 2, it’s totally fine to drizzle honey on something for them or bake with it. You’ll still want to keep their overall added sugar intake low though, so I’d consider it a food to use in moderation.
What are the benefits of honey?
Even though this post might seem a little anti-honey, it’s really not! Honey has some benefits, and in moderation it definitely has a place in your family’s diet (for everyone over 2, anyway!).
Did you know?
Honey can be used as a cough suppressant (instead of cough medicine). And, it contains trace amounts of beneficial minerals and antioxidants!
Is raw honey better?
Nope! Raw honey doesn’t have significant benefits over regular/pasteurized honey. Since there aren’t specific health benefits for one type over the other, just make sure to:
- Check the label (some of the honey you’ll find in the store has other sweeteners added).
- Choose honey that is, well, 100% honey.
- Buy whichever honey you enjoy the most!
You may hear that eating local honey helps reduce seasonal allergy symptoms, but studies show that those who suffer from seasonal allergies didn’t see improvement from daily local honey intake.
Honey-Free, Kid-Friendly Treats
Do your go-to recipes rely on honey, syrup, or other added sugars? Need something more toddler- and baby-friendly? Here are a few of my favorite added-sugar-free recipes:
A huge hit at our house! These are perfect as a finger food for babies and toddlers.
Isn’t everything better in a stick form? This recipe is from my friend Heather Staller‘s cookbook, and we love them around here. To make them sugar-free, just skip the maple syrup for dipping.
My Favorite No-Sugar-Added Recipes for Kids
Whether your baby is too young for honey or you just want to avoid too much added sugar for you kids in general, I think you’d like my No Sugar, Still Sweet Ebook. It’s full of kid-tested, mother-approved, no-sugar-added recipes that taste great because they’re sweetened with fruit.
Grab your copy and get baking!