Busting the myth: Is it safe to give honey to your newborn?

Busting the myth: Is it safe to give honey to your newborn?

In India, it is a common custom to give honey to the baby within two hours of its birth, especially in rural areas and smaller towns.

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Parents are always concerned about the well-being of their little ones. This compels them to follow suggestions that may not be scientifically correct. These are commonly termed as baby care myths, which will do more harm to your baby than good.

Here are a few myths about baby care that are SHOULD not be followed without the doctor's advice:

Myth 1: Giving honey to new born is safe

In Asian communities, honey is said to have medicinal properties and is given to newborns to keep them healthy. In India, it is a common custom to give honey to the baby within two hours of its birth, especially in rural areas and smaller towns.

However, research suggests that it is not a safe practice. In fact, it has been proposed that honey can cause infantile botulism and botulism toxicity in the new born babies. Infant botulism, caused by Clostridium botulinum that grows in the gastrointestinal tract of the baby, is known to be a life threatening disease.2

There are microbiological and epidemiological evidences stating that honey is a dietary reservoir of C. botulinum spores. The diagnosis of infant botulism can be made with symptoms such as acute floppiness with a constipation history.

Clinical presentation of babies with C. botulinum infection includes bulbar paralysis, hypotonia, and loss of head control, dysphagia, poor feeding and overall weakness. You need to know that honey is not recommended if your child is less than 1 year old. It is also said that infantile botulism can affect babies in the age group of 2 to 6 months.1

Myth 2: Giving glucose water to new born babies is safe

Babies breastfed properly and often, do not need any extra glucose supplementation. In fact, they shouldn't be given glucose at all.

  • The immediate colostrum given to the baby (10-12 times in a day) stabilises the blood glucose levels. It is said that undiluted human milk is the best food, for all babies.
  • Only if your baby is not breastfed properly or if breastfeeding is delayed, he can face a hypoglycemic condition and in such cases glucose water can be given to the infants to increase the glucose levels. This will in turn stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas and help regulate the glucose levels.
  • Also, glucose water can be given if your baby is small or large for its gestational age, if it is preterm, if it has any kind of infection or some abnormality.
  • However, this too is given intravenously, if your baby has any of the above conditions. If your baby is healthy and is fed regularly as per its requirement, it does not need any extra glucose. In fact, giving glucose may lead to sudden and abrupt fluctuations in the body glucose that could be harmful to the newborn brain.
  • It is also important for a woman to know that while she is pregnant, smoking and unhealthy food can lead to hypoglycemic conditions in her baby. 3

Continue reading on the next page to know if you should be giving dairy products to your babies during cough and cold!

Myth 3: Milk and dairy products make more mucus and should not be given during a cold

This is not true. Studies suggest that milk and other dairy products have linoleic acid and natural ingredients that can boost your baby’s immune system.

Yogurt has probiotic agents that again can improve the infant’s immunity. 4It helps in maintaining a ‘healthy gut microbiota’ in the infants. These gut flora influence the baby’s metabolism, physiology and immune system preventing any chronic GI disease.5

Some people believe that milk increases the mucus secretion in the respiratory tract resulting in the symptoms of a cold. This is not true. Milk just makes the existing mucus thick and sticky which in some cases cause throat irritation. Milk or dairy products do not make more phlegm. 6

However, it is true that many babies are allergic to cow’s milk. Around 5-15% of the infants show this allergic sensitivity. They elicit immunological response reactions to cow’s milk proteins. It can also occur in babies who are breastfed exclusively and also in case of partially breastfed babies. It may be seen in babies whose diet regimen includes some amount of cow milk proteins. 7

Watch the following video to know more about debunking myths around eating food during pregnancy.

Pregnancy diet tips for mother and baby



Also Read: Busting the myth: Should you also be giving water to your newborn baby?

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Abdulla CO, Ayubi A, Zulfiquer F. Santhanam G. Ahmed MAS and Deeb J. Infant botulism following honey ingestion. BMJ Case Rep. 2012; 2012: bcr1120115153. doi:  10.1136/bcr.11.2011.5153.
Infant botulism. Medine plus website. medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001384.htm. Accessed 11 August, 2016.
Edie Orr and Betty Crase. New beginnings, Vol. 14 No. 4, July-August 1997, pp. 107-8.www.lalecheleague.org/nb/nbjulaug97p107.html. Accessed 11 August, 2016.
Indian myths exposed. Palo alto medical foundation website. www.pamf.org/southasian/healthy/children/indian_myths.html. Accessed 11 August, 2016.
Caitriona M G and Paul D C. Role of the gut microbiota in health and chronic gastrointestinal disease: understanding a hidden metabolic organ. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2013 Jul; 6(4): 295–308. doi: 1177/1756283X13482996.
Cold symptoms: Does drinking milk increase phlegm? Mayoclinic website. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/expert-answers/phlegm/faq-20058015. Accessed 11 August, 2016
Yvan V, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of cow's milk protein allergy in infants. Arch Dis Child. 2007 Oct; 92(10): 902–908.doi:  10.1136/adc.2006.110999.

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