Can You Eat Oysters While Breastfeeding? Is It Safe?

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Oysters are beloved seafood often enjoyed for their deliciously briny and slightly sweet flavor. However, many mothers wonder if they can consume oysters while they are breastfeeding. 

Overall, oysters are nutritious seafood to consume when you are breastfeeding, but you should only consume fully cooked oysters that have been properly stored. 

From allergy risk, to mercury content, to cooking methods, and more, there is so much to unpack when it comes to safely consuming oysters while you are breastfeeding. Let’s dive into it!

Are Oysters Safe to Eat if You’re Breastfeeding?

Oysters are a tasty variety of seafood many love to enjoy with a fresh squeeze of citrus and a flavorful sauce. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, copper, iron, and zinc (source: U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA]). They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, both of which support healthy breastfeeding.  

However, oysters are considered shellfish, which is a common allergy that is developed in adulthood (source: British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology).

Many people with shellfish allergies are allergic to any and all varieties of shellfish, while others may only react to specific types, such as oysters. If you are allergic to oysters, you may experience a range of symptoms, from a stuffy nose or hives, to more severe complications, such as difficulty breathing (source: Mayo Clinic).

Some symtoms to look out for include hives, itching, swelling, coughing, diarrhea, dizziness, and more. 

pile of raw oysters

Additionally, if you notice any hives, sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes in your baby after you eat oysters and then breastfeed, seek medical attention immediately (source: Nemours Children’s Health).

In terms of mercury content, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classify oysters as a “Best Choice.” Therefore, it is safe to consume two to three servings a week of oysters or other seafood with similar mercury contents (source: FDA). A serving is equivalent to four ounces of seafood. 

However, rather than eating the same type of seafood, such as oysters, two or three times per week, it’s best to eat a variety of types of seafood with low levels of mercury. Consuming a variety will help you get all the essential vitamins and minerals needed in a balanced diet. 

Raw Oysters When Breastfeeding

The most common way to enjoy oysters is raw. Many enjoy a plate of raw oysters topped with a bit of lemon juice and hot sauce. However, consuming raw or undercooked oysters (along with raw clams, mussels, or other seafood) can increase the risk of developing a foodborne illness.

Therefore, it is recommended to cook oysters thoroughly and safely before eating — more on this below!

When eating out at a restaurant, ask the staff if the oysters are fully cooked or raw. Even partially cooked oysters can be unsafe, though this is unlikely. 

Cooked Oysters When Breastfeeding

To safely consume oysters, cook them using your cooking method of choice until the shells open up (source: FDA).

This guideline is unlike that of most seafood as it is not temperature-based. Furthermore, this method applies whether you are cooking oysters on a grill, baking them in the oven (such as when making oysters Rockefeller), or frying them in a pan on the stovetop. 

oysters on a barbecue grill

Ensure that any fresh produce garnish is thoroughly washed under running water and scrubbed with a product brush if applicable (source: FDA). Many people enjoy their oysters topped with fresh lemon juice and maybe some green onion or chopped red bell pepper, 

Additionally, if you have leftover oysters after a meal, ensure they are refrigerated within two hours of cooking (source: FDA). If the temperature outside is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, put the oysters in the fridge within one hour of cooking. 

Are Oysters Good for Breastfeeding?

As long as there are no allergies for the mother or baby, oysters can be a good source of protein, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals in your diet while you are breastfeeding. These nutrients can reduce inflammation and help your baby’s nervous system development (source: Cleveland Clinic). 

I hope you found this article helpful in outlining the recommendations and considerations for consuming oysters while you are breastfeeding.