Safe to Eat Fish for Babies and New Moms

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Safe fish for Pregnant Women, New Moms and Babies in India

Looking for information about eating different types of fish and seafood found in India for you and baby?
Here we have collected all required information to help you know which fish in India are good for you during pregnancy and breastfeeding or for baby after you decide to introduce fish to baby. If you are a non vegetarian then you should not miss this super healthy food for you and baby. But selecting a safe to eat fish is more important.

Fish are richest source of omega-3 fatty acids. The fatty acids like DHA (found in mostly in fatty fish like salmon/Rawas and mackerel/Bangda) help in lowering the blood pressure, strengthen your immune system. They are very good for development of nervous system and the cardiovascular system. They slow down your aging process.
Because of containing essential amino acids, fish consumed in even small quantity can improve quality of dietary protein. Only vegetables in diet cannot provide you enough of nutrients.

Does that mean any fish with good fatty acid is good for you and your baby? Answer is NO!!!

For pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and babies its very important that you select right fish. Don’t just look for source of vital nutrient Omega3 fatty acids but consider other harmful factor to avoid. You need to select right fish especially considering the Mercury content of fish. Mercury is called as nerve poison. Children are more sensitive to it compared to adults. Therefore the fish which contain mercury are prohibited to babies, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. You can introduce fish to your baby once she is around 9 months old. But you should confirm with your doctor before you start to include fish in baby food.

How to Select Right Fish During Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and as a Baby Food?

Fish for baby should be high in nutrients but low in mercury and which is not known for allergy causing. In any type of fish, try buying bigger available fish as the bones will be bigger, visible and hence lesser chances of your baby getting small piece of bone caught in the back of the throat.

Lets see one by one most popular and healthy fish available India.

Rawas/Salmon

salmon rawas
As you will see everyone talks about health benefits of Salmon, as its safest of all, high in nutrients and very low in Mercury and low in allergy causing contents. But can you buy fresh Salmon in India? Well in India we get Rawas which is species of Salmon.
Mercury: Low
Allergy: Less likely.
Best of all Indian Fish for babies is: Rawas

Pomfrets/Butterfish

pomfret

Excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin B3, B12, Niacin and vitamin E content hence very good for healthy skin and digestive system. High in Omega-3.
Mercury: Low
Select the big Pomfret for kids as small ones have tiny n thin bones.
Good for baby and you.

Black Pomfret/Halva

halwa black pomfretAnother rich source of Omega-3 fatty acid, a good source of protein, easily digestible. It also contains Vitamins and minerals like Iron, Iodine, Selenium and Zinc,.
Mercury: Low
For babies and mothers: Good

Sardines/Tarli

sardines tarli
This fish is one of healthiest food in the world. Very good supply of omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, vit D and protein, calcium, copper, niacin, choline and vitamin B2,B12. Sardines are very good for bones due to high content of Vit D to help absorb consumed calcium and Phosphorus which help strengthen the bone matrix.
Mercury: Low.
Babies, mothers can eat Sardines (Tarli/Pedvey) and enjoy its health benefits.

Mackerel/Bangda

mackerel bangdaVery high Omega 3 fatty acid. Good for brain development but its not good for babies.
Mercury: HIGH.
Pregnant mothers/breastfeeding mothers/Babies should not be given this fish.

Tuna

Powerful source of high-quality protein but like Mackerel this is also high in mercury so not a good choice for babies or small kids, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

Shellfish During Pregnancy/Lactation/For Baby: Shrimp/Prawns, Lobster, Oyster, Crab

shellfishShellfish are packed with vitamins and minerals. Oysters contain iron, calcium, magnesium along with other minerals and are great source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and D. Other shellfish shrimp, prawn and crab are also source of nutrients.
But you should avoid giving shellfish to babies as it is one of highly allergic food. Its best to introduce shellfish after 1 year and after consulting your doctor.
Crab meat is healthy for kids above 2 years (if not allergic)
Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers can eat shellfish if no previously known allergy.
Mercury Level: Low

King Fish/Surmai

king fish surmai
This fish also provide you healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B-12 and selenium.
Mercury: May contain high, depends on type and place of origin.
Tricky but best to avoid as baby food if you are not sure if its low in mercury.

River fish in India

rohu fish

Rohu/Catla

There are various types of river fish in India. Most common is Rohu or Catla
Like other healthy fish, Its loaded with Omega-3 Fatty acids, proteins. It’s easily digestible, lower in fats, high in minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium.
Rohu like river fish are healthy, low in salt and known to be usually low in mercury.
River fish (even Rohu/Catla) may also contain high level of mercury if the place of origin is contaminated water.

