Should Nursing Moms Eat Shellfish?

Breastfeeding gives your baby the best start, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. While you don't have to watch your diet as closely as when you were pregnant, you still need to pay attention to what you put in your mouth, as long as you're nursing your little one. Just as nutrients pass into your breast milk, harmful things, such as certain contaminants, of which shellfish may be a source, can also get into the milk your baby drinks.

Crab, lobster and prawns on display at a fish market. Credit: Cn0ra/iStock/Getty Images

Is It Safe?

In most cases, shellfish is safe to eat while you're breastfeeding. One concern with shellfish and breastfeeding, however, is that shellfish can be an allergen. However, if you have no family history of food allergies, specifically to shellfish, it's usually acceptable to eat the seafood while you're nursing, according to La Leche League International. The key, of course, is to choose shellfish that's been stored, prepared and cooked properly.

Potential Risks

If you do have a shellfish allergy in your family, always speak to your doctor before including it in your breastfeeding diet. If, after you eat shellfish, your baby shows symptoms of a food allergy, which can include diarrhea, trouble breathing and skin changes, don't eat any more of the seafood and contact your child's doctor right away. If you eat improperly stored or prepared shellfish, such as undercooked oysters, you can develop food poisoning. While the bacteria causing the food poisoning doesn't pose a danger to your nursing infant, according to La Leche League International, you might need to take an antibiotic and some of these medications aren't safe for your nursing infant.

The Benefits of Shellfish For You and Your Baby

Shellfish is low in saturated fat and supplies a healthy dose of iron, a nutrient that helps keep you energized. Plenty of iron in your diet also helps protect you from infections, according to the KidsHealth website. Shellfish also supplies vitamin B-6, which promotes normal brain development. You'll get protein and vitamin B-12 from a serving of shellfish, as well.

Including Shellfish In Your Breastfeeding Diet

If you want to include shellfish in your breastfeeding diet, purchase it from a supermarket or reputable seafood seller. Store your shellfish in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook it, and if you purchase the shellfish live, refrigerate it live, Clemson Cooperative Extension cautions. Cook shellfish thoroughly to destroy any potential illness-causing bacteria. You can store shellfish in the freezer if you don't plan on it eating it right away, but thaw it in the refrigerator instead of on the kitchen counter to prevent bacteria from growing.

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