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Fish Advisories For Nursing Mothers

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black and white breastfeeedingFish has many nutritional benefits and is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. When choosing fish, the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Department of Agriculture advise pregnant and nursing mothers to be cautious and avoid fish high in mercury. Methyl mercury can cause damage to the brain, nervous system, and possibly the heart of unborn babies and infants.

During pregnancy and while nursing, avoid these high mercury fish:
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish
Eat 12 ounces or less per week of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury. The following fish are all low in mercury and are listed in order from least amount of mercury to the most:
  • Scallop 
  • Salmon (Canned)
  • Clam Shrimp 
  • Oyster
  • Sardine
  • Tilapia 
  • Anchovies
  • Salmon (Fresh/Frozen) 
  • Squid
  • Catfish
  • Pollock
  • Crawfish
  • Shad American
  • Mackerel Atlantic (N.Atlantic)
  • Mullet
  • Whiting
  • Haddock (Atlantic)
  • Flatfish 2
  • Butterfish
  • Crab 1
  • Croaker Atlantic (Atlantic)
  • Trout (Freshwater)
  • Hake
  • Jacksmelt
  • Herring
  • Mackerel Chub (Pacific)
  • Whitefish
  • Lobster (Spiny)
  • Cod
  • Perch Ocean 
  • Tuna (Canned, Light)
To learn more about specific levels in each variety of fish, click here.
 
Albacore tuna and tuna steak have higher mercury levels than canned light tuna and consumption should be limited to 6 ounces or less per week.
 
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends a more conservative fish intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The EWG suggests to: 
  • Avoid the following fish altogether: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, tuna steaks, canned tuna, sea bass, Gulf Coast oysters, marlin, halibut, pike, walleye, white croaker, largemouth bass.
  • Eat only one serving a month of any of the following: Mahi mahi, Blue mussel, Eastern oyster, Cod, Pollock, Great Lakes salmon, Gulf Coast blue crab, Channel catfish (wild), Lake whitefish.
  • Encourage the following fish since they are the lowest in mercury and therefore the safest for pregnant and nursing women: Blue crab (mid-Atlantic), Croaker Fish Sticks Flounder (summer), Haddock, Trout (farmed), Salmon (wild Pacific), Shrimp
Read the Environmental Working Group's Brain Food for more information on fish and fish safety.
 
Learn about potential fish advisories in your state here.
 
 
 
Sources:
Texas Department of State Health Services Nutritional Services and Texas Association of Local WIC Directors. Principles of Lactation Management. Attended May 2010.
 

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