Important Notes:

1. How to identify fish is fresh: Flesh of whole fish and it’s fillets should be firm and shiny. Dull flesh is a sign of old fish.
2. Mercury adversely affects the nervous system, skin and kidneys. Even if we know some fish contain low mercury e.g. pomfret but be aware that it may contain high levels of mercury depending on place from where it is caught. In India sometimes even pomfret is found with high level of mercury when tested. Unfortunately in India fish catcher don’t provide you such information. Its advised that you make sure if fish comes from safe source and try to get enough information of the fish you give to your baby especially before she turns 1yr.
Always watch for signs of a food allergy after you introduce any new food to baby. Contact your doctor before you introduce any fish to your child.
News in Times of India about metal in fish

As baby food, you can introduce fish in soup at first then may be mashed or as ingredient of some other vegetable recipe. Once you start finger food, give your baby fish fingers as these are very much liked by babies because of less fishy smell.

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About Author

Sapana

Software professional - now work at home mom

31 Comments

  1. I was literally searching with lot of websites.. Got all information in your Site.Very Useful information. thank you so much Sapna for sharing such a good information.

    • Sapana

      Hi Binod,
      I have stayed in Mumbai for 2 years and used to buy it from market or from FreshNFresh They home-deliver the fresh fish, cleaned and cut pcs. But remember one thing avoid buying fish caught ar Varsova as there were studies and fish were found with very high mercury level in them.

  2. 🙁 I stay at Lokhandwala and my guess is that all fish there come from Versova. That’s what I have been eating for the last ten years!
    I wonder where Cambay gets their fish from. I’ve recently started going to their store close by. Or should I just stick to Tilapia variety to be safe.

    • Sapana

      You can never know if the fish (especially from Mumbai) is safe
      Vegetables and fruits are also not 100% safe but atleast we can wash them. The metal inside the fish can not be washed away.
      Pregnant women and Babies must not be given such high risk foods.

      Read these articles: TOI and DNA India. The numbers will surprise you more.
      Why Media doesnt cover such news in highlights?

      Fresh water fish seems better option but when its about Mumbai you know the pollution levels.

    • Sapana

      Hi Bindu, Rohu is safe to eat as its low in mercury but you must take it from a safe source. The place where it was caught should not be polluted. I know its very hard to know so buy it from the direct fishman. As rohu is a freshwater fish, local fishermen usually catch it from local rivers or lakes.

  3. I kept eating fish while I was pregnant – and was so happy to get back to it after my son was born. It’s one of my favorite foods!

  4. Hi.. my folks say not to eat fish during the 1st trimester .. I had only one good slice of anjal fish for dinner & had nothing else with it as I like eating fish only for dinner & no other compliments to it .. is it something wrong with it .. causing me a little worry though 🙁

    • Sapana

      Hi Shareen,

      Anjal is Surmai/King Fish right? According to my knowledge it contains high to medium level of Mercury. The origin of fish affects the level of Mercury level. Basically most of King Fish come in Not-Safe list for Pregnant women.

      One piece can do no harm to you or baby.
      So do not worry. In fact you can have it once in a few weeks, but do not have it regularly.

  5. Very nice information.. I was thinking of having fish today so searching abt it.. your research is very helpful. Thanks . Nice n helpful site for mom n the baby

  6. Pingback: Are Shrimp and Prawns Safe to Eat During Pregnancy? | GoMama 24/7

  7. I have read an article that states 8 ounces of salmon, or 16 sardines a week is ideal to have enough omega-3s intake with less mercury level. Is the amount appropriate?

    Also let me know is there any necessity to include fish in diet? I don’t like fish at all. Hope there will be no issue with my baby.

    • Sapana

      These ideal intake limits are usually general and as you know they assume ideal situation like pollution free source of fish and also if you are used to have fish regularly. If you dont like fish that’s ok, replace it with other nutritious foods specially the DHA rich foods like Flax seeds, walnuts etc.

  8. Hello mam thanks for the info.Can you please give an information of snake head fish (korameenu fish in Telugu).Can pregnant women eat this fish

    • Sapana

      Hi Sandeep,
      Sorry for late reply.
      I studied about the fish. Its called as Channa striata in English, Dekhu/Morul in Marathi n Hindi, but I personally have not tried this fish.
      The snakehead fish no doubt is healthy, in fact it is specially given to new-moms to heal from baby birth specially the c-section also infants for brain growth.
      so it should be safe for pregnant women in normal conditions.
      I found this Malaysian Hospital Research Study Link : BioMedCentral (Study of health benefits of this fish for new moms)
      I could not find the natural Mercury level of this fish but remember one thing the source of the fish has great impact on its quality and safety.
      Make sure the fish is caught from non-harmful source.
      Many times govt publishes such articles: Mercury Contamination in Channa striata Thailand (This one is not from India). Mumbai has many such harmful sources still in use. I dont know much about other parts of India.

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