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Can You Eat Shellfish While Breastfeeding?

By Maria Hoven ; Updated August 14, 2017

Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as breast milk is full of essential nutrients and antibodies that help nourish and protect your baby. You should eat a healthy and balanced diet when you breastfeed to ensure that you are consuming enough calories and essential nutrients to provide for both you and your baby. Shellfish are an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. If desired, you can eat shellfish such as shrimp, lobsters, crabs and mussels on regular basis when you breastfeed.

  1. Ask your pediatrician for guidance about how to include shellfish in your diet. The foods you eat will be transmitted to your baby via your breast milk, and your consumption of shellfish may bother your baby if she is sensitive and/or allergic to the seafood. Signs of an allergy include rash, fussiness, diarrhea and congestion. Talk to your pediatrician regularly and maintain a food diary to track both your baby's symptoms and your dietary habits.

  2. Eat 8 to 12 oz. of shellfish every week. The "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010" recommend that women who breastfeed consume at least 8 oz. of seafood, such as shellfish, per week to provide omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial to your baby's health, including improve her visual and cognitive development.

  3. Do not cook shellfish that smells bad; foul odor is a sign of spoiled shellfish. Any shellfish that was purchased alive and has died should also be discarded, as should clams, oysters and mussels that are open.

  4. Cook all shellfish until they are fully cooked as eating raw or undercooked shellfish can cause illness. Cook shrimp and lobster until the color of the meat is opaque; cook scallops until the meat is firm and opaque. Cook mussels, clams and oysters until their shells are fully open.

  5. Do not eat cooked shellfish that smells bad or seems otherwise spoiled; eating spoiled food can result in food poisoning. Throw away clams, mussels or oysters that do not open their shells after you have cooked them.

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