Smoking While Breastfeeding: The Complete Guide

Smoking and Breastfeeding: The Complete Guide

​Most women are aware that smoking while pregnant presents several risks to the unborn child.

However, when it comes to breastfeeding, many mothers are puzzled as to whether their smoking poses any real harm to their babies.

Are there risks to smoking while breastfeeding?

After reading this comprehensive guide, you will learn the answers to all the questions you may have.

Let's get started:

Can I Smoke While Breastfeeding?

The simple answer to this is yes. However, deciding on if you should or should not is ultimately your choice, though smoking comes with several risks to both your health and that of your baby.

If you must smoke, it is a good idea to start working on a plan for cessation.

​Is Smoking While Breastfeeding Dangerous To My Baby?

​Yes, there are several risks that smoking can bring on the table [2], the most serious of which relates to second-hand smoke and the passage of nicotine through breast milk.

Second-hand smoke inhalation still transmits numerous toxins and carcinogenic waste products to your baby, increasing their likelihood of developing serious health issues.

Should I Stop Breastfeeding If I Smoke?

​No, regardless of if you smoke or not, breastfeeding remains the best source of nutrition for your baby [3].

Instead, a better plan is to start weaning yourself off of smoking, as your baby depends heavily on your breast milk for their growth and development.

Formulas should not be given preferentially to breast milk.

Can Smoking Affect Milk Supply?

​Studies have shown that smoking has an adverse effect on milk production, due to the effect it has on suppressing the hormone prolactin[4], responsible for lactation.

This applies to women that chronically smoke, but chances are high that most smokers are chronic to begin with, having a negative implication on milk supply for your baby.

Should I Pump And Dump If I Smoke And Need To Breastfeed?

Should I Pump And Dump If I Smoke And Need To Breastfeed

​A pump and dump is the practice of extraction breastmilk via pumping, and subsequently tossing it away.

However, not only is this a wasteful habit, it also has no benefit in removing nicotine from your breastmilk.

The best way to avoid excess nicotine being in your breastmilk is to either feed before having a smoke or immediately after completing a smoke[5], or ensuring that at least 3 hours have passed since your last cigarette.

Does Nicotine From Cigarette Smoking Enter Breastmilk?

​Yes, Nicotine crosses easily into breast milk following the mother smoking a cigarette[6], or even using nicotine replacement therapy.

​Plus, nicotine is also found in the smoke from cigarettes as well, which your baby may inhale or via absorption through the skin.

Nicotine very easily crosses lipid membranes of the body.

Does Smoking Affect The Nutritive Content Of My Breastmilk?

Yes, as it turns out, mothers who smoke tend to have reduced levels of iodine [7] in their breastmilk, a critical micro-mineral that is only obtained from her at this time.

Iodine plays important roles in the baby’s developing metabolism, thyroid function and numerous other processes in the body.

Does Smoking Before Bedtime Affect My Baby’s Sleep?

Does Smoking Before Bedtime Affect My Baby’s Sleep?

There is a high probability that smoking in the hours leading up to your baby’s bedtime and then subsequently breastfeeding [8], that their sleep will be interrupted.

This is owing to the fact that nicotine acts as both a stimulant and sedative, though in babies it is much more frequently associated with disrupting sleep.

​Try to schedule your bedtime feed at a period when nicotine is likely to be minimal in your blood, and breastmilk as well.

My Baby Isn​'t Feeding Like They Used To - Is This Normal?

​Smoking has adverse effects on both the feeding frequency of your baby, as well as your ability to produce milk, resulting in premature weaning [9].

Weaning off of breastmilk is typically not advised before the age of 2 years, as up to that point it supplies necessary nutrients to the rapidly growing body and developing mind.

Plus, even as cigarette smoking and nicotine inhibits the hormone responsible for milk production, it also makes it more difficult for the milk let-down reflex to be activated.

​The let-down reflex usually kicks in as a baby starts to nurse, or due to oxytocin when a mother hears a baby crying, for example.

Is Occasional Smoking While Breastfeeding Ok?

​Occasional smoking carries all of the risks of chronic smoking but is much more disruptive [10].

One-off smoking sessions still carry the risk of getting nicotine to your baby while breastfeeding (if you do not time it properly), in addition to introducing a strange compound that will likely not be tolerated well by your baby (nicotine).

Compare it to the first time you had coffee, the effects were disruptive and significant on the way you sleep and overall energy changes while it was in your bloodstream.

How Long Does It Take For Nicotine To Get Out Of Your Breast Milk?

​Studies have shown that while nicotine from smoked tobacco lasts just about two hours [11] in breastmilk, what is much more serious is the amount that concentrates in breast milk.

Approximately 2.9 times more nicotine concentrates in breast milk when compared to the amount found in mother​'s blood. This means that baby is actually getting a higher dose than you are​! Not a good habit to cultivate.

Is There A Link Between Smoking, Breastfeeding, and SIDS?

​There is apparently a link between babies exposed to nicotine during pregnancy and after birth [12], as nicotine seems to depress the sensory mechanism built into humans to notice low oxygen levels.

SIDS, also known as "crib death" is characterized by babies with otherwise perfect health that die suddenly in their cribs, owing to oxygen deprivation. Normally, a baby senses low oxygen from positions such as sleeping on their tummy and instinctively turns their head to the side.

​Babies exposed to second-hand smoke and nicotine from breast milk do not instinctively display this coping mechanism, and may inadvertently remain face down, risking suffocation.​

Is My Smoking The Cause Of My Baby's Frequent Colic Episodes?

​Smoking has been positively associated with gastric upset and indigestion in adults, being much more noticeable in babies.

