It may seem strange to think that natural raw honey can be bad for babies, when it is so very good for children. Here at Hikiän we live, breathe and of course, eat honey, so we thought it would be a good idea to explain why a natural product can have such a contradictory reputation.
Avoiding infant botulism – our children’s health is important
It seems that today, we live in such a cautious society, so when we are new parents, we are ultra-protective of our newborn children. We’ve heard you shouldn’t give honey to babies, but many of you may not know why. As a consequence, that caution can extend longer than necessary. After all, if you don’t know why you shouldn’t give honey to babies, how would you know when it is safe to give it to older children?
For your peace of mind, is widely accepted that you should not give honey to infants who are under 12 months of age, as indicated by the UK’s National Health Service. Once your children have reached their first birthday, it is perfectly safe to give them natural, raw honey.
So why shouldn’t you give honey to babies?
As you probably know, newborns and infants have a very weak immune system, which makes them more susceptible to disease and infection. As babies grow, at the age of around two months they begin to develop their own immune system, having previously relied on antibodies obtained from their mother’s milk and introduced into their bodies via the placenta prior to birth. However, until the age of one, a baby’s defence system against disease, infection and bacteria is still weak and underdeveloped.
The connection with honey relates to the fact that honey, and especially raw natural honey, can contain spores of the naturally occurring bacteria, Clostridium botulinum (C botulinum), which can cause infant botulism, a potentially fatal disease resulting from muscle paralysis caused by a bacterial toxin.
Cases of infant botulism are extremely rare
When advising you not to give your baby honey, please don’t think that every jar of honey has botulism spores in it. That is not the case, but because the C botulinum bacteria is more usually found in dust and soil, and bees also come into contact with soil, there is always the possibility of cross contamination, and it is that possibility you are guarding against. With a population of over 323 million people, there are less than 100 annual cases of infant botulism in the USA, and not all of those were caused by honey. By comparison, the population of Finland is only 5.5 million!
Why natural raw honey is good for children – it’s not all about sugar!
Yes, honey is a wonderful and natural form of sugar, but did you know that natural raw honey includes three different forms of sugar, glucose, sucrose and fructose, all of which are digested differently. While you may get a ‘sugar hit’ and instant energy boost when you take refined sugar, raw honey also contains fructose, which is more slowly broken down by the body, so the energy benefits last longer. A less-well-known fact about honey is both the number and level of vitamins it contains, as you will see from below.
Honey also has excellent healing properties beyond the ever-popular treatment for tickly coughs and sore throats. It is known to be beneficial for the liver, and has been included in cultural medicine for many ancient civilisations, including the Greeks, Romans, Aztecs and Mayans.
Raw natural honey is used in many homeopathic medicines, but as with anything you choose to take for medicinal purposes, it is always recommended you seek advice from a qualified physician.
If you have any questions relating to honey, how we produce our raw Finnish honey, or any of its beneficial properties, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.