6 Effects of Smoking While Breastfeeding

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking, side effects

Dr. Howell

Around 25 percent of women in the US who are in the reproductive age use tobacco products like cigarettes, and majority of this number continue to smoke during pregnancy and after giving birth despite the fact that it can harm their own and their baby’s health.

Regardless the fact that the quantity of nicotine delivered through breastfeeding is higher than the amount of nicotine transferred during pregnancy, strong evidence suggests that infants still benefit from the milk of their mothers who smoke compared to those formula fed babies. This is the reason why mothers who can’t give up smoking are still encourage to breastfeed their babies.

However, the more you smoke, the higher the risks are for you and your baby’s health. If you can’t quit smoking, or really don’t want to give up smoking, it is better that you cut down your smoking for your baby’s sake. Below are the 6 risks of smoking while breastfeeding:


1. Early Weaning

Mothers who smoke are more likely to suffer from low milk production. This situation may later lead to early weaning. Mothers with low milk production may think that they have inadequate milk supply and will be less motivated to breastfeed their infants that may result to earlier weaning compared to those mothers who do not smoke.

2. Low Milk Production


Smoking does not only alter milk composition but as well as its production. Nicotine and other chemicals found in cigarette smoke affect how your body works during lactation resulting to low milk production. Mothers who smoke 5 to 10 cigarettes everyday may also experience difficulty in milk let-down.

3. Low Levels of Prolactin

Smoking hinders the production of prolactin, the substance needed for milk synthesis to improve nutrient absorption in babies.

4. Low Iodine Level in Breastmilk

Iodine is important for infant’s thyroid functions. It was found out that mothers who smoke have lesser iodine content in their breast milk. Iodine deficiency in infants may lead to poor growth and other developmental issues.


5. Low Vitamin C

Heavy and long time smokers showed low milk production and inadequate amounts of Vitamin C in their breast milk. Low vitamin C level may lead to higher risk for colic, nausea, and diarrhea.

6. Higher Risk of SIDS

Infants who were exposed to secondhand smoke may develop several health issues. Babies with smoking mothers are more likely to develop pneumonia, allergies, bronchitis and in worst cases – SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome.

If you really can’t give up smoking, it is best that you cut down your daily cigarette consumption. You may also want to avoid smoking before breastfeeding your baby, or when the nicotine level in your body is at its peak. Likewise, try to stay away from smoking in the presence or near your baby (inside the house or in your car) to lessen second hand exposure. You may also want to change your clothes, wash your hands and face thoroughly before handling or breastfeeding your baby. In this manner, you can lessen the effect of smoking to your baby or better yet stay away from smoking as much as possible.


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