Nicotine, acting as a stimulant, inhibits digestion which in turn increases the risk of gastric reflux [13] (or colic in babies).

Though this effect may wean as your baby's digestive system develops, nicotine tolerance is not something you want to encourage.

​Is It Safe To Vape While Breastfeeding?

​Vaping refers to use of small specialized atomizer machines, which use a liquid (common to that of hookah smoking) containing nicotine (or not) that the user inhales after a small battery powered mechanism turns the liquid into vapor (or vapes).

In theory, vaping is much is much safer [14], as it does not utilize tobacco leaves. This also eliminates the tar and toxic carcinogens that are made from burning.

The major risk of vaping remains nicotine. If you just use a vaping solution that is free from nicotine, then it is safe for your baby.

Can I Use E-Cigarettes Instead?

E-Cigarettes

​E-cigarettes, also known as "E-cigs" are basically just smaller vaping machines that resemble the look of a standard cigarette and are more convenient for everyday usage.

​E-cigarettes are just as safe as larger vaping machines, which given the fact that you use nicotine free solutions, are very safe for your baby.

​The biggest risk associated with E-cigs and vaping machines appears to be their propensity to catch fire without notice and cause burns. Keep well away from your baby at all times.

Is Hookah (Shisha) Smoking Safe?

​While hookah smoking may seem safer than typical cigarette smoking, it is very similar in terms of you still getting nicotine from its usage, along with small amounts of tar and other byproducts.

It is indeed less than that obtained from smoking a cigarette, but it is not different in terms of it still being tobacco [15].

Many people are misled because the tobacco is usually soaked in various sweet mixtures before being smoked through a water pipe, which in effect cools the smoke before inhaling it.

Hookah smoking is viewed as a much more recreational form of smoking since many do not view it as the same as cigarette smoking. Just keep in mind the impact it may have on your baby, as it carries many of the same risks and addictive potential.

Can My Baby Become Addicted To Nicotine From My Smoking?

​Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances, causing changes in the brain that result in dependence.

Dependence is a physiological and psychological scenario that results in the need to keep consuming the substance in question for the body to function normally.

Nicotine also very easily causes tolerance in babies [16], making them need the drug for normal functioning.

A baby that does not get its nicotine fix after being stopped will experience withdrawal symptoms such as increased irritability, worsened insomnia and loss of desire to feed.

Is Pot Smoking And Breastfeeding Safe?

​Marijuana use has increased significantly over the past two decades, both therapeutically and recreationally.

While there are benefits to using marijuana's CBD oil, marijuana smoked contain high concentrations of THC, the psychoactive constituent that is known for the "high" experienced when used, and its relaxing effects.

In babies, these effects are not good, as its sedative actions cause a baby to want to nap incessantly.

In addition, mothers who smoke marijuana (even recreationally) while breastfeeding young babies, may be responsible for their children having delayed mental and motor development typical at the one year point[17].

THC in marijuana also suppresses milk production[18] is a manner similar to nicotine, increases the risk of SIDS and can hamper growth and weight gain by affecting normal cell replication.

Marijuana should be avoided as much as possible unless a specialist is with you every step of the way to monitor issues that may arise.

Is Quitting Smoking While Breastfeeding Advised?

​While quitting is always a good practice, it would be much better to have never exposed your baby to the effects of nicotine in the first place.

Since in the womb, your baby may have been exposed to its effects, which are still significant.

If you quit after you have been breastfeeding for a while, your baby is likely to experience withdrawal effects [19] just as you would.

Withdrawal intensity depends on how many cigarettes are smoked daily but will likely still be uncomfortable for your baby.

Quitting cold turkey is not advised for this reason. You need to slowly wean yourself off of nicotine, so that normal function can resume with low or absent blood nicotine levels.

This is the best route to take to also save your baby from discomfort.

Can I Use A Nicotine Replacement Product While Breastfeeding?

Yes, it is fine to use a nicotine replacement product while you are breastfeeding and is actually a much better option than smoking.

However, when deciding on a product, your best options are to use gums, inhalers or lozenges, which act for a fixed duration and then exit the body (similar to a cigarette).

Patches are not advised [20], as they slowly release nicotine across the skin all day long, meaning that your baby will be getting some at every breastfeeding session.

Is Chewing Tobacco And Breastfeeding The Same As Smoking?

​Chewing tobacco, also known as the dip and snuff, still supplies a large quantity of nicotine to the body, even though many people believe that spitting out the tobacco removes this risk.

Rather than being absorbed by the stomach, nicotine and endless chemicals enter the blood via the vessels in the mouth and under the tongue, of which there is a high possibility of absorption [21].

The only "advantage" of chewing tobacco is the fact that others are not exposed to second-hand smoke, but the nicotine delivered to the baby is still significant and enough to cause problems.

Do I Put My Baby At Risk For Respiratory Illness If I Smoke While I Breastfeed?

​Mothers that breastfeed and smoke put their babies at higher risk of respiratory illnesses such as asthma [22], apnea, increased frequency of respiratory infections and allergies.

This is due to both the effect of second-hand smoke and nicotine on the developing lungs of the infant.

Babies whose mothers smoke are more likely to spend long stints hospitalized, or suffer lung insufficiency. This also increases a child​'s risk of getting lung cancer when they are older as well.

​Final Words

​When it comes to smoking and breastfeeding, the best course of action is to never start. Quitting may be an easy task for you, but the baby will suffer adverse withdrawal effects.

As a mother, it is important to do your best to ensure that your baby is well taken care of, with one of the best things you can do being to protect them from cigarettes and the effect of nicotine.

We hope you learned something worth sharing with your loved ones. Comment below and let us know what you learned!

Leave a Comment