Many moms wonder if it’s safe – eating fish and breastfeeding. There are many benefits to eating fish since they are high in protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids. These are beneficial for your baby’s brain, eye and nervous system development. The concern with fish is that the longer living large fish have high levels of mercury. High levels of mercury are detrimental to a baby’s developing brain and nervous system. The fish with the highest levels of mercury are shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish (also called golden snapper and golden bass).
Which fish are safe to eat? Fish that are both low in mercury and high in healthy fats include anchovy, herring, mackerel (Atlantic, jack, chub), rainbow trout (farm raised), salmon (wild or farm raised), sardines, shad (American) and whitefish.
The Food and Drug Administration says it’s ok to eat up to 12 ounces a week of any fish other than shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Canned chunk light tuna should be limited to 12 ounces a week and no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna according to the FDA. Albacore tuna comes from a large fish that tends to contain more mercury.
What are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids? Many foods are fortified with omega-3’s including eggs, milk, soy beverages, juice, yogurt, bread, cereal and margarine. There are also omega-3 supplements that are mercury free and provide EPA and DHA. Some of the omega-3 supplements are derived from algae rather than fish and have no fishy aftertaste. These are appropriate for vegetarians. It can also be helpful to get enteric coated fish oil to avoid “fish burps”. There are many different brands to choose from for supplements so breastfeeding moms don’t need to get DHA supplements made by formula companies. Her prenatal vitamins may also include DHA.
What about sushi? Sushi is more of a concern in pregnancy when there is a higher risk of bacteria or parasites harming the fetus. Eating sushi from reputable restaurants or grocery stores is considered safe in breastfeeding. It is still necessary to limit your intake of large, fatty fish such as tuna because of the mercury levels.
Still have questions? Don’t hesitate to call or email me anytime with your concerns. I am here to assist you in any way I can.