A question about nursing & higher-mercury fish
September 11, 2016 12:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm breastfeeding a baby. And I ate some higher-mercury fish tonight. Can you reassure me that it's okay to continue breastfeeding, or tell me what to do to be appropriately safe?

Tonight, I ate maybe 4 ounces of lobster before realizing I hadn't considered how much mercury might be in it. (Maybe I ate less than that; maybe more like 2 ounces.) In a quick Google, I found it on a few lists in the moderate- or higher-mercury categories. (!!) I totally forgot to be careful about this because I tend to eat salmon maybe twice a month but otherwise don't really eat fish.

After panicking, I found a few things that calmed me down. Lobster wasn't on the "never eat these fish" lists found on many websites. Lobster doesn't seem much higher than canned tuna, which you can apparently eat 6 oz of once a week? And I found one study that said that eating fish with mercury in it did raise blood mercury levels but did not significantly raise the levels of mercury in breastmilk. But I'm no expert, so I wasn't sure i was reading things right.

Can anyone with more expertise let me know if I should worry? If it is worrisome that I ate the lobster, what should I do?
posted by slidell to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think you're just fine. I'm nursing my second, and no lactation consultant has ever mentioned food restrictions to me. This is supported by the reputable breatfeeding info site Kellymom: http://kellymom.com/nutrition/mothers-diet/mom-foods/.
posted by WowLookStars at 1:52 AM on September 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

Did you see this warning from an environmental advocacy group? Those warnings are meant as "don't habitually eat this", they are not the same as warning labels on medication. You are fine and your breast milk is fine.
posted by sputzie at 3:50 AM on September 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Don't make a habit out of it, if you want to be cautious, but you're absolutely fine. Nurse away!
posted by lydhre at 3:54 AM on September 11, 2016

Mercury and other toxic heavy metals in food are only a problem because they tend to accumulate within body tissues. If you eat fish regularly (like, every day) it's the sort of thing that can cause harmful effects. Even then, it's a statistical correlation and not an absolute one.

IMO you don't need to worry about one higher-level meal.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:46 AM on September 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Don't eat any other moderate to high mercury fish for a few days, and it should be fine.
posted by Anne Neville at 5:40 AM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

This isn't like alcohol. If you've just drunk a lot of alcohol, you shouldn't nurse NOW but if you wait a few hours it will be out of your system. Heavy metals like mercury accumulate slowly over the long term. If you'd posted that you had been subsisting entirely on bluefin tuna and lobster for the last few months, there would be a discussion to have. Part of a serving, once, as part of a generally low risk diet? Not a problem.

Scratch this off your list and find something else to worry about. As the parent of a nursing baby, I'm sure there are plenty of other candidates. :)
posted by telepanda at 6:10 AM on September 11, 2016 [14 favorites]

Please feel free to feed your baby. Please feel free to call your pediatrician's after-hours line if it will make you feel better. You are doing a great job.
posted by Night_owl at 9:06 AM on September 11, 2016

If you generally don't eat a lot of fish, I can't imagine how you could be getting a lot of mercury from fish. I really don't think one meal of fish that is moderate in mercury is going to do any harm to your baby.

The NRDC puts lobster in the "six servings or less per month" category. I've been willing to eat mahi-mahi, which is in the same category, once a week or less while pregnant or nursing my kids. We haven't had their mercury levels tested, but they seem to be doing OK.
posted by Anne Neville at 6:25 PM on September 11, 2016

Thanks for all of the reassurance and additional information. It helped to have these explanations.
posted by slidell at 8:29 PM on September 11, 2016

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