I have been putting honey in my son's formula, as recommended by my grandmother, to help with bellyache (she did it with her kids.) Now I hear there&’'s something in honey that could kill my son. Is this true, or is it safe to continue using the honey (it seems to work)?
It’s true. Even though your grandmother gave her babies honey and they were fine, we now know that it can be dangerous to give infants honey. Honey can carry a disease called “botulism,” which can cause weakness, nerve paralysis, and sometimes even death. Although botulism is rare, there are approximately 70 cases of infant botulism per year in the U.S., mostly in infants under 6 months of age.
Botulism is caused by eating or drinking the spores or a toxin produced by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Since honey and corn syrups are not sterilized when they’re packaged, they can carry the botulism spores. Botulism can also grow in canned foods, so it’s recommended that children and adults not eat foods that appear spoiled or canned food in bulging containers (which can indicate gas production from the bacteria). Since infants’ intestines and immune defenses are not yet mature, they’re most vulnerable to getting sick from botulism in honey or other foods.
So it’s best not to give your baby honey until after he’s 12 months of age. If your baby has belly aches or colic, talk with his doctor to see what the problem might be and find out what you can do. Also read the article on this website, “Infant Colic: What New Parents Need to Know.”
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.