Can Babies Have Agave Nectar? Is It Safe?

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Agave nectar, also called blue agave nectar or agave syrup, is a sweet, honey-like, syrupy substance that often has a clear or beautiful golden color. If you’re looking for alternative sweeteners for your baby, you might wonder if it’s safe for babies.

Agave nectar is safe to give to babies, even those under 12 months old, as long as the agave is pasteurized. However, fresh fruit or breastmilk are healthier sweetener options for babies.

While you are navigating all the conflicting information on the internet about feeding agave nectar to your baby, it is easy to get confused. Let’s dive into the facts.

Is It Safe to Give Agave to Babies? 

Agave nectar, or agave syrup, comes from the agave plant native to Latin America and some parts of North America. It is a naturally occurring sweetener with a unique and delicious taste. 

Agave syrup is popular since it has a low glycemic index or GI, unlike honey and other sweeteners (source: Journal of Medicinal Food).

agave syrup pouring on a plate of pancakes

Unlike honey, agave nectar is safe to give to babies under 12 months old (source: JAMA Pediatrics). Ensure that the agave nectar is pasteurized since pasteurization kills any potential bacteria it may contain.

Keep in mind that agave does contain a lot of sugar in it. There are about 13 grams of sugar in a single tablespoon (source: United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]). Feeding sweeteners and sugars to a baby can lead to excessive weight gain and can be detrimental to overall health. 

Agave nectar is composed mainly of fructose, the sugar found in fruit (source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry). This sugar is not considered “bad” in the whole fruits themselves, since the fiber helps the body digest and absorb the fructose sugars slowly. 

On the flip side, agave nectar or syrup does contain some beneficial vitamins and minerals that are not found in regular sugar or syrup (source: USDA). 

Nevertheless, since agave is very sweet and can increase the baby’s natural affinity for sweetness, experts recommend sweetening your baby’s food with breastmilk, fresh fruits, and unsweetened dairy instead (source: Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition).

Can Agave Cause Botulism?

Agave nectar does not pose the risk of infant botulism, even when fed to babies under 12 months old. 

You should avoid feeding honey to babies under one year old due to the increased risk of infant botulism. Infant botulism from honey relates to the spores from the honey itself, which the infant’s immature digestive system cannot handle (source: Cleveland Clinic). 

Although honey and agave nectar are similar in taste, physical appearance, and consistency, agave nectar has not been associated with botulism in infants (source: JAMA Pediatrics). 

The only known substances known to cause infant botulism are honey (both raw and processed variations), any processed products containing honey, and environmental surfaces such as soil, dust, carpeting, and floors (source: Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital). 

agave syrup in a glass bowl

Can Agave Be Used as a Cough Syrup for Babies?

Many have heard that agave nectar can be used as a natural cough syrup for babies, especially those who are under 12 months old and cannot consume any honey. Is this claim true?

An experimental study was published in 2014 that gave agave nectar to babies ranging in age from two months to 47 months old. Some babies received a single dose of agave nectar before bedtime, while others received a placebo (source: JAMA Pediatrics).

Unfortunately, the results showed only a placebo effect, in which the babies who received “fake” agave nectar had slightly improved symptoms. The babies who actually received the agave nectar treatment did not have improved cough symptoms. 

Therefore, further research needs to be conducted in this area of study to demonstrate whether or not agave syrup is an effective treatment for cough symptoms in babies under one year old. 

I hope you found this article helpful in breaking down the truth and the myths surrounding feeding agave syrup to babies.