Is It Safe To Consume Fish During Breastfeeding?
Created by Janaki Srinivasan Updated on Mar 30, 2021
After delivery, one of the biggest questions that new moms have to constantly ask themselves is, “Can I eat this? Is this safe for my baby?”
Well…if you are a foodie, you might have to make some food choices because not all foods are safe for your baby. And since your baby derives all its nourishment from the breast milk, you need to be extra cautious about what goes in your plate. This proves to be a bit tedious in the beginning, but if you are well-informed, then you already know the answers. Among the various foods that most moms are worried about, fish is definitely among the top, especially for non-vegetarians who love fish.
Is Fish Safe?
Of course, there are some health benefits of consuming fish, especially for new moms who are breastfeeding. Here are some of them:
- We all know that fish is high in protein and rich in omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), which are crucial for the development of the baby’s nervous system
- It is rich in Vitamin D and essential minerals like iron, magnesium, iodine, selenium and copper. In fact, the US food and Drug Administration recommends that breastfeeding mothers must up their consumption of fish up to 8-10 ounces a week, especially those low in mercury
- Babies whose mothers consumed fish during lactation are known to show better signs of development when compared to others whose mothers don’t consume fish
With so many health benefits, why is there a doubt about whether fish is safe or not for lactating mothers? Well…many fishes live in polluted water and therefore could be high in chemicals, chiefly mercury. This can have an adverse effect on the baby’s brain, if consumed. This does not mean that fishes need to be avoided altogether. What it means, in fact is, new moms must be careful to choose the variety which is safe. Let’s take a look at the ones that can be safely consumed.
Fishes that Can Be Safely Consumed During Breastfeeding:
There are some varieties of fish that are highly nutritious particularly for lactating mothers and are low in mercury as well. These include:
Pomfrets:These are a powerhouse of Vitamins A, E, B3 and B12. They help in the proper functioning of the digestive system of the baby and makes their skin glow
Salmon:This is believed to be low in mercury and allergy causing contents and therefore safe for breastfeeding moms
Sardines:These are rich in Omega 3, protein, calcium, copper, Vitamin B2 and 12. They also are high in protein and Vitamin D essential for the development of healthy bones
Rohu and Catla:Easily digested and low in fat, these fishes are high in minerals such as zinc, iron and calcium. They are primarily found in rivers and have very low mercury content in them
Fishes to Avoid During Breastfeeding:
- Shark, Swordfish and Marlin. You must not consume more than one portion of it in a week, if required
- Fresh tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, pilchards. Avoid eating more than 2 portions of these oily fishes a week
- Some non-oily fishes (rock salmon, crab, sea bass, halibut, turbot)
What Happens When You Consume Fish During Breastfeeding- Possible Side Effects:
- Fishes that are high on mercury like shark and swordfish can cause harm to the developing baby
- When you consume fish, the body absorbs methyl mercury present in it. Small quantities of it enter breast milk and are enough to cause harm to the baby’s developing brain
- Babies are more vulnerable to mercury because they are still in the development stage. Mercury in fish affects the cognitive and motor skills of the baby
- Pollution in the water bodies contaminate the fishes that live in them. These chemicals and pollutants that fishes consume get transferred to the baby through breast milk
- Predator fishes have more mercury because they feed on small fishes which already have mercury in them
So, this brings us back to the question of whether or not fishes are safe for lactating moms. The answer for this is neither yes nor no but somewhere in between. This means that you can eat fish, but in moderation and be extremely cautious of which type of fish you choose to eat. Choose only those that are low or do not have mercury in them.
Also, it is best to consult your doctor in case of any doubts. When you buy fish make sure if the fillets and its body flesh are firm and shiny. That way you can make sure that the fish is fresh and safe. A little care and alertness is all that is required to make the lactating phase smooth and safe for you and your baby! And that’s not too much, is it?
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