Breastfeeding and Honey
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

Breastfeeding and Honey

Breastfeeding Question:  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 feeding.

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 arrives prematurely.
 
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.
 
And here is the answer to our question from infantbotulism.org:

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?
Please leave us a comment - it won't show up immediately, however it will be moderated and posted. 
*I think* that the amount of traffic you so generously generate has led to a lot of spam posting.  In an effort to keep the spam to a minimum, I am taking the time to moderate comments now.
 
Link List
Infant Botulism.org
http://www.infantbotulism.org/general/faq.php
 
The Mayo Clinic
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infant-botulism/HQ00854
 
Livestrong.Com
Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/505464-can-an-infant-eat-honey-nut-cheerios/#ixzz2Kz2SkAdD
 
Making Breastmilk
http://www.babycenter.com/0_making-breast-milk-how-your-body-produces-natures-perfect-ba_8785.bc
 
 
Disclaimer:
Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Payson The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation.
Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.
This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.

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