Can I Eat Popcorn While Breastfeeding?

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Written by Shandra Williams

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There’s nothing like snacking when breastfeeding because let’s face it, you’ll be getting the munchies a lot! Is popcorn a good choice when nursing?

Popcorn is safe during breastfeeding – though it’s best not to go overboard on salty or sweet flavorings. You might also want to avoid having microwave popcorn if you’re concerned about Polyfluoroalkyl substances.

So, is popcorn any good, and what can you do to make it safer for you and your baby? Discover the answers below!

Is Popcorn Safe When Breastfeeding?

It is safe to eat popcorn when lactating provided that you don’t eat them too salty or too sweet, and bear in mind some small but increased risks with commercial microwave popcorn.

When making popcorn at home, we can sometimes be generous in the use of flavorings such as butter, cheese, caramel, salt, and so on. After all, it’s very tasty.

However, this can make popcorn a heavy snack instead of a light one, and potentially an unhealthy one at that.

Store-bought flavored popcorn, as in those that have popped, can also be loaded with sodium or sugar. 

A 100 g serving of cheese-flavored popcorn has 526 kcal and 889 mg of sodium (source: USDA Food Data Central). The recommended sodium intake for lactating women is 1,500 mg per day.

Sodium can be passed on through breast milk. However, no evidence has been found that this comes from the maternal diet (source: The National Academies Press).

glass bowl with popcorn

Another study suggests that the consumption of added sugar may play a role in infants developing obesity phenotypes eventually as a child. However, the study also concluded that more research, bigger samples, and longer observation are needed (source: Nutrients). 

We advise you not to use too many salty or sweet flavorings on your popcorn when making it at home – everything in moderation is fine.

On another note, look where your corn is sourced, too. According to a study, popcorn contains carcinogens that could be ingested when the popcorn is eaten. This study also found that out of the 30 random popcorn samples taken from Veracruz, Mexico, almost 50% of them were contaminated with aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins are threatening to health. They can cause liver damage, immunosuppression, miscarriage, and mutagenic effects which lead to cancer (source: Risk Management and Healthcare Policy). 

This study was published in 2020 and more research is yet to take place to support the presence of aflatoxins in popcorns produced in the US or other parts of the world. We recommend doing research on popcorn that comes from other countries. 

popcorn in a bowl

Is Popcorn Good While Breastfeeding? 

Popcorn is actually a good snack because it is low in calories, high in fiber, and it’s whole grain. If you’re moderating the sugar and salt in popcorn flavorings, it can be a great choice (source: USDA: Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center).

But what about microwave popcorn?

Is Microwave Popcorn OK When Breastfeeding? 

Commercial popcorn has been under the radar lately for being linked to cancer and other diseases, and the issue concerns the packaging of commercial microwave popcorn.

The chemicals used to line the bags of commercial popcorn contained perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) which are the culprit of serious diseases such as cancer. In 2016, the FDA banned the use of this chemical (source: FDA). 

Polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFASs are a type of PFC that is in the lining of the packaging of microwave popcorn bags. They are regarded as “forever chemicals” because they have been present in the environment for the longest time (source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).

According to a recent study conducted where milk samples were gathered from breastfeeding mothers in the US, 39 PFASs were found (source: Environmental Science & Technology). This is an issue of concern. 

popcorn in microwave oven

Because of the many studies regarding the health risks of microwave popcorn due to its packaging, it might be best to avoid microwave popcorn when you’re breastfeeding.

However, bear in mind that today, most, if not all commercial microwave popcorns (the packaging, that is) no longer contain these chemicals. Just recently, the FDA has authorized the use of some specific PFASs to be used when in contact with food such as in packaging (source: FDA). 

While microwave popcorn packaging wasn’t mentioned, the new packaging might still contain questionable ones or the new ones might be too new to have been thoroughly studied.

But don’t lose heart! You can still eat and enjoy popcorn. You just have to prepare it in other ways.

You can use a lidded pot and cook it over a stove, or use a dedicated electric popcorn maker, also known as a popcorn popper. You can find cooking tips, how to make air-popped popcorn, and how to make them safer in this article.

You can still enjoy popcorn when you’re watching your favorite show or just snacking your way through the day. Just make sure to check the packaging on microwave popcorn and those that are too salty or sweet.

We hope you found this article helpful!