During breastfeeding, most of us are in a dilemma regarding what foods are safe and unsafe for nursing mothers. Including honey while breastfeeding is one such topic of discussion. Although babies who are less than a year old are not given honey directly as it might increase the chances of infant botulism, it is safe to be consumed by the mother. Honey contains high levels of fructose and glucose, important for giving stamina to the breastfeeding mother. It is also known to be rich in antioxidants and antibacterial properties that help in strengthening the immune system. Read about the safety of having honey while breastfeeding, its benefits, and possible side effects.
Is It Safe To Have Honey While Breastfeeding?
Yes, a nursing mother can eat good quality pasteurized honey. However, it is good to avoid raw honey, which has high chances of containing spores of Clostridium botulinum.
Since the botulism spores are killed in the gastrointestinal tract of the mother, they would not enter into the blood stream or make their way into the breast milk. Moreover, the spores are too big to pass into the mother’s milk and even the botulinum toxin does not pass into breast milk (1). Rest assured, breast milk is certainly not a source of the toxin or the bacterial spores causing infant botulism.
Unlike adults, babies’ immature digestive system lacks enough acidity in the stomach to kill botulism causing bacteria. If the baby happens to ingest raw honey containing botulism spores, they may colonize in his large intestine to produce botulinum neurotoxin leading to infant botulism.
While you cannot give honey directly to a baby less than 6 months of age, consumption by the mother does not pose any risk to the infant.
Precautions To Be Taken While Eating Honey During Breastfeeding
If you are a nursing mother and have a habit of taking honey regularly, you may continue doing so, but follow these precautions:
- Make it a practice to wash your hands thoroughly to rule out the chance of botulism spores possibly stuck on your hands and fingers, to avoid passing them on to the baby.
- Check the manufacturing and expiry dates before you buy a bottle of honey.
- Choose a good quality honey that is well-processed and pasteurized.
- Consume in moderate amount.
- Discuss with your doctor regarding the honey types and the one that best suits your needs.
Benefits of Honey To A Breastfeeding Mother
Honey is one of the oldest sweeteners on earth with several health benefits.
- It is a healthy sweetener.
- Contains iron and small amounts of calcium, folate, vitamins C and B.
- Locally made honey may even help boost mother’s immune system.
- It is helpful in treating wounds, diabetic ulcers, and other gastrointestinal disorders.
- Can treat colitis, cold symptoms, and sore throat.
- Prevents cancer and heart diseases.
When Should A Nursing Mother Avoid Honey?
There is a lack of scientific evidence on the side effects of the usage of honey during pregnancy or breastfeeding. In general, it is good to avoid honey if you are sensitive to pollen, celery, or other bee-related allergies. Also, avoid honey extracted from plants belonging to the Rhododendron genus due to potential toxicity. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar. Talk to your doctor before adding honey to your diet.
1. Can I have honey and cinnamon drink during breastfeeding?
In most cases, honey and cinnamon drink is safe for nursing mothers. But, talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet. You may even drink honey lemon water during breastfeeding.
2. Is ginger and honey tea good for nursing mothers?
Yes, tea made with honey and ginger is good when breastfeeding as it soothes and relieves symptoms of cold. Ginger offers relief from breathing issues and a cough besides enhancing the flow of milk. Honey soothes a sore throat. These natural ingredients are safe for the baby as well. However, if you notice a rash, fussiness or diarrhea soon after nursing, it may be an indication that your baby is sensitive to honey or ginger.
3. Can I have manuka honey during breastfeeding?
Manuka honey is produced from the nectar of the manuka tree in Australia and New Zealand. This monofloral honey is usually a part of several home remedies and is fine to consume while nursing.
In fact, it is safer than other traditional treatments for allergies. But do not use it on nipples as an antibacterial cream to avoid being ingested by the baby.
4. Can spores be removed during the processing of honey?
Processing of honey cannot remove botulinum spores and even the consumers cannot detect them.
You can consume honey while breastfeeding as long as it is hygienically extracted. However, make sure to avoid the consumption of raw honey. Refer to the package instructions and purchase pasteurized and properly stored honey. You must also check the expiry date before the purchase. Similarly, if you are allergic to honey, it is best to avoid consuming it. If you have any queries regarding its consumption, consult your medical professional or a dietitian.
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Infant Botulism.