Can You Eat Tuna While Breastfeeding ?

The primary source of nutrition for an infant is breast milk. So the mother has to include healthy and nutritious food in her diet as her diet affects the quantity and also quality of milk. She has to inculcate a balanced diet not only for herself but also the baby. So seafood is an excellent source of vital minerals and nutrients.

Can you eat tuna while breastfeeding

eat tuna while breastfeeding

Yes, you can eat tuna while breast feeding. But you just have to limit the amount of tuna intake. The news may be a relief to many new mothers. However, you need to continue reading and have a clear understanding of the quantity of tuna you can have regularly. It is indeed a useful information, and it will dissolve the guilt feeling and anxiety surrounded about tuna intake and let mother consume tuna when breast feeding.

Seafood like tuna fish is highly beneficial for both the baby and mother. All most all fish is rich in essential nutrients. It contains high protein, ultra lean and heart-healthy fats in the form of omega -3 fats essential for over all development of the infant.

The reason behind the dietary recommendation of tuna is, it contains a high level of mercury. It is also called bioaccumulation, which is not hazardous to you or your baby. But too much of it can harm baby’s developing nervous system. Mercury, especially methyl mercury in the fish, is the main obstacle to growth and development of the child.

Gone are those days, where we can consider sea water is less pollutant.  Besides it also contain environmental pollutants like PCB’s (Polychlorinated biphenyls) and dioxins. When you consume it continuously for a longer period, it is a reason to affect the thyroid system of the body and interferes with baby’s development.

How much tuna can you eat while breastfeeding?

The recommended dietary intake of tuna by some leading health organizations like Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration are as follows:

  • 4 medium size cans of tuna of 140-170g or 5oz per can or
  • 2 fresh tuna steaks about 170g or 6oz, raw or cooked 140g

Read more :  Can I Take Cinnamon While Breastfeeding?

Benefits of tuna while breastfeeding:

Tuna is an excellent source of many nutritional benefits provided you stay within the above-given guidelines. Fresh tuna is an oily fish being a rich source of omega3 fatty acids. Besides, it is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. It helps in the development of baby’s brain and eye.

Especially omega three fatty acids with nutrients like DHA and EPA are beneficial for the overall evolution of an infant. Fatty acids such as Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are vital for the healthy development of the brain and nervous system in new-born. Apart from the above, various researchers confirmed the contribution of fatty acids role in visual, motor, cognitive and behavioral development in infants.

It contains high protein content required for growth and development. It is also high in vitamin D necessary for calcification or strengthening of bones in new born infants. Plus it also contains essential minerals like selenium required for the overall development of the baby.

Know the tuna before you consume it:

As per the tuna classification, there are more than 15 species identified. But it is implausible that you will have to encounter all.  The following 5 types of tuna we can find commonly.

  • Skipjack: It is using as canned tuna for sandwich or pizza.
  • Yellow fin: You can see it either as canned or sold as fresh tuna and frozen as tuna steaks and tuna sushi.
  • Albacore: Canned white albacore is selling in solid form.
  • Big aye: It is one of two species of tuna known as ahi tuna along with yellow fin. Served as sushi and tuna steaks.
  • Bluefin: It is using for making expensive sushi.

Read more :  Can I Drink Soy Milk While Breastfeeding?

What kinds of tuna is safe to eat?

While tuna comes in wide variety and it is important to distinguish between the various types; naturally you will have a shadow of doubt on which is tuna is safe to eat. Both the fresh and canned tuna have their advantages but within the dietary limits. Fresh tuna is full of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, essential vitamins, and minerals.

Canned tuna too contains omega 3 fatty acids but limited quantity. During the canning process, it may lose sufficient amount of omega 3 fatty acids. Make it a point to consume canned tuna with less salt. It would be better if you can rinse it properly before you consume, as it can lower the salt content significantly. Light canned tuna or water based canned tuna is the best options as recommended by health organizations. But having too much is not advisable, hence limit your quantity intake.

