Eating Fish During Breastfeeding: Benefits and side effects

Eating fishes have been the cause of a lot of confusion among mothers during the time of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Similarly, you will be confused about hard fish or including it as a part of your meal even when you are breastfeeding. Some types of fish are may be dangerous, while others are healthy- so choose carefully. In this article, let us take a look at which types of fish are beneficial and which types of fish you need to avoid in your meal plans.

This post gives you a broad insight into the benefits and side effects of consuming fish while breastfeeding.

Can You Eat Fish While Breastfeeding?

It has been found via extensive research that consuming fish while breastfeeding is necessary for the health of the developing child which means you will have to increase intake of fish consumption so that your child grows up to be healthier. However, you need to ensure that the fish you consume should not contain heavy compounds like mercury.

Fishes are rich in important vitamins and nutrients, like EPA, DHA and vitamin D. Fishes are also rich in iodine, magnesium, iron and copper, these vitamins and nutrients play a huge role in the development of your child. Therefore, you must add it to your meal plan to make your baby healthier.

Fish is low-fat seafood that provides high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, such as iodine, vitamin D, and B2, that is usually not found in the most common foods. These nutrients support your long-term health and your baby’s growth and development. However, you need to stay cautious about what types of fish you eat and in how much quantity.

In the various study, it was found that the children of mothers who consumed fish during breastfeeding were healthier than the ones whose mothers did not touch it during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Therefore, fish is essential during the time of lactation.

What FDA’s Say About Eating Fish While Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • FDA say fish provides women with protein, omega-3 fats, and vitamins B-12 and D.
  • FDA recommend women eat 8 to 12 ounces of fish low in mercury per week.
  • Salmon, sardines, lake trout, and canned tuna are the best option.

FDA’s officials say that women in the U.S. who are pregnant are consuming far less than the recommended amount of seafood.

The officials also say that fish provides protein, healthy omega-3 fats, and more vitamins B-12 and D than any other type of food. Seafood also contains important minerals such as selenium, zinc, iodine and iron.

How Much And What Types of Fish Are Recommended to Consume While Breastfeeding?

Although mercury naturally occurs throughout the environment, the mother’s diet is the primary source of mercury exposure for most breastfed babies before they are introduced to complementary foods. Usually, most fish contain some amount of mercury. When a breastfed mother eats fish, the mercury in the fish can be passed into her breast milk. However, the benefits of breastfeeding are greater than the possible adverse effects of exposure to mercury through breast milk.

Although fishes are an excellent source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals for breastfeeding women, some care must be taken while including fish in your diet such as how much and what kind need to eat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued fish consumption guidance for pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children:

  • Eat a variety of fish.
  • If you eat fish caught by family or friends, check for fish advisories. If there is no advisory, eat only one serving and avoid eating other fish that week.
  • Try to avoid eating the “Choices to Avoid” fish or feeding them to children. It is best to eat a variety of fish from the “Best Choices” and “Good Choices” categories on this char.

For adults:

  • 1 serving = 4 ounces of fish, measured before cooking. Eat 2 to 3 servings (between 8 and 12 ounces) of fish a week from the “Best Choices” list OR 1 serving (4 ounces) from the “Good Choices” list on this chart.

Best Choices of Fish While Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Anchovy 
  • Atlantic croaker 
  • Atlantic mackerel 
  • Black sea bass 
  • Butterfish 
  • Catfish 
  • Clam 
  • Cod 
  • Crab 
  • Crawfish 
  • Flounder 
  • Haddock 
  • Hake
  • Herring 
  • Lobster, 
  • Mullet 
  • Oyster 
  • Pacific chub mackerel 
  • Perch, freshwater and ocean 
  • Pickerel 
  • Plaice 
  • Pollock 
  • Salmon 
  • Sardine
  • Scallop 
  • Shad 
  • Shrimp 
  • Skate 
  • Smelt 
  • Sole 
  • Squid 
  • Tilapia 
  • Trout, freshwater 
  • Tuna, canned light (includes skipjack) 
  • Whitefish 
  • Whiting

