Why Can’t Babies Have Honey?

Updated: Sep. 23, 2019

Protecting your little one means knowing what's safe. So why can't babies have honey? The answer is in bacteria—and how an immature digestive system handles it.

If it’s so high in antioxidants and packed with health benefits, then why can’t babies have honey? This natural sweetener is normally a great choice—but not for little ones. In fact, for infants under the age of one, it is an absolute no-no. Here’s why.

The Problem with Honey

The main reason honey can be dangerous for babies is because of a certain type of bacteria, clostridium, that has potential to lurk inside. Known for thriving in dust and soil, clostridium has the power to contaminate honey. In cases where it does, the honey is dangerous for a baby’s digestive system because it isn’t strong enough to fend off the bacteria. This can cause infant botulism, with serious results. Typical symptoms from this type of food poisoning include poor sucking, lethargy, a weak cry, constipation and decreased muscle tone, for example.

Food poisoning experts avoid these foods, too.

How a Baby’s Developing Digestive System Reacts

The main reason infants can’t handle the clostridium bacteria and adults can is because of digestive system maturity. During the first year of life, a baby’s digestive system is still developing. While an adult’s body is able to move bacteria through the body before it can cause harm, an infant’s isn’t yet strong enough. So, to protect your little one, it’s important that you avoid feeding your child any honey. Don’t forget to check food labels, too.

Better Foods to Feed Your Baby

While any and all forms of honey are completely off the table until your child is at least 12 months old, plenty of other nutritious, yet sweet foods are fair game. Whether you’re looking for first food ideas or options to expand your infant’s palate, you can’t go wrong with banana or cooked sweet potatoes, for a start.

For more tips on feeding your little one, read this post on how to introduce your baby to first foods.