While most parents now know that babies shouldn't have raw honey, decisions about foods baked with honey are more complex. Raw honey, including pasteurized honey, can be contaminated with botulism spores. Botulism spores cannot grow and thrive in the intestines of older children and adults but can in infants because their digestive systems are not yet mature. Extreme heat kills these spores -- typically 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents avoid all sources of honey for infants under 12 months. However, honey is considered safe for children over 12 months of age. The risk of botulism is highest in infants under 6 months, but it can occur in infants from 6 months to 1 year of age. Avoiding potential exposure to botulism spores in raw honey or homemade baked goods with honey can eliminate this risk to your baby.
Commercially Prepared Foods
Commercially prepared foods, like cereals, cookies and baby foods containing honey, are safe for your infant. The honey has been heated enough to kill any potential botulism spores. Most of these foods contain a variety of ingredients and are designed for older babies.
Baking at Home
If you're making your own foods for baby, including cookies, crackers, or bread, you should avoid honey if he's under 1 year old. Household cooking temperatures on the stove or oven won't necessarily destroy the botulism spores. Opt for fruit juice concentrate or fruit purees if you would like to use a liquid sweetener to bake for your baby. Maple syrup is also an option, if your pediatrician agrees.
Parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of infant botulism. While honey is the most likely culprit in cases of infant botulism, corn syrup, dust and dirt may also contain botulism spores. Constipation is the first symptom associated with botulism in infants, but listlessness, decreased appetite, weakness and respiratory failure may follow. With proper medical care, most infants recover; however, infant botulism typically results in a one-month stay in the intensive care unit, followed by an additional two weeks of hospital care.