At a certain point, you’ll probably feel as though your baby is ready to move on to more interesting food than formula and mushy prunes. He or she might start showing interest in other tastes and flavors, and it’s okay to slowly introduce your baby to these things before it’s officially time for solids. Always consult with your doctor first, but some teething devices are designed so that you can put whole pieces of fruit in a protected pouch. Then, your baby can suck on the juice without the risk of choking on the chunks. While you’re thinking about introducing new foods into your baby’s diet, you might wonder whether or not honey would be an acceptable addition. It’s natural and smooth, so at first glance it doesn’t seem to pose any real threat to your baby’s well being. Believe it or not, honey can actually be extremely dangerous.

Honey, even the most organic and natural variety, might contain a dangerous bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. All honey contains the bacterium, but adults are able to digest it and prevent germination in the intestine. Babies are unable to do so, and it causes infant botulism, which is a potentially fatal sickness. Before the age of one year old, a baby’s body does not yet contain certain microorganism that are necessary to keep the intestine free from such bacterium. Therefore, it’s important that you don’t feed your baby honey in any form unless it is in the pre-packaged baby food recommended by your doctor. That is the only instance in which the honey has been cooked and processed enough to eliminate any traces of Clostridium botulinum.

If you’ve already fed your baby honey, the risk for botulism is rare enough that you don’t have to rush him or her to the hospital unless you see symptoms. The symptoms of infant botulism include muscle weakness, lethargy, constipation, excessive crying and slack jaw. If your baby is exhibiting any of these symptoms whether or not you’ve given him honey, it’s important that you notify his doctor right away. Any strange symptoms could be a sign of a serious problem.

Among other foods, you should always check with your doctor before giving your baby honey or any product containing honey that was not specifically made for babies. Honey can contain a harmful bacteria that your baby simply cannot properly handle until he’s at least one.

Source: Patrick Byrne: Infant Botulism and Honey. Food Safety Authority of Ireland 2010