Can a nursing mother eat or drink honey?
Most people know that a child under one year of age should
not eat or drink honey. As we were going
through our breastfeeding questionnaire in our Bradley Method® class last week,
we got the question, “Can a nursing mother eat or drink honey?” We get it often, and when we get it we give
our standard answer of asking your care provider. I know the choice I made for myself, and I really
wanted to get to the bottom of the question for my own edification.
First of all – what is the concern? I referred to infantbotulism.org
to best articulate
the concern in regards to infants and honey consumption:
How does a baby get infant botulism?
A baby contracts ("gets") infant botulism by
swallowing the botulism spores at a moment in time when the baby's large
intestine is vulnerable to spore germination and toxin production. Medical
science does not yet understand all the factors that make a baby susceptible
to botulism spore germination. Honey is the one identified and avoidable
source of botulinum spores. By a process of exclusion (testing over the years
of hundreds of foods, beverages and other items placed in infants' mouths
with negative results), it was concluded that most infant botulism patients acquired
their spores by swallowing microscopic dust particles that carry the spores.
Is there anything else you can do to protect your baby? Here is this from the Mayo Clinic
To protect your baby from infant botulism:
Don't offer your baby honey. Wild honey is a potential
source of Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) spores.
Be careful when canning food. Pressure-cook home-canned
foods to reduce the risk of contamination with C. botulinum spores. Consider
boiling home-canned foods for 10 minutes before serving them.
Store food safely. Discard any food that could be
spoiled. Also toss food containers that seem suspicious or appear to bulge.
Avoid exposure to potentially contaminated soil or
dust. Soil can contain C. botulinum spores, which can circulate in the air
and be inhaled into the lungs. In North America, the risk is greatest in
Pennsylvania, Utah and California — states in which soil botulinum spore counts
are high. Exposure to contaminated soil is most likely near construction and
agricultural sites, or other areas where soil is disturbed.
Constipation is often the first sign of infant botulism,
typically accompanied by floppy movements, weakness, and difficulty sucking or
If you suspect your baby might have infant botulism, seek
medical help immediately. Prompt treatment with the botulism immune globulin —
a substance given through the baby's veins to work against the botulism toxin —
can help prevent life-threatening complications of infant botulism.
How about honey in processed snacks and other foods? I found this on livestrong.com
Processed Honey in Snacks
Although raw honey poses the biggest danger, even
honey-flavored snacks can contain botulism, found a study published in the
journal "Pharmacotherapy" in 2002. The Colorado Department of Public
Health specifically warns against giving Honey Nut Cheerios to infants and
babies less than 1 year old. Some people wrongly assume that cooking or
processing honey kills all potential germs. Unfortunately, even in processed
and cooked snacks, the honey "may not be pasteurized and therefore may
still contain botulism spores," the department explains.
If Your Infant Ate Honey Nut Cheerios
If you already fed Honey Nut Cheerios to your infant, don't
panic; honey causes fewer than 20 cases of infant botulism every year, reports
the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. Nevertheless, you must carefully
observe your baby for any signs of botulism. Despite botulism's rarity, it
poses serious dangers. Watch for unusual behaviors such as lethargy,
unresponsiveness and weak crying. Additionally, keep a look out for physical
signs, such as drooping eyelids, unusually excessive drooling, floppy limbs,
weak suckling and especially constipation. If you notice any signs of infant
botulism, call a doctor immediately and explain the situation.
Nothing in this reading says anything about the mother
eating or drinking honey. I found this explanation that talks about how the
body makes milk on babycenter.com
that helped me draw my own conclusion about
what I would choose to do:
Prompted by the hormone prolactin, the alveoli take
proteins, sugars, and fat from your blood supply and make breast milk. A
network of cells surrounding the alveoli squeeze the glands and push the milk
out into the ductules, which lead to a bigger duct. (You can think of the 15 to
20 milk ducts as individual straws, some of which merge, so that about eight or
nine end at the tip of your nipple to deliver milk to your baby.)
Your milk duct system becomes fully developed sometime
during your second trimester, so you can make milk for your baby even if he
Theoretically, if the body is pulling proteins, sugars and fats from the
bloodstream, then the mother’s body has already digested the honey and there
would not be any of the botulism spores in her bloodstream.
Q: I know that honey is not a safe
food for babies. Is it okay for a breastfeeding mother to eat honey? Can
botulism be transmitted in my breast milk? Should I continue to breastfeed my
infant through his/her illness with infant botulism?
A: Yes, it is ok for a breastfeeding
mother to eat honey. Botulism is not transmitted by breast milk. The Infant
Botulism Treatment and Prevention Program recommends continuing breast
feeding or the feeding of expressed breast milk during the illness and
recovery from infant botulism.
As always, thorough hand washing practices should be strictly adhered to, especially
in households where honey is regularly consumed by family members and other
caregivers. Doing so will help prevent having honey on surfaces that may come
into contact with the infant’s mouth.
Although the bacterial spores that cause infant botulism are known to
occasionally be present in honey, even if a mother was to eat botulism spores
in honey, the spores are far too large to pass through her body and into
breast milk. Also, botulinum toxin does not pass into breast milk. For this
and other reasons, breast milk is not a source of the bacterial spores or the
toxin that cause infant botulism.
As stated in the patient management section of our website, breast milk
constitutes optimal nutrition for infants, and mothers should be encouraged
and supported in their efforts to continue breastfeeding through their
infant’s illness and recovery.
Since I am not a medical professional, I would encourage
everyone to read the original sources and then discuss your thoughts with your care provider
before you choose whether or not to consume honey as a breastfeeding
mother. I hope this also gives you a
clear explanation as to why children under one year of age should not eat or
drink honey in any shape or form.
What are your thoughts on honey and breastfeeding?
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The Mayo Clinic
Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/505464-can-an-infant-eat-honey-nut-cheerios/#ixzz2Kz2SkAdD
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