Good Choices of Fish While Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Bluefish 
  • Buffalofish
  • Carp Chilean sea bass/ Patagonian toothfish 
  • Grouper 
  • Halibut 
  • Mahi mahi/dolphinfish 
  • Monkfish 
  • Rockfish 
  • Sablefish 
  • Sheepshead 
  • Snapper 
  • Spanish mackerel 
  • Striped bass (ocean) 
  • Tilefish (Atlantic Ocean) 
  • Tuna, albacore/ white tuna, canned and fresh/frozen Tuna, yellowfin 
  • Weakfish/seatrout 
  • White croaker/ Pacific croaker 

Fish to Avoid While Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • King mackerel 
  • Marlin 
  • Orange roughy 
  • Shark 
  • Swordfish 
  • Tilefish (Gulf of Mexico) 
  • Tuna, bigeye

Health Benefits Of Fish While Breastfeeding

Fish contains vital macro and micronutrients, some of which can pass through breast milk to the baby and promote long-term health benefits for both mother and baby. Here’s a brief overview of the possible benefits of eating fish.

  1. Provides several nutrients: Fish contains several nutrients, such as protein, selenium, iodineomega-3 fatty acidsvitamin D, and B12. Nursing mothers require these vital nutrients to support the lactation process, hasten postpartum recovery, and maintain overall health. These nutrients pass to the baby via breast milk, they help the baby grow and develop healthily.
  2. Facilitates physiological functions: Breastfeeding women between the age group of 19-30 years require 71g of protein every day. One cup (136g) of cooked, flaked salmon can offer 35.1g of high-quality protein, approximately 50 per cent of the RDA. Protein helps in cellular repair, regeneration, and growth, vital for postpartum healing and recovery.
  3. Supports heart health: Fish is low in saturated fat and contains omega-3 fats that help maintain long-term heart health and reduce postpartum depression risk. Omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), support the brain, eye, and nervous system development of the baby.
  4. Promotes overall health: Maternal fish consumption in moderation is beneficial for both mother and the baby. Eating fish could offer several vital micronutrients, such as vitamin A, B, D, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium, which help regulate several vital physiological functions, supporting overall health.

Fish provide key nutrients that support a child’s brain development.

Fish are part of a healthy eating pattern that provide vital nutrients during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and/or early childhood to support a child’s brain development:

  • Omega-3 (called DHA and EPA) and omega-6 fats
  • Iron
  • Iodine (during pregnancy)
  • Choline
  • Choline also supports the development of the baby’s spinal cord.
  • Fish provide iron and zinc to support children’s immune systems.
  • Fish are a source of other key nutrients like protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and selenium too.

Some Side Effects of Eating Fish While Breastfeeding

While consuming fish is beneficial for both mother and baby, but also important that check whether the fish is safe before eating it. There are some side effects to consuming fish:

  • Coal fire power plants deposit mercury into the water bodies. The bacteria in the water convert this into methyl mercury which the fish consume through water and food. This content remains in the fish even after it has been cooked and henceit may cause some side effects.
  • A high level of mercury has been found in some types of fish, like the swordfish, shark and mackerel and consuming these fishes can affect cognitive development of the baby.
  • Methylmercury may impair brain development in the baby if it enters his body.
  • Mercury can affect the development of the baby quite badly. The parts of the brain that performe tasks such as read, think, learn, remember and even motor skills can be reduced if mercury enters his body. Therefore, fish with high mercury levels must be avoided.
  • There is no doubt that the water bodies are getting increasingly polluted day by day, and this rubs off on the fish you cook that means harmful chemicals or pollutants may enter the body of the child if you consume them.
  • Large predator fish are more likely to have higher levels of mercury, as they consume the smaller fish around them.
  • The canned white tuna available in a supermarket has high levels of mercury in them which need to avoid.

