Exposure to poisonous substances while breast-feeding

While breast-feeding, avoid exposure to poisonous substances, which may be in contaminated water, food, or air. Heavy metals such as lead and mercury, some pesticides, and other industrial or household chemicals can sometimes end up in breast milk.

  • Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish, because these all contain high levels of mercury.
  • Eat up to 12 oz (340 g) a week (two average meals) of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.
    • Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
    • Another commonly eaten fish, albacore ("white") tuna, has more mercury than canned light tuna. So, when choosing your two meals of fish and shellfish, you may eat up to 6 oz (170 g) a week (one average meal) of albacore tuna.

Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in your local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. If no advice is available, eat up to 6 oz (170 g) a week (one average meal) of fish caught from local waters, but don't eat any other fish during that week. Also check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Web site for mercury advisory updates at www.epa.gov/ost/fish.

  • Make sure your household and work areas are not hazardous. Use common sense to avoid strong chemicals, such as pesticides. If you are unsure or concerned about exposures, contact your local health department for information about whether special testing is warranted.

Talk to your doctor if you are unsure about your exposure to contaminants.

Last Updated: May 4, 2009

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