Due to the caution that surrounds feeding honey to babies under 12 months, it makes sense that you may wonder if you can eat honey when you are nursing.
Eating honey while breastfeeding is considered to be safe and has many health benefits for you and your baby. However, honey contains significant amounts of sugar and should be consumed in small quantities to avoid weight gain, diabetes, or any other adverse health effects.
Let’s dive into more specific information about consuming honey while breastfeeding, including the benefits, types of honey, and more!
Can I Eat Honey While Breastfeeding a Newborn?
While it is unsafe for infants under 12 months to consume honey due to the risk of botulism, you can eat it safely any time while breastfeeding.
Doctors recommend that you avoid feeding any type of honey to babies under 12 months old because of the spores honey contains. These spores can cause infant botulism, a very dangerous disorder that is potentially life-threatening (source: Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children).
However, the spores in honey that can cause botulism in the baby are too large to pass through your breastmilk. Therefore your infant cannot get botulism from nursing (source: Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children).
Additionally, while breastfeeding an infant under 12 months old, you can safely consume honey in food. Whether in Honey Nut Cheerios cereal, Nature Valley Honey and Oat cereal bars, and more, you can have honey in commercial products since the spores cannot pass through breastmilk.
Honey contains sugar, which can contribute to weight gain and diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 25 grams of sugar (six teaspoons) per day for women and 36 grams (nine teaspoons) for men. Therefore, limit your honey use to avoid excessive sugar intake.
The Benefits of Honey When Nursing
Honey contains a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (source: Pharmacognosy Research). Traditionally, honey has been used for various conditions and diseases, from heart disease to diabetes, due to the antioxidants it contains. Honey also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties (source: Mayo Clinic).
When you breastfeed after consuming antioxidants, such as honey, the infant can also receive those antioxidants, which can boost the immune system and protect against diseases (source: Antioxidants).
Additionally, honey is well-known as a treatment for cough, amongst other topical uses (source: Cleveland Clinic).
Raw vs. Pasteurized Honey When Breastfeeding
While pregnant women are used to hearing that pasteurization is the safest option, when it comes to breastfeeding and consuming honey, raw honey is also a safe choice!
Pasteurized honey has been processed to improve shelf life. Raw honey is straight from the hive and likely is the highest in antioxidants (source: Cleveland Clinic). There is no guidance that distinguishes raw honey as unsafe for breastfeeding women.
Can I Drink Beverages with Honey When Breastfeeding?
It is safe to enjoy your favorite beverages that contain honey while breastfeeding, whether it is raw or pasteurized honey.
For example, it is safe to consume honey and lemon water in tea. Just make sure to limit your caffeine intake to no more than 300 milligrams per day (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]).
While coffee has the highest amounts of caffeine, black tea has more caffeine than green tea and herbal tea.
Consuming excess amounts of caffeine can contribute to infant jitteriness, poor sleep patterns, irritability, and more (source: CDC). These side effects require a very high amount of caffeine, and it’s unlikely you could obtain it from tea alone. But do be sure to limit your caffeine intake if you notice any of these symptoms in your baby.
Can I Have Manuka Honey When Breastfeeding?
Yes, you can have Manuka honey when you are breastfeeding. If you like Manuka honey, it is a great and delicious source of nutrition and sweetness!
Manuka honey comes from a Manuka plant, which is found in New Zealand. This honey contains antioxidants just like regular honey, but it also has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties (source: Cleveland Clinic). As a result, Manuka honey can help fight infections from bacteria (source: Memorial Sloan Kettering).
Does Honey Affect or Increase my Milk Supply?
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that honey will increase or improve your milk supply while you are breastfeeding. However, it also does not decrease your milk supply or affect it negatively.
The best way to improve your milk production is to ensure you are breastfeeding consistently and often.
Galactagogues, which are foods, herbs, and beverages that may support increased breast milk production, can be used. These include alfalfa, goat’s rue, fenugreek, and more (source: American Pregnancy Association).
Be sure to eat a balanced diet to ensure you are getting all essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you need.
While breastfeeding, go ahead and enjoy your favorite honey and reap its tasty and nutritional benefits! I hope you found this article helpful in breaking down myths and misconceptions about honey and breastfeeding.