Can I Have Honey While Breastfeeding?
Yes, you can have honey while breastfeeding. While it’s true that many things can be passed through breastmilk, botulism cannot pass through your milk and the mother’s body will neutralize the toxin as she digests it. If you’re wondering if you can eat honey while breastfeeding a newborn, that’s okay too. In fact, honey while breastfeeding can be a beneficial sweetener for a mother to use.
What is Botulinum and How Can I Prevent it?
The reason why honey is not recommended for under age 1 is that honey can contain botulinum which is a neurotoxic protein responsible for paralysis (and is curiously what’s in botox...for real!). Botulinum is also referred to as the botulism toxin or botulism. Obviously, this isn’t something to mess around with as the effects can be serious and fatal if not treated.
Symptoms in infant botulism include constipation, floppiness, loss of head control and difficulty eating due to muscle weakness. Symptoms can arise quickly but also may gradually occur over a number of days. Thankfully, there is treatment available that can neutralize the toxin providing the symptoms are properly diagnosed. We know that much of what we eat can be exposed to our nursing baby so you may be curious if YOU can have honey while breastfeeding. Can the toxin get through to your baby?
Why Can’t Babies Have Honey
You’ve probably never heard of an adult having to worry about botulinum in honey and that’s because our stomach acid is strong enough and our digestion is fast enough so the toxin is not a concern. Botulism can be found in the environment such as in soil, dust and aquatic sediments, which is how honey gets contaminated. Most botulism cases are in infants 2-6 months of age, but you don’t have to worry about exposing your baby to dust or soil - cases are extremely rare! Fewer than 100 cases are reported annually in the USA and most babies recover fully. Honey is one reliable source of the toxin which can be easily avoided. The botulism toxin is not affected by pasteurization so honey in any form is not safe to give to infants under 1 year.
The Benefits of Eating Honey While Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding and keeping up your milk supply takes a lot of energy, which means you’re probably hungry all the time! It can seem impossible at times to try and eat foods that are both nutritious and filling. Both white and brown sugar, or worse, high fructose corn syrup, is found in most packaged foods, sauces, baked goods, etc. These sugars have no nutritional value and have other negative health effects, too.
Honey is a natural and nutritious sweetener and a better choice when possible. It is full of antibodies and digestive enzymes that both boost your immune system and support digestion. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. You’ll want to look for local, unpasteurized honey. The best sweeteners for a breastfeeding mom to use are first foods that are naturally high in sugar like dates and bananas. Liquid sweeteners such as pure maple syrup and unpasteurized honey, along with powdered coconut sugar are all good choices. We recommend strictly avoid artificial sweeteners.
Not only is honey safe for a breastfeeding mom but it can be beneficial too.
Samarghandian S, Farkhondeh T, Samini F. Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research. Pharmacognosy Res. 2017 Apr-Jun; 9(2): 121–127.
Abdulla C, Ayubi A, Zulfiquer F, Santhanam G, Ahmed MAS, Deeb J. Infant botulism following honey ingestion. BMJ Case Rep. 2012.
Gill, Rebecca. Infant Botulism. Kids Health online. 2015.
World Health Organization. Botulism. January 2018.
If you're looking for more information about foods to include and avoid in your breastfeeding diet, don't forget to check out these posts!
- Lactogenic Foods for Breastfeeding
- Chickpea Lactation Cracker Recipe
- What Should You Include in a Breastfeeding Diet?
- What Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding
- The Best Foods for Moms to Eat Before and After Delivery
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