Welcome to the Land of Milk and Honey
You’ve probably heard all along that you should never give a baby honey or cow’s milk—at least until their first birthday. But, do you know why?
Young babies depend on milk as their only source of nutrition, and even older babies who eat solids still need lots of milk. The problem with cow’s milk is that it’s made for baby cows, not baby humans. Little ones can’t digest cow’s milk properly, and it doesn’t contain the right amounts of nutrients like protein, fat, vitamin C and other important vitamins and minerals. Also, with its higher concentrations of protein and some minerals, it can irritate baby’s sensitive tummy and put extra stress on little kidneys.
But, once your child is eating a well-rounded diet and is able to digest it more easily, whole milk provides an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, protein, fats and carbohydrates. These nutrients help to build bones and muscles and give kids the energy they need to power through their day. Aim for about two cups (16 oz.) of milk or milk products daily, but keep in mind that more is not always better—more than four cups (32 oz.) of milk per day can fill a baby’s tummy too much, keeping them from eating other healthy foods.
What could be wrong with feeding nature’s perfect food to babies? Well, it’s not the honey itself that poses a problem—it’s spores of a toxin called Clostridium botulinum, which are commonly found in honey. In older children and adults, these spores pass through the digestive system without causing any harm. However, young babies’ systems are still immature and unable to move the spores along before they develop into dangerous bacteria. That’s why babies under a year old shouldn’t be given honey, and that’s also true for any foods that contain honey—even baked goods!
After baby’s first birthday, feel free to use honey in place of refined sugar in sweet treats, yogurt or smoothies. Even though it’s still pure sugar, honey contains lots of good-for-you substances you can’t find in other sweeteners, like antioxidants and plant-based nutrients called phytonutrients. It’s also good for soothing sore throats and upset tummies.