Can I Eat Liver or Liver Oil When Breastfeeding? Is It Safe?

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Pregnant women often worry about the vitamin A content in the liver and liver oil. Therefore, it makes sense that breastfeeding women may have the same concerns. But should they?

Overall, liver and liver oil are after for women who are breastfeeding. However, liver meat is high in cholesterol and should be consumed in moderation.

Let’s talk more in-depth about the safety of liver and cod liver oil consumption during breastfeeding. Read on to learn more!

Is Liver Safe to Eat When Breastfeeding? 

Due to the very high amount of vitamin A in the liver, it is best to avoid it while you are breastfeeding. 

Many breastfeeding women worry about eating liver because of the vitamin A content. This makes sense because vitamin A is a primary concern for many during their pregnancy. 

Vitamin A supports healthy eyes and optic health and, besides in the liver, is also found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and many other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A in the diet of the breastfeeding mother is also crucial because it supports the healthy vision and immunity of the baby. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that lactating women aged 19 to 50 should consume 1,300 microgram retinol activity equivalents (RAE) of vitamin A daily. Those between the ages 14 and 18 who lactate should consume 1,200 micrograms RAE.

chicken liver with vegetables on a plate

However, the tolerable upper intake levels (ULs) for vitamin A are 3,000 mcg and 2,800 mcg, respectively. 

For reference, a one-cup serving of cooked and diced chicken livers contains 5530 micrograms of RAE of vitamin A (source: United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]). Therefore, consuming liver — even just a one cup amount — is greater than four times the recommended daily amount and almost doubles the tolerable upper limit.

In other words, it is best to steer clear of consuming liver while breastfeeding. 

Additionally, liver meat is very high in cholesterol, a waxy fat-like substance that can be detrimental to heart health. The liver is the organ that produces cholesterol.

Since our livers produce their own cholesterol that supports their functions in the body, there is no need to consume any cholesterol to survive. Therefore, consuming cholesterol from an animal’s liver increases cholesterol even more.

For reference, a one-cup serving of cooked chicken liver contains 781 milligrams of cholesterol. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans previously recommended to consume no more than 200 to 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.

However, they now simply recommend consuming as little dietary cholesterol as you can. 

Also, pate is a liver product that should be significantly limited during the duration of breastfeeding as well. Check out this article for more information about pate!

Can I Take Cod Liver Oil When Breastfeeding? 

Similarly, cod liver oil supplementation should be avoided while you are breastfeeding. 

A serving of one teaspoon (approximately 4.5 grams) of cod liver oil contains 1350 micrograms RAE of vitamin A (source: USDA). Based on the recommendations from the NIH discussed above, this is over the recommended daily value but under the tolerable upper limit.

cod liver oil capsules and a glass of water

However, if you consume any vitamin A sources in your diet, which you likely do, you could quickly get close to that upper tolerable limit. 

Therefore, it is best to steer clear of cod liver oil supplementation. Additionally, cod liver oil is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a dietary supplement before it hits the market. Therefore, it is not monitored for safety or effectiveness before it is available for you to purchase. 

Overall, it is best to avoid liver meat and cod liver oil supplementation when you are breastfeeding because of the high vitamin A content.

When eating a regular diet that is balanced and contains food from every food group, you are likely to have enough vitamin A in your diet. Many fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin A, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, and more. 

However, if you do feel that you are struggling to reach your daily vitamin A recommendation from just whole foods alone, speak with your physician and a registered dietitian nutritionist before beginning supplementation. 

In conclusion, I hope you found this article informative and helpful in breaking down if you should consume liver or liver products while you are breastfeeding.