Can I Eat Ceviche When Breastfeeding? Safety and Risks

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Since pregnant women are advised to steer clear of raw fish and seafood, including ceviche, out of risk of passing dangerous bacteria to the unborn baby, it makes sense that you may wonder if you can have the popular dish while you are breastfeeding.

Overall, you can eat ceviche while breastfeeding without the chance of passing harmful bacteria to your baby. However, it is essential to be mindful of the type of fish used in the ceviche to avoid consuming too much mercury. 

Let’s dive into more information regarding ceviche’s safety and how to ensure you are consuming safe amounts of mercury. Read on!

Is Ceviche Safe While Breastfeeding?

In general, consuming ceviche of any kind, whether fish or shrimp varieties, is safe for your baby while you are breastfeeding. Ceviche is a Latin American dish that contains raw fish or seafood and is marinated in lemon juice or lime juice along with many spices and herbs, such as cumin, garlic, and chili pepper. 

ceviche with onions, tomatoes and citrus

Ceviche is “cooked” or cured through the acidic juices that is present in the lemon and lime which causes it to become opaque and firmer. Therefore, heat is not used actually to cook the seafood itself. However, since heat kills the potential bacteria in raw seafood, such as Listeria, uncooked seafood in ceviche is considered raw. 

The potential organisms, such as bacteria, in ceviche or raw fish, cannot pass through the mother’s breastmilk to the baby (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]). However, that does not mean there are no considerations for eating ceviche for breastfeeding women.

Since ceviche is still raw fish, you are more likely to get sick than fully-cooked seafood, even though your baby cannot get sick from it. Keep in mind that if you are sick, you will have a more challenging time caring for your baby as you rest and recover.

Is Ceviche Good or Bad for Breastfeeding? 

Also, while the bacteria in seafood in ceviche cannot pass through the breast milk to your baby, the mercury content of the fish can.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released guidelines about eating fish when breastfeeding that recommend eating four ounces of “Best Choices” — fish low in mercury such as shrimp, flounder, haddock, and pollock — two to three times each week.

Alternatively, you could consume one serving of “Good Choices” with a moderate amount of mercury, such as halibut, grouper, or snapper. Avoid high mercury fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, and shark. 

salmon ceviche with onions and apple

Ceviche is typically found as shrimp ceviche or fish ceviche. Shrimp is low in mercury, so shrimp ceviche is a better option than some fish varieties, depending on the type of fish. 

 Also, if you decide to consume ceviche while breastfeeding, ensure it is from a reputable and safe source. 

Overall, with ceviche comes many considerations for health and safety. However, ceviche is an excellent source of protein and healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Therefore, it is especially important while breastfeeding to consume a well-balanced and healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dietary fiber, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, and protein, including ceviche or seafood. 

Despite these health benefits, other safer options are just as nutritious as ceviches, such as cooked fish that is low in mercury, lean meat or poultry, or vegetarian meat alternatives, such as tofu.

In conclusion, consider the pros and cons of ceviche when deciding to consume it while breastfeeding. I hope you found this article helpful in discussing consuming ceviche while breastfeeding.