Breastfeeding Your Baby, and Your Cigarettes

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

Dr. Howell

Your doctor was clear – smoking during pregnancy is dangerous to your baby and must be avoided. You did as what your doctor advised you. However, what if you experienced a relapse after delivering your baby? Is it safe to breastfeed?

Pregnant Black Woman Refusing A CigaretteResearch would tell you that smoking before breastfeeding passes nicotine to your baby through your breast milk. Nicotine stays in your body at least 3 hours after you smoke, and may remain longer. Smoking may also inhibit the production of milk, and significantly reduces the vitamins and minerals that your baby requires.

Common Health Risks of Nicotine to Babies

  • Respiratory Allergies
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Poor Growth

Babies born from mothers who smoke are more likely to develop a wide variety of disorders. They are at higher risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses that requires hospital treatment. Babies whose mothers are smokers or have smoking parents are more often irritable than babies born of non-smoking parents. Other risks includes:



  • Apnea,
  • vomiting,
  • poor growth,
  • squint,
  • lazy eye,
  • hearing impairment, and
  • immunodeficiency problems.

Nicotine is a poisonous substance, and exposure to this chemical compound through breast milk can cause nicotine addiction and nicotine poisoning in babies. Common sign of nicotine dependence in babies may include withdrawal symptoms such as headache, irritability, and sleep disturbances.

Common Signs of Nicotine Poisoning:


  • Vomiting after feeding,
  • loose stools,
  • grey skin color, and
  • increased heart rate

The symptoms are uncommon, and occur only on babies who were exposed to great amount of tobacco smoke. While the symptoms would reverse if you quit smoking and keep your baby away from secondhand smoke, however, your baby may become a bit fussy as the nicotine withdrawal symptoms kick in.

Parents who smoke greatly increases their child’s risk of SIDS. So regardless of whether you breastfeed your baby or not, if you continue smoking you’re putting your baby’s health at risk. Quitting smoking before you breast feed will ensure that your baby is protected from the harmful effects of nicotine, more specifically – dying from SIDS.

Cigarette smoking is among the hardest addictions to deal with, but millions of smokers have ultimately been successful quitting. In fact, breastfeeding is a perfect time for you to quit smoking, as it is easier for you to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. When you’re breastfeeding, your body produces lots of prolactin and opioids, which reduces the symptoms if nicotine withdrawal. You can also use nicotine patches 4 hours before breastfeeding. Consult your doctor regarding your choices if you think, using smoking cessation aids will help you quit more successfully.

If you can’t quit smoking while breastfeeding your child, try your best to at least keep your baby away from secondhand smoke, but continue breastfeeding, as it greatly reduces your baby’s risk of dying from SIDS. But still if you can quit all together, the better for you and your child, and to anyone around you.


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