How might mercury affect breastfeeding mothers and babies?

Mercury may pass from mother to baby through the placenta during pregnancy and, in smaller amounts, through breast milk after birth. Exposure to mercury can affect the infant’s brain and nervous system development during pregnancy and after birth.

How To Select And Store Fish

Here are some useful tips to consider when buying and storing fish.

How to Selecting fresh fish

  • Smell the fish. A fresh fish doesn’t smell fishy; instead, it should smell like brine.
  • Inspect fish’s skin by poking it. A fresh fish’s flesh is clean, shiny, firm yet slippery to touch, and bounces back on poking and its gills have a deep reddish-pink colour with marbling.
  • Avoid fish with bruises or brown spots, especially on their edges and belly. If the fish’s edges are curling up, it is not fresh.
  • Check their eyes. Fresh fish have clear and bright eyes. Sunken, cloudy eyes indicate the fish is likely not fresh.
  • If you think to buy canned fish, look for options packed in properly sealed cans free from any types of dents and rust. Also, check the ingredient list and choose low sodium options. And make a note of the best-before date to ensure the fish’s quality.
  • Stay cautious while choosing canned fishes because may contain additional contaminants, such as BPA, lead, and cadmium, due to handling and processing lapses. Choose canned fish from a trusted brand or company.
  • When buying frozen fish, ensure the fish is packed in a properly sealed vacuum package with no loose ends. Also, check the fish’s surface and see that it doesn’t have ice crystals or cottony patches.

How to Store fish

  • Refrigerate it immediately between 0°Cto 4°C.
  • Use the fresh fish within one to two days. If the fish is packaged, refer to the packaging for the best before date.
  • Store unused fresh fish in a vacuum or airtight freezer bag in the refrigerator for up to three months.
  • Store canned fish unopened at room temperature for up to three months and in the freezer for three years. Check the best before date while purchasing the can.
  • Once the can is open, remove the fish from the can, store it in an airtight freezer container or bag, and use three to four days.  

How To Include Fish In Your Breastfeeding Diet

Nursing women can eat well-cooked, baked, broiled, grilled, roasted, and braised fish dishes across different meals. You can also eat sushi. But, stay cautious as raw fish intake may raise the risk of infection due to the possibility of contamination. Also, you can consume canned fish but in moderation.

Experts advise breastfeeding moms to eat two to three servings of low-mercury fish, such as salmon and tuna. One can consume fish in baked, grilled, roasted, broiled, and steamed forms across meals. Eating fish as a part of a well-balanced diet can offer several health benefits to both mother and baby.

Alternatives sources of Fish to Get Omega-3s

Food items like eggs, milk and yoghurt are now fortified with Omega-3s, but they only contain ALA- while it does provide some health benefits, you will not get EPA or DHA from these food items. Flaxseed is also a good source of ALA. Therefore, you will have to opt for omega-3s supplements in order to fulfil the required amount of the nutrient.

Even though fish can provide a lot of health benefits to your baby but you need to be careful about whether it contains any harmful substances before consuming them if you are nursing.

References and Sources 1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2. FDA

5 ideas to improve your Christmas decorations Build Your Health Up With Buttermilk Roast Chicken for Holiday Dinner 8 Simple Dinner Ideas for Healthy Eating in Real Life How to Get Skin Glow Back After Pregnancy 8 Healthy Habits that Every parent Should Teach Their Kids How to Store Breast Milk Safely After Pumping 7 Baby Care Tips for Every New Mother Keto Diet for Weight Loss Pregnancy Diet Plan 8 Easiest Ways For Healthy Lifestyles
5 ideas to improve your Christmas decorations Build Your Health Up With Buttermilk Roast Chicken for Holiday Dinner 8 Simple Dinner Ideas for Healthy Eating in Real Life How to Get Skin Glow Back After Pregnancy 8 Healthy Habits that Every parent Should Teach Their Kids