Is it safe to eat sushi while breastfeeding? While you can put sushi back on the menu after giving birth, you’ll need to carefully pick the types of sushi you eat. Here’s everything moms need to know.
If you're a mom who missed eating sushi while pregnant, you're probably wondering if it's safe to start eating sushi again while breastfeeding.
Here's the good news: you can put sushi back on the menu after you've had your little one.
But if you're breastfeeding, you'll still need to be careful of the types of sushi you select.
Here's what moms need to know about sushi and breastfeeding.
Sushi While Pregnant vs. Breastfeeding
It's not safe for pregnant moms to eat sushi – or any raw fish or seafood. This is because raw seafood can carry viruses, bacteria, and parasites that can harm a baby while they're in the womb.
The most concerning of these bacteria is listeria, which can spread to a developing baby through their mother's bloodstream. Pregnant moms are at a 10-20 times higher risk for a listeria infection than other adults. And a listeria infection could present life-threatening complications for an unborn baby if left untreated.
But once you've given birth, there's no risk that you could pass listeria to your baby. This is because listeria can't be passed through breastmilk.
So, once you're breastfeeding, sushi becomes safe to eat again. Other forms of raw seafood become safe to eat again as well.
However, there are some types of sushi that you'll still need to avoid while breastfeeding, for a different reason.
Some types of fish contain high levels of mercury, which can be passed through breastmilk. And high mercury levels can be dangerous for babies.
Avoid High-Mercury Sushi
If a baby is exposed to too much mercury, this can harm their rapidly-growing brain and nervous system, and negatively affect their growth and development.
Certain fish contain much higher levels of mercury than others. And since the mercury builds up in the flesh of fish over time, whether the fish is cooked or raw doesn't affect its mercury levels.
Eating high-mercury fish while breastfeeding puts baby in danger, because the high levels of mercury can pass through your breastmilk.
So, completely avoid all high-mercury fish while breastfeeding, including in sushi.
Avoid eating the following fish types:
If you're eating sushi, read the menu carefully to avoid these fish. And if you have any questions, speak to restaurant staff.
Enjoying Sushi Safely
As for lower-mercury fish and seafood, feel free to enjoy them in sushi – or in other ways of your choice. For breastfeeding moms and their babies, the benefits of eating lower-mercury seafood far outweigh the risks. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that breastfeeding moms eat 8-12 ounces of low-mercury fish per week (or about 2-3 servings of these fish per week).
This is because fish contains proteins, vitamins and minerals that benefit breastfeeding moms, including Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. And you may pass some of these benefits of fish to your baby through your breastmilk, including the omega-3s that promote brain health. Here are some of the best types of seafood for breastfeeding moms, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There are so many choices!
You can choose 2-3 servings of these "best choices" per week:
- Atlantic mackerel
- Black sea bass
- Freshwater perch
- Ocean perch
- Skipjack tuna
- Freshwater trout
- Any crustacean shellfish (such as crab, shrimp, or lobster)
- Any mollusk shellfish (such as clam or scallops)
You can also eat the following types of "good choice" fish while breastfeeding, as long as you limit your consumption to one 4-ounce serving per week:
- Mahi mahi
- Spanish mackerel
- Striped bass from the Atlantic
- Tilefish from the Atlantic
- Albacore tuna
- White tuna
- Yellowfin tuna
For the complete list of "best choice" and "good choice" fish for breastfeeding moms, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.
Be Careful Of The Source
There are other concerns that apply to eating raw fish while breastfeeding. You don't want to end up with food poisoning from raw fish that isn't properly handled. Anyone is at risk for getting sick from improperly handled raw fish, regardless of if they're breastfeeding. Of course, the last thing you need is a stomach sickness or fever while you're nursing and taking care of your little one. So, make sure the sushi you select is freshly and safely prepared.
Choose restaurants known for safe food handling practices and high-quality, fresh seafood. And if you have any questions about seafood preparation, or about the source of the seafood that the restaurant uses, talk to a restaurant staff member. You can also opt for cooked sushi made with low-mercury seafood. There are plenty of sushi options that don’t contain raw fish! If you’d rather avoid raw seafood but still want your sushi fix, ask a restaurant staff member about cooked sushi options.
Summing Things Up For Breastfeeding Moms
Yes, you can have sushi while breastfeeding!
- Just make sure that you avoid sushi made with high-mercury fish. Choose low-mercury seafood instead.
- Also, stick to restaurants that use fresh, quality seafood in their sushi, and that practice safe food handling, to lower your risk of illness.
- If you don't want to risk it with raw fish, try cooked sushi options made with low-mercury fish.
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