Fresh water tuna is not a preferred choice as it may come from contaminated water. The US health organizations strictly forbid eating tuna or fish from some regions like tilefish from Gulf of Mexico and swordfish, king mackerel, shark, halibut and Chilean sea bass.

Negative effects of eating tuna :

  • Consumption of raw tuna or tuna sushi while breastfeeding affects the baby through breast milk and it might also make you sick. Sushi is a raw food, and it might contain food borne illness bacteria like e-Coli and listeria. It might make you sick and cause serious health problem for the baby.
  • Eating spicy tuna: Eating spicy food is not a strict no for breastfeeding mothers as it is for the pregnant woman. However, it is better to consume less spicy tuna should be minimized. Spicy food might affect the quality of breast milk and make the baby fussy. Cooked fish or tuna is a better choice for breastfeeding mother than raw. So tuna salad should be chosen accordingly.
  • Tuna with more mercury: Albacore tuna usually contains more mercury than regular canned light tuna. So if you want to include it in your diet, it is recommended not to have more than six ounces or one portion per week. It is always advisable to choose tuna fish with low mercury level like canned light tuna.
  • Limit local tuna intake: If you are going for locally caught tuna fish make sure to check with local advisories for the recommendation about its consumption. But if no such recommendation is available, it is better to restrict your intake of locally caught tuna to six ounces per week. It is also advised not to eat fish from other sources in that week.
  • Cut down tuna consumption: Tuna like other oily fish have similar environmental pollutants. So it is advised not to eat more than two portions of oily fish per week when breastfeeding. But if you have salmon, mackerel or sardines then you should avoid tuna consumption for that week.
  • Check health organization recommendations: Some health organizations like Health Canada and Maternal Nutrition Group strongly recommend consuming small fish like salmon, lake trout, herring, haddock, pollock, flounder, wild catfish, blue mussel, non-Atlantic cod, and smelt. They are low in mercury content as compared to larger fish like Monkfish, Atlantic cod, farmed catfish, shark, and swordfish, which occur at the top of ocean food chain. Small fishes are having less deposit of mercury.

Read more :  Can I Eat Spinach While Breastfeeding ?

Balancing the consumption of tuna fish is beneficial

If you are a lactating mom and consuming tuna, do not let the guilt factor build up. Consuming fish has its advantage and disadvantage too. The actual answer might be in between eating and not eating. You can include tuna in your diet but with recommended allowance.

As according to an independent survey in America tuna is not widely consumed by people, but it is next only to shrimp.  Therefore, it would be impossible to stop it forever and no need to stop eating it as long as you can regulate the intake.

Important points to consider:

Eating fish either for health reasons or taste is the dominating factor for many. Before eating fish, two points should keep in mind by lactating mothers.

  1. Eat it in moderate level. That means you have to look for recommended allowance. If it is not available stick to the minimum level that is six ounce or according to your body weight.
  2. Eat fish or in this case tuna, which are low in mercury level. Albacore is usually not advisable for the breastfeeding mother. Small fish or tuna can compensate for this loss. Even light can tuna is permissible.

Tuna is nutritive:

Tuna with its nutrient content is important for the wellbeing of both mother and infant. It cannot substitute with any health drinks, supplements or pills like the way how you can supplement omega three fatty acids in synthetic pill form. All other nutrients cannot replace with synthetically developed nutrients. Also, the naturally available nutrient is more easily digestible without any side effects in comparison to pills or supplements.

Many leading health organizations of the world fear that if mothers stop eating tuna because of the potential risk of bioaccumulation. They might loose on important nutrient essential for wellbeing of both mother and infant. As a mother, you should know the nutritional benefits of different types of tuna fish, which is vital for the overall health and growth of your child. These benefits will come surely outnumber the disadvantages. As a precaution, you need to change your eating habit, and make selective to accommodate tuna fish with low mercury content.


Moderation is the key as it is with all food. Anything too much will be hazardous to health. So eating tuna within the limit and low mercury level will pose minimum risk to you and your baby. But if you are still in doubt and linger in your conscious with the question; can you eat tuna while breastfeeding, it is better to consult your physician before adding tuna to your diet. It is always advisable to check before choosing your tuna.

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