Can I Eat Shrimp While Breastfeeding?

Woman eating shrimp

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Breastfeeding your baby takes a lot of energy from your body, so don't be surprised if your appetite is ravenous. As you flip through takeout menus or write up a list of foods for your partner to pick up at the market, you may start to wonder whether some of the foods you are craving are safe to eat while breastfeeding.

If you are a shrimp lover, take heart. Shrimp is safe to eat while breastfeeding and it offers many benefits to both you and your baby. "Breastfeeding moms who eat shrimp are getting, and passing to their babies, essential nutrients that are needed postpartum, such as protein, healthy omega-3 fats, and minerals like selenium, zinc, and iodine," says Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, a culinary and communications dietitian based in Westchester, New York.

Eating Shrimp While Breastfeeding

Shrimp is a healthy choice while breastfeeding that can go towards the recommended two servings of low-mercury seafood per week. Wild-caught or sustainably-farmed shrimp are your safest choices.

You do want to make sure that the shrimp you eat is fully-cooked. "This is very important because raw shrimp can increase the chances of food-borne illness," says Vonne Jones, MD, FACOG, a board-certified OB/GYN based in Houston.

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about eating shrimp while breastfeeding.

Is It Safe for Baby?

Eating shrimp while breastfeeding is generally safe and beneficial to your baby. You just want to stick to about three servings per week. "Exceeding this amount can increase mercury levels which can be toxic to a growing a baby," notes Dr. Jones.

Benefits of Shrimp While Breastfeeding

There are many reasons to choose shrimp while breastfeeding, as shrimp offers many nutritional benefits to you and your infant.

Aids in Postpartum Recovery

After you go through pregnancy and give birth, your body needs time and nourishment to get back to its pre-pregnancy state. Shrimp is a good choice during the postpartum period because it helps with your physical recovery.

"Shrimp is a lean protein that is rich in DHA and EPA, which is important for building tissues, muscle, and bones, and can help aid in recovery from the physiological strain of pregnancy and childbirth," explains Levinson.

The nutrients found in shrimp may even reduce your risk of developing postpartum depression (PPD).

Contains Essential Vitamins and Minerals

Shrimp contains several important nutrients that are especially important for lactating people. This includes selenium and iodine, both of which support thyroid health. "It's important to note that a mother's need for iodine and selenium increases during lactation," says Levinson.

This tasty crustacean is also rich in vitamin B12 and vitamin D. These nutrients can be difficult to find in other foods. Since breastfeeding people are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, it is even more important to seek out foods abundant in these vitamins.

Good Source of Iron

Eating shrimp is a good way to add iron to your diet. "This is important in helping to decrease anemia during pregnancy and nursing," explains Dr. Jones.

Iron stores tend to be low during pregnancy. This is only compounded by the significant blood loss during childbirth. Replenishing iron stores is essential during the postpartum period, and it may even reduce the risk of postpartum depression (PPD).

Helps Baby's Brain Development

You can add extra choline and omega-3 fatty acids to your diet by eating shrimp. These key nutrients both work to support your baby's brain development.

Choline and omega-3s have benefits for you as well since your body will require more choline when you are breastfeeding. Omega-3 fatty acids have the added benefit of supporting your physical and mental health.

Safety Precautions

Shrimp is a healthy and nutritious choice while breastfeeding, but there are some safety precautions to keep in mind.

Wild-Caught Shrimp Is Safer

You can buy farmed shrimp or shrimp that is wild-caught, though wild-caught is generally the safer choice. Farmed shrimp is often unregulated and shrimp may be raised in tanks or ponds that are too crowded to be considered hygienic.

Some farmed shrimp is regulated and considered safe to eat. Check for the "Naturland" or "Whole Foods Market Responsibly Farmed" labels. Skip shrimp with labels like "natural" or "sustainable," which are not regulated marketing terms.

Eat a Variety of Seafood

Shrimp has many benefits, but make sure it's not the only low-mercury seafood you consume while breastfeeding. It is best to eat different types of of seafood, including anchovies, crab, and salmon, as well as shrimp. Your total should stay within the recommended three servings per week.

Shrimp Needs to Be Fully-Cooked

Eating raw seafood can lead to food-borne illness. Food poisoning is never fun, and it's probably the last thing you want to deal with while taking care of a baby. And, although rare, it is possible for an infant to become infected through breast milk.

To avoid infection, make sure to eat cooked shrimp only. "Ensure that shrimp is cooked to 145 degrees F," says Dr. Jones. You will know that the shrimp is cooked enough when it changes from being translucent to being white and opaque.

Mercury Content

All seafood contains some level of mercury, which can be dangerous to your breastfeeding baby. For this reason, it's important to limit how much you consume. It's also important to stay aware of your mercury intake if you may become pregnant again.

But, the benefits of eating fish and seafood can be so great that it is not advisable to abstain from eating them. Shrimp has low-mercury levels, so it is a good choice while breastfeeding. Just make sure that you do not exceed three servings per week.

A Word From Verywell

Shrimp is safe and beneficial to eat while breastfeeding. It contains many nutrients that meet your postpartum body's needs and it is healthy for your growing baby too. Eating at least two servings of shrimp, but no more than three, per week is ideal while breastfeeding. Make sure that the shrimp you eat is fully cooked and is wild-caught or sustainably farmed.

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14 Sources
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