Hold the Honey

When I was a small baby, I had a big obsession with my pacifier. In every picture taken during my first year and a half of life, there is a giant, and I mean GIANT, pacifier in my mouth. Back in those days, pacifiers weren't cute and colorful, nor did they have unique designs on them. Nope, they were just giant pieces of rubbery plastic suctioned to your baby's face.

Today, you can buy pacifiers in every color of the rainbow. You can get them with your school logo or favorite cartoon character... But there is one particular pacifier on the market today that is raising concern in the pediatric community. And occasionally, we come across it.

Last week, one of our clients who was just a few weeks old came in with a honey-filled pacifier. They are very popular within the Latino community. As harmless as honey may seem, this can be very dangerous for young babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you do not give honey to a baby younger than 12 months. Honey, although naturally occurring, isn't processed and can contain botulinum C spores. In adults and older children, it isn't usually harmful, but in babies, honey can cause serious illness.

Infant botulism occurs mostly in babies younger than 6 months. When a baby ingests the botulinum spores, bacteria grow in his intestines, making toxins within the gut.
According to the AAP, the typical incubation period for infant botulism can range from 3 to 30 days after exposure to the spores.

Symptoms include:

  • Constipation
  • A weakened cry
  • Loss of facial expression
  • A reduced gag reflex
  • Slow feeding
  • Overall weakness or floppiness

If left untreated, infant botulism can cause paralysis or even death.
We have now educated ourselves and our volunteers about the dangers of giving honey to babies. When we come across infants with these pacifiers, we gently educate the mothers, as well. Usually, they have no idea that there was any danger, and a conversation is all it takes.