Consuming Fish While Breastfeeding

Should You Eat Fish While Breastfeeding?

When you are breastfeeding, there is a long list of things that you should not eat. Fish has many nutritional benefits but, is the mercury in the fish worth the many benefits that the fish provides to you and your baby? 

Eating fish while breastfeeding may sound like a good idea because fish has...

sushi, eating fish while breastfeeding

The Following Benefits:

  • Omega three fatty acids are plentiful in fish, and they contain nutrients like DHA and EPA, which are vital to the baby's brain and eye development.
  • They are low in saturated fats, which are good for you and your baby.
  • Fish is also high in protein, and you and your baby need protein.
  • Fish is high in Vitamin D, which is also essential.

With all these benefits, you would think that eating fish while breastfeeding is a wonderful thing to do for you and your baby. However, several concerns might counteract these benefits.

Problems with Consuming Fish, if Breastfeeding

Fish contain mercury, and this is a big concern when you are breastfeeding. Mercury and breastfeeding do not go together. Mercury is one primary source in coal-fired power plants. It settles into the water and then bacteria convert it into a form called methylmercury. Fish get this from the water they swim in and the food that they eat. The mercury remains in the fish even after it has been cooked.

Your body easily absorbs mercury from fish, and even though it does not go into your breast milk in large amounts, it can be easily absorbed into your baby’s body.

Babies are more vulnerable to mercury because their brain and neurological system are still developing. Mercury acts as a neurotoxin that can affect the brain and neurological system. Larger fish, as well as Predator fish, contain more mercury, because they eat smaller fish that have mercury in them and because they live longer.

So if you are breastfeeding and eating fish, smaller fish are better. Consuming fish and breastfeeding has its advantages and disadvantages. The answer may be somewhere in the middle of the two. You can eat fish but, in moderation and consider eating fish that may contain less mercury. As with anything consult your physician if you have any concerns or questions before adding fish to your diet while breastfeeding.

High Mercury Content Fish 

The following should be avoided:

  • Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish and king mackerel should be avoided while breastfeeding (These fish contain a high mercury content).
  • Tuna (No more than one tuna steak or two 170g cans a week).
  • All freshwater fish that come from places that are known to be contaminated should be avoided.

By Angela Scott

Fish, Mercury & Nutrition

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