Can I Eat Honey While Breastfeeding?

honey

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If you enjoy using honey to sweeten your tea, or as an ingredient in baked goods or other treats, you might be wondering if it’s safe to consume as you breastfeed your little one. Maybe you use honey to soothe a sore throat or cough and are wondering if there are risks to doing so while nursing.

Thankfully, it’s generally not harmful to eat honey while breastfeeding. You may have heard that babies under the age of 1 shouldn’t eat honey because of the risk of botulism, but your baby can’t get botulism if you eat honey while breastfeeding.

“There are no risks to a mother who eats honey while breastfeeding and it’s safe for babies to drink the milk of mothers who have consumed honey,” says Jessica Madden, MD, pediatrician, neonatologist, IBCLC, and medical director at Aeroflow Breastpumps.

Let’s take a look at what you need to know about eating honey while breastfeeding, what the benefits of eating honey are, and what to know about keeping your baby safe in general from the risks of botulism from honey.

Eating Honey While Breastfeeding

It’s totally understandable that breastfeeding parents would have concerns about eating honey. After all, pediatricians warn parents not to feed honey directly to their babies because of the risk of botulism, a bacterial infection that can cause serious illness in babies, including muscle weakness, paralysis, and trouble breathing.

As the Infant Botulism Treatment and Prevention Program explains, even if a breastfeeding parent consumes honey that is contaminated with the toxins that cause botulism, these toxins do not get into breastmilk, and therefore do not get transmitted to babies. “Your body will digest and break down honey (and any spores it is contaminated with), so it won’t pass in your breast milk to your baby,” Dr. Madden explains.

Sarah Schooler, RN, IBCLC, founder of Thrive Lactation Center, echoes this sentiment and says that there is no reason to restrict honey from your diet if you are breastfeeding, as it poses no danger to your baby. “It is safe for mothers to eat honey, even in large quantities while breastfeeding,” says Schooler. “A mother’s ingestion of honey poses no risk to the breastfeeding infant.”

However, both Dr. Madden and Schooler caution that if you are eating honey near your baby, you should take some basic precautions like washing your hands before breastfeeding or interacting with your baby, to ensure that your baby doesn’t accidentally eat honey.

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about eating honey while breastfeeding.

Is It Safe for Baby?

If the toxins associated with botulism were present in breast milk, and if they could be transmitted to your baby, then consuming honey would definitely be a “no.” Luckily, that is not the case, and it’s safe to eat honey while breastfeeding. You don’t need to limit the amount of honey you eat, either.

Still, it’s important to take the risks of botulism from honey seriously, and ensure that if you are eating honey in your home, you don’t inadvertently feed it to your child because of the risk of botulism to any child under the age of 12 months.

Botulism is caused by bacteria called Clostridium botulinum, which forms spores that produce toxins. Older children and adults are able to break down these toxins in their digestive systems, but babies under the age of 1 are not able to.

Botulism from honey can cause serious harm to babies. Symptoms include breathing issues, constipation, feeding issues, weak facial muscles, decreased or subdued crying, and weakness in the legs, arm, and neck muscles.

If your baby has consumed honey (or you think they might have) and they are exhibiting any of these symptoms, you should contact your pediatrician promptly. Babies with botulism need hospital care, and sometimes need ICU care as well.

Benefits of Eating Honey While Breastfeeding

There are no benefits to consuming honey during breastfeeding in terms of your milk supply or milk quality. “Honey is not specifically known to be a galactagogue, which is a food or herb that aids in increasing milk production,” Schooler remarks.

However, a breastfeeding parent will reap the general benefits that honey offers, including the fact that it may serve as an antioxidant, and is a naturally occurring sweetener. As Dr. Madden explains, honey is a healthier alternative to artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose.

Additionally, says Dr. Madden, honey can help with cold and cough symptoms, which may be a good option for breastfeeding parents.

“Honey is also a natural cough suppressant, so it may be safer for breastfeeding mothers to consume honey to treat their cold and flu symptoms rather than taking over-the-counter cough and cold medications (which often contain ingredients which are contraindicated while breastfeeding),” Dr. Madden advises.

Safety Precautions

Again, you can eat as much honey you want as a breastfeeding parent because the toxins that cause botulism do not get into breastmilk. However, if you are consuming honey, you want to be sure that your baby doesn’t accidentally digest the honey you are eating. “If a breastfeeding mother does cook with or eat honey, I recommend washing your hands prior to touching her baby’s mouth or preparing bottles and food for the infant,” Schooler says.

As your baby gets older, they may surprise you and try to reach for your food themselves! If your baby hasn't reached 1 year old yet, make sure they don’t get their hands on any honey or any food containing honey.

“If your baby is old enough to reach out and try to grab the food(s) you are eating, I would be sure not to eat honey when they are within an arm’s reach of you,” Dr. Madden suggests.

A Word From Verywell

It’s smart to be cautious about the foods you consume as well as the medications you are considering taking while you are breastfeeding. Although there are certain substances that it’s best to limit or refrain from consuming while breastfeeding, honey isn’t one of them.

So go ahead and spoon that delicious honey into your hot beverage of choice, and don’t worry about eating a scrumptious dessert sweetened with honey. If you have any further questions about consuming honey while breastfeeding, consider contacting your baby’s pediatrician.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. The Benefits of Honey + How to Incorporate It Into Your Diet.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Botulism.

  3. Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. Botulism.

  4. Nemours Children’s Health. Infant Botulism.

  5. California Department of Public Health. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Infant Botulism.

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