Can I Eat Deli Meat When Breastfeeding? Is It Safe?

Photo of author

Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

Published on

BabyFacts logo

Since deli meat is a concern for pregnant women, many breastfeeding mothers wonder if they can also eat deli meat. So let’s dive into whether you can eat deli meat while lactating.

Overall, deli meat is safe to consume while breastfeeding since it is very unlikely that listeria can pass to your baby through breast milk. However, deli meat is high in sodium and should be consumed in moderation.

Therefore, let’s talk about eating deli meat while you are breastfeeding. Read on to learn more!

Can You Eat Deli Meat While Breastfeeding?

Yes, breastfeeding women can safely consume deli meat from the deli counter at a grocery store, whether they enjoy freshly sliced or pre-packaged deli meat. 

Typically, deli meat is a concern for pregnant women because of the risk of listeriosis. Listeriosis is a disease caused by consuming Listeria monocytogenes (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]). Pregnant women and newborn babies are specifically at risk of developing listeriosis. 

display of different types of deli meat

Therefore, pregnant women must be mindful of when they are eating deli meat and heat it up in the microwave until it is steaming. This is to kill any potential bacteria and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

However, while a mother is breastfeeding, there is a very low chance of listeria passing through breastmilk to the baby if the mother were to become infected (source: Organization of Teratology Information Specialists). 

Overall, breastfeeding reduces the risk of many foodborne illnesses spreading to your baby, and the limitations you had while you were pregnant are greatly diminished. This loosening of restrictions includes the health considerations on lunch meats and deli meats.

Therefore, when you are breastfeeding, enjoy your deli meat in your favorite sandwiches, dishes, and more.

Lunch Meat or Cold Cut Safety When Breastfeeding

A pack of lunch meat or cold cuts that you purchase from the grocery store will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (source: U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA]).

However, once you open the packaging, it should be eaten within three to five days and should be stored in the fridge. Additionally, if you purchase lunch meats sliced at the deli counter, these can be stored in the refrigerator for three to five days as well.

As mentioned above, listeria cannot pass from the nursing mother to baby through breast milk, even if she happens to have been infected with listeria. Therefore, you can enjoy your lunch meat or cold cut sandwiches hot or cold, unlike during pregnancy when you were advised to heat up lunch meats before eating.

The only downside is the high sodium content of lunch meat or deli meat. For example, a 56-gram serving of smoked turkey lunch meat contains a whopping 750 milligrams of sodium (source: USDA Food Data Central). Wow! 

different types of deli meat with tomato and lettuce

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. However, it is more ideal to consume no more than 1,500 milligrams to support a healthy heart. Therefore, a serving of turkey lunch meat, for example, already contains about half of the ideal recommendation.

Therefore, look for low sodium or no salt added varieties of your favorite lunch meats at the grocery store.

In other words, enjoy your lunch meat and cold cuts in moderation due to the sodium content and high level of processing. 

However, lunch meat has some health benefits to breastfeeding women, including high protein content (source: Mayo Clinic). Therefore, it is recommended to eat a variety of foods rich in protein during breastfeeding.

Continue to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, including lean meats, low-sodium foods, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and more.

I hope this article was helpful in unpacking how to safely consume lunch meat and cold cuts while you are breastfeeding.