Honey

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 12 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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a honeycomb before being prepared for toddlers starting solids

Warning

Honey can contain Clostridium botulinum, spores that can cause infant botulism, a rare but potentially fatal illness. Babies under 12 months of age are most at risk, so wait until after baby’s first birthday to introduce honey.

Is honey safe for babies?

No. Never give honey to a baby, even if it’s been sterilized. Honey is associated with an increased risk of infant botulism—a rare but potentially fatal condition caused by Clostridium botulinum spores, which colonize a baby’s gut and produce toxins that attack the nervous system.1 2

Infant botulism affects babies under 12 months of age while the gut microbiome is still developing.3 4 Even though some producers sterilize honey to reduce the risk of contamination, there are inconsistent regulations in the global market that call into question the safety of this beloved sweetener, even when it’s treated.5

When can babies eat honey?

While it is considered safe to introduce honey after your baby’s first birthday, it can be beneficial to wait until closer to the 2nd birthday to introduce sugar and sweeteners (including agave, date syrup, and maple syrup). In excess, sweeteners like honey can reduce the diversity of foods your child is interested in eating and even increase the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes and negatively impact cardiovascular health.6

Infants have an innate preference for sweetness, so it’s important to help your child develop a palate for foods that do not contain added sugar.7 Avoiding added sugar and sweeteners in the early years may help your little one learn to love savory flavors as well as naturally sweet whole foods like fruit and vegetables.

Money Saver Icon Got a jar of honey that has crystallized and hardened? Put the container in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. The solids will melt into liquid gold.

Amelia, 14 months, tastes honeycomb for the first time.
Max, 22 months, tastes honey (from honeycomb) for the first time.
Adie, 22 months, tries to clean honey off her hands from touching honeycomb.

Is honey healthy for babies?

No. Honey is not a safe food for babies because it can put your child at risk for infant botulism. If your child is older than 12 months of age, it’s generally accepted to be okay to offer a small amount of honey from a reliable source. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends small amounts of honey (2 to 5 ml) for the treatment of cough in children older than age one.8 Based on recent research, it’s our professional opinion that it is best to wait until after the 2nd birthday to regularly use honey and other sweeteners into your child’s diet.9

Once you are ready to introduce honey, there are hundreds of options to try, each with a different flavor that reflect the bee’s diet—from lavender, to orange blossom, to sage. The nutrient profile varies widely depending on the bee’s diet and the form of honey; for example, raw honey can offer more antioxidants than processed honey.10 There’s even research that suggests that some honey can have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antiviral powers, but the verdict is still out on most of its medicinal uses.11

No matter which type you choose, all honey has one thing in common: sugar. What honey lacks in protein and fat, it makes up for in carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars that fuel the body with energy. Honey may be an ideal natural sweetener because it contains more nutrients than refined sugars, but sugar is sugar—and too much of it can contribute to negative health problems.12 If you want to sweeten your baby’s food, consider using fresh fiber-containing fruits, such as banana, figs, strawberries, or another naturally sweet fruit.

Finally, try to purchase honey from a reliable source as some honey contains contaminants. Bees are pollinators that move freely from blossom to blossom, which means their activity is hard to trace. As a result, honey can be contaminated with a wide range of pesticides, fungicides, heavy metals, bacteria, antibiotics, and even radioactive materials in the environment in which the bees live.13 To complicate matters, there is a widespread practice of mixing honey with corn syrup during processing to increase yield and profit.14 15

Can toddlers eat honeycomb?

Yes, but in moderation and with some caution. Honeycomb contains honey, beeswax, bee pollen, and other components (such as propolis and royal jelly).16 17 Those who have pollen allergies may have allergic reactions to honeycomb.18 Additionally, in some cases, beeswax, propolis, and/or royal jelly, which are present in varying amounts in honeycomb, can also cause allergic reactions that have ranged from mild to severe.19 20 21 22

The waxy component of honeycomb that is mainly made of beeswax may have beneficial health properties such as supporting liver and heart health, but consistently eating large amounts of honeycomb can be associated with stomach blockages, so avoid offering in large amounts.23 24 25 Because of this waxy consistency, honeycomb can take on a gum-like consistency in the mouth and can be a choking hazard. Cutting the honey into smaller pieces and making sure toddler fully chews and swallows the honeycomb before moving onto the next bite can help reduce this risk. Lastly, honey is rich in sugars and although they are natural, it is best to limit sugar intake for toddlers, children, and adults alike. Bottom line: If you are positive there is no allergy and your child is 12 months or older, a little honeycomb for fun is okay.

Is honey a common choking hazard for babies?

It can be, if served on its own or if it is coating another food that is challenging to chew (such as raw apple). To reduce the risk, limit the amount of honey you are serving and/or mix it well into other foods.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is honey a common allergen?

