Sushi While Breastfeeding: Is it Safe, Risks & Alternatives

Sushi is a delicious staple rice dish of Japanese cuisine. This famous and traditional dish is served cold and consists of cooked rice, flavored with delectable seasonings, and various vegetables with egg or raw seafood. The various ingredients make it nutritious. However, there is a concern about eating sushi when breastfeeding since seafood is exposed to mercury and can be detrimental for the mother and the baby.

Read to learn if sushi can be consumed by a breastfeeding mother or not (1).

Is It Safe To Eat Sushi When Breastfeeding?

Sushi is safe to eat when breastfeeding unless it includes high-quality and low-level mercury fish (2). Fish, such as bigeye tuna and yellowtail, are high in mercury which is dangerous for a developing baby.

Post-birth, a mother’s body provides all the nourishment needed for the baby. While fish is a healthy addition to the mother’s diet, sushi made of raw seafood might not be good for the baby if it contains high levels of mercury which may affect the baby’s health. When having fish or any other seafood, breastfeeding women should make sure that they eat high-quality variety with considerably low levels of mercury.

What Are The Risks Of Eating Sushi When Breastfeeding?

Pregnant women and breastfeeding women should be cautious before having sushi or any other seafood. Most people believe that sushi is a risk for pregnant women and breastfeeding women, as it (1) (3):

  • Contains bacteria: Sushi’s main ingredient is raw fish that may have bacteria. Bacteria is risky for pregnant moms and also breastfeeding moms as it can spread to infants.
  • Increases exposure to mercury: Some fish contain high mercury levels, and intake of such fish can affect a baby’s brain and nervous system.
  • Contains high levels of industrial pollutants: Industrial pollutants containing high germs and bacteria disposed into the water bodies may contaminate the fish. So it would help if you were cautious about the fish and the source before eating.

Breastfeeding is the time when the baby starts developing. Therefore, it is better to stay away from mercury-containing food when breastfeeding. However, not all types of sushi are a risk for breastfeeding women, and you may avoid sushi having the following fish:

  • Ahi (yellowfin tuna)
  • Aji (horse mackerel)
  • Buri (adult yellowtail)
  • Hamachi (young yellowtail)
  • Inada (very young yellowtail)
  • Kanpachi (very young yellowtail)
  • Katsuo (bonito)
  • Kajiki (swordfish)
  • Maguro (bigeye, bluefin or yellowfin tuna)
  • Makjiki (blue marlin)
  • Meji (young bigeye, bluefin* or yellowfin tuna)
  • Saba (mackerel)
  • Sawara (Spanish mackerel)
  • Shiro (albacore tuna)
  • Seigo (young sea bass)
  • Suzuki (sea bass)*
  • Toro (bigeye, bluefin or yellowfin tuna)

What Are The Alternatives To Sushi?

If you crave sushi during pregnancy or breastfeeding, the safest alternative is to have vegan sushi with fresh ingredients, including avocado, tofu, carrots, and cucumber. You can also prefer to make it fresh at home. You will need the following ingredients to make vegan sushi (4):

  • Short-grain Japanese rice
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Nori sheets
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Avocado
  • Firm tofu
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame seeds

Which Cooked Fish Is Safe When Breastfeeding?

Cooked fish is safe to consume during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Fish is a good source of vitamin D and is nutritionally beneficial for the baby too. You may eat between two and six ounces of fish every week provided low-mercury fish. Some fish with low mercury levels are:

  • Albacore or yellowfin tuna
  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Haddock
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Tilapia

Pregnant and breastfeeding women can have two to three servings of a variety of cooked fish. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin D, iron, zinc, iodine, and choline found in fish are important for the mother and the baby. It is recommended to have only cooked fish when breastfeeding but make sure it is well cooked and has a low mercury level (5).

What Are The Best And Worst Fish To Eat When Breastfeeding?

Fish such as bigeye tuna and yellowtail are high in mercury and are dangerous for a developing baby. You may prefer higher quality fatty fish as it contains low-level of mercury. Some fish safe for breastfeeding women are:

  • Wild salmon
  • Sardines
  • Lake trout
  • Canned tuna

Avoid fish with high amounts of high mercury such as:

  • Swordfish
  • Mackerel
  • Fresh tuna

Most restaurants use fresh tuna in sushi, which is high in mercury. Therefore, it is better to prefer having restaurants that use selective low-level mercury fish (2) (5).

Pathogens do not pass on to the baby through breastfeeding, and there is little to no risk of enjoying a sushi meal for a mother. Ensure the source of fish is a reliable and healthy one. It is better to prefer vegan sushi or make it at home when you are craving sushi.


MomJunction’s articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

The following two tabs change content below.Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing… more

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