Lactating mothers often wonder if delicious cheeses like brie are OK to eat after the baby is born. Since you’re told to avoid brie when pregnant, it’s a legitimate question!
Brie is safe to eat when breastfeeding but it’s still best to stick to pasteurized brie or brie made with pasteurized milk. Brie made with raw milk still has the potential to cause illness. Brie is also quite high in fat and salt and is best eaten in moderation.
So, if you want to know if eating it will affect the baby and what nutrients you can gain from it, keep on reading!
Is It Safe to Eat Brie Cheese When Breastfeeding?
Brie can be safe to eat by lactating mothers, but not without the risk of foodborne illnesses that are associated with cheese (source: KellyMom).
Brie is one of the many soft cheeses infamous for being the culprit of previous listeria outbreaks. The most recent one took place in the south of Switzerland from March to May 2020 where 6 people were hospitalized (source: Europe PMC).
Brie is made with either pasteurized or unpasteurized (raw) milk. In the US, most, if not all commercially sold milk is pasteurized. Most cheeses are then made with pasteurized milk. Therefore most store-bought brie is fine to eat.
However, not all kinds of cheese are. Some local dairy farms make their cheese with raw or unpasteurized milk from their farms (source: FDA).
Brie in other parts of the world, especially in Europe, is made with raw milk. Imported brie from Europe, especially France where it originated, will most likely be made from raw milk.
Whether it’s pregnancy or postpartum, food safety is always important to avoid foodborne illnesses (source: Foods).
Brie, whether pasteurized or not, may be safe for you but we still recommend one that is made with pasteurized milk. Brie made with raw milk can still get you seriously ill (source: FoodSafety).
Bear in mind you can always heat brie to make it safe, and it’s another delicious way of enjoying it, like in a toasted baguette or sandwich.
Benefits of Brie When Breastfeeding
Now that we’ve established the safety of brie during lactation, let’s find out what health benefits you can get from it.
The nutrients in breast milk (energy, protein, and others) come from the diet or the body stores of the mother.
If nursing moms are not supplied enough energy and nutrients from food, their energy and nutrient reserves in the body considerably decrease. This is called maternal depletion (source: RehydrationProject).
Brie is not only calorie-dense, it is nutrient-dense as well.
Brie contains significant amounts of milk protein at 20.8 g, fat at 27.7 g, calcium at 184 mg, and phosphorus at 188 mg in a 100 g serving (source: USDA).
Protein is crucial during lactation. It is the building block of every cell after all. Protein supports the baby’s growth and development through breast milk. Protein helps build and repair muscles which are also beneficial for new moms.
Infants need fats because of their extremely high energy requirements and restricted dietary ability (they need to be fed).
Essential fatty acids are needed for the production of long-chain fatty acids: arachidonic acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), as well as their metabolites.
The lack or deficiencies of these can affect the central nervous system of the baby, particularly the development of sight and intelligence (source: PubMed).
Calcium needs to be supplied in the daily diet because the body’s calcium can get depleted to be used by the baby. Both mother and baby need calcium for bone mineralization (source: Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute).
Like calcium, potassium gets depleted in the mother’s body through breast milk and should be supplied in the diet. For mothers, potassium helps transmit neural impulses, achieve good heart function, and regulate blood pressure (source: NIH).
The only catch is that brie contains significant amounts of sodium at 629 mg per 100 g serving. We recommend not consuming it regularly so you won’t be at risk for hypertension.
Even with all the benefits of food, nursing mothers could still have a concern regarding breastfeeding safety.
Probably one of the million-dollar questions when it comes to breastfeeding is, “Can I pass on possible diseases to my breastfeeding baby?”
The answer is it depends. In the case of foodborne illnesses, specifically listeria, there is no current evidence implying that it can be transmitted through breast milk (source: NIH).
Listeria monocytogenes is the most prevalent cause of foodborne diseases from cheese over the years. Salmonella spp, E. coli., and Campylobacter jejuniare can be prospects from cheese, but they are rare (source: Colorado Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence).
If you are unsure and would like to know more about the safety of brie, you can also talk to your physician about it, too.