No. Honey allergies are rare, though not unheard of.26 As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

Although honey is often promoted as a home remedy for seasonal allergies, a study has demonstrated no difference in patients who ingested raw honey, commercially processed honey, or a honey-flavored placebo.27 In rare cases, honey may actually increase allergy symptoms in individuals with pollen or bee venom allergies when eaten or applied to the skin.28 29

How should you introduce honey to babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Avoid due to the risk of infant botulism.

12 to 24 months old: Consider waiting. While it is safe to introduce honey after your baby’s first birthday, honey is packed with sugar—and this is a great time to focus on expanding your baby’s palate with more savory flavors.

24 months old+: Go time! Drizzle a small amount of honey on top of foods like bread with nut butter, oatmeal, or yogurt, or mix into foods like sauces or smoothies.

For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Recipe: Bruschetta with Ricotta & Honey (24 mos+)*

strips of toasted sourdough bread topped with ricotta cheese and drizzled with oil, lemon juice and honey

Ingredients

  • 1 slice sourdough bread
  • 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey

Directions

  1. Toast the bread in a toaster, on a skillet, or in a preheated oven until crisp.
  2. Spread the ricotta cheese on top of the toasted bread.
  3. Drizzle the oil, lemon juice, and honey on top.
  4. Cut the bread into age-appropriate sizes before serving.

*This recipe contains allergens (dairy and wheat).

Flavor Pairings

Honey varies greatly in taste. Some varieties are grassy and floral, while others are nutty and smoky, but sweetness is the thru-line across all types. Honey is a popular substitute for refined sugar in bread and other baked goods, but try pairing it with whole foods to balance flavors, from tangy cheeses like goat cheese, mascarpone, or ricotta; to tart fruits like apple, cranberry, or pineapple; to naturally sweet vegetables like beets, carrots, or yams; to piquant foods like jalapeno peppers or acidic foods like tomatoes. There’s a reason some people like to drizzle honey on pizza!

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD

K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Wikström, S., & Holst, E. (2017). Spädbarnsbotulism – skäl att inte ge honung till barn under ett år. Infant botulism – why honey should be avoided for children up to one year. Lakartidningen, 114, ELMF. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  2. Cox, N., Hinkle, R. (2002). Infant Botulism. American Family Physician, 65(7), 1388-1393. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  3. Siu, K., Rehan, M., Austin, J. W., Ramachandran Nair, R., & Pernica, J. (2017). It’s not all about the honey. Pediatrics & child health, 22(1), 37–38. DOI:10.1093/pch/pxx009. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  4. Tanzi, M. G., & Gabay, M. P. (2002). Association between honey consumption and infant botulism. Pharmacotherapy, 22(11), 1479–1483. DOI:10.1592/phco.22.16.1479.33696. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  5. Al-Waili, N., Salom, K., Al-Ghamdi, A., & Ansari, M. J. (2012). Antibiotic, pesticide, and microbial contaminants of honey: human health hazards. The Scientific World Journal, 2012, 930849. DOI:10.1100/2012/930849. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  6. Fidler Mis, N., Braegger, C., Bronsky, J., Campoy, C., Domellöf, et al. (2017). Sugar in Infants, Children and Adolescents: A Position Paper of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Committee on Nutrition. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 65(6), 681–696. DOI:10.1097/MPG.0000000000001733. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  7. Fidler Mis, N., Braegger, C., Bronsky, J., Campoy, C., Domellöf, et al. (2017). Sugar in Infants, Children and Adolescents: A Position Paper of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Committee on Nutrition. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 65(6), 681–696. DOI:10.1097/MPG.0000000000001733. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  8. HealthyChildren.org, Coughs and Colds: Medicines or Home Remedies? Retrieved September 6, 2020
  9. Fidler Mis, N., Braegger, C., Bronsky, J., Campoy, C., Domellöf, et al. (2017). Sugar in Infants, Children and Adolescents: A Position Paper of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Committee on Nutrition. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 65(6), 681–696. DOI:10.1097/MPG.0000000000001733. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  10. Blasa, M., Candiracci, M., Accorsi, A., Piacentini, M.P., Albertini, M.C., et al. (2006). Raw Millefiori honey is packed full of antioxidants. Food Chemistry, 97(2), 217-222. DOI:10.1016/j.foodchem.2005.03.039. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  11. Ahmed, S., Sulaiman, S.A., Baig, A.A., Ibrahim, M.,Liaqat, S., et al. (2018). Honey as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Its Molecular Mechanisms of Action. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2018:8367846. DOI:10.1155/2018/8367846. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  12. Fidler Mis, N., Braegger, C., Bronsky, J., Campoy, C., Domellöf, et al. (2017). Sugar in Infants, Children and Adolescents: A Position Paper of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Committee on Nutrition. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 65(6), 681–696. DOI:10.1097/MPG.0000000000001733. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  13. Al-Waili, N., Salom, K., Al-Ghamdi, A., & Ansari, M. J. (2012). Antibiotic, pesticide, and microbial contaminants of honey: human health hazards. The Scientific World Journal, 2012, 930849. DOI:10.1100/2012/930849. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  14. Trifković, J., Andrić, F., Ristivojević, P., Guzelmeric, E., & Yesilada, E. (2017). Analytical Methods in Tracing Honey Authenticity. Journal of AOAC International, 100(4), 827–839. DOI:10.5740/jaoacint.17-0142. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  15. Soares, S., Amaral, J. S., Oliveira, M. B. P. P., & Mafra, I. (2017). A Comprehensive Review on the Main Honey Authentication Issues: Production and Origin: Honey authentication…. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 16(5), 1072–1100. DOI: 10.1111/1541-4337.12278. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  16. Olaitan, P. B., Adeleke, O. E., & Ola, I. O. (2007). Honey: a reservoir for microorganisms and an inhibitory agent for microbesAfrican health sciences7(3), 159–165. DOI: 10.5555/afhs.2007.7.3.159. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  17. Komosinska-Vassev, K., Olczyk, P., Kaźmierczak, J., Mencner, L., & Olczyk, K. (2015). Bee pollen: chemical composition and therapeutic applicationEvidence-based complementary and alternative medicine, 297425. DOI: 10.1155/2015/297425. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  18. U. S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Bee pollen. Medline Plus. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  19. Nyman, G., Tang, M., Inerot, A., Osmancevic, A., Malmberg, P., & Hagvall, L. (2019). Contact allergy to beeswax and propolis among patients with cheilitis or facial dermatitisContact dermatitis81(2), 110–116. DOI: 10.1111/cod.13306. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  20. Hay, K. D., & Greig, D. E. (1990). Propolis allergy: a cause of oral mucositis with ulcerationOral surgery, oral medicine, and oral pathology, 70(5), 584–586. DOI: 10.1016/0030-4220(90)90403-f. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  21. Thien, F. C., Leung, R., Baldo, B. A., Weiner, J. A., Plomley, R., & Czarny, D. (1996). Asthma and anaphylaxis induced by royal jellyClinical and experimental allergy : journal of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 26(2), 216–222. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2222.1996.tb00082.x. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  22. Leung, R., Ho, A., Chan, J., Choy, D., & Lai, C. K. (1997). Royal jelly consumption and hypersensitivity in the communityClinical and experimental allergy : journal of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 27(3), 333–336. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  23. Illnait, J., Rodríguez, I., Mendoza, S., Fernández, Y., Mas, R., Miranda, M., Piñera, J., Fernández, J. C., Mesa, M., Fernández, L., Carbajal, D., & Gámez, R. (2013). Effects of D-002, a mixture of high molecular weight beeswax alcohols, on patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver diseaseThe Korean journal of internal medicine28(4), 439–448. DOI: 10.3904/kjim.2013.28.4.439. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  24. Hargrove, J. L., Greenspan, P., & Hartle, D. K. (2004). Nutritional significance and metabolism of very long chain fatty alcohols and acids from dietary waxesExperimental biology and medicine (Maywood, N.J.)229(3), 215–226. DOI: 10.1177/153537020422900301. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  25. Katsinelos, P., Pilpilidis, I., Chatzimavroudis, G., Katsinelos, T., Lazaraki, G., Fasoulas, K., Zavos, C., & Kountouras, J. (2009). Huge gastric bezoar caused by honeycomb, an unusual complication of health faddism: a case reportCases journal, 2, 7077. DOI: 10.1186/1757-1626-2-7077. Retrieved June 19, 2021.
  26. Aguiar, R., Duarte, F. C., Mendes, A., Bartolomé, B., & Barbosa, M. P. (2017). Anaphylaxis caused by honey: a case report. Asia Pacific allergy, 7(1), 48–50. DOI:10.5415/apallergy.2017.7.1.48. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  27. Koca, I., & Koca, A. F. (2007). Poisoning by mad honey: A brief review. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 45(8), 1315–1318. DOI:10.1016/j.fct.2007.04.006. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  28. Vezir, E., Kaya, A., Toyran, M., Azkur, D., Dibek Mısırlıoğlu, E., & Kocabaş, C. N. (2014). Anaphylaxis/angioedema caused by honey ingestion. Allergy and asthma proceedings, 35(1), 71–74. DOI:10.2500/aap.2014.35.3718. Retrieved August 25, 2020
  29. Matos, D., Serrano, P., & Menezes Brandão, F. (2015). A case of allergic contact dermatitis caused by propolis-enriched honey. Contact dermatitis, 72(1), 59–60. DOI:10.1111/cod.12297. Retrieved August 25, 2020