Breastfeeding and Smoking

Submitted by Nick on January 18, 2012

Anyone who gives you breastfeeding advice is sure to mention that breastfeeding and smoking do not go together as it can cause a lot of breastfeeding problems and other complications.

Risks: Breastfeeding and smoking can impose certain risks for your baby, and also cause certain breastfeeding problems for you. Studies done on mothers who smoke heavily, show that the effects of nicotine create breastfeeding problems causing a reduction in milk production and supply in the mother.


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Even if the mother has produced enough milk, smoking often stops or inhibits the let-down reflex of the milk. Breastfeeding problems from tobacco cause other direct symptoms on the baby who may suffer from abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, as a result of the cigarette smoke. Sometimes smoking has been related to colic and fussiness in the baby.

Babies of mothers, who smoke while breastfeeding, not only experience breastfeeding problems, but are also more prone to diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

These problems are caused, either as a reaction to second hand smoke or because of the effects of the nicotine, which has entered the bloodstream and milk supply of the breastfeeding mother. The more number of cigarettes a breastfeeding mother smokes, the higher the risks for the baby and the greater the breastfeeding problems. But even a single cigarette can be harmful. The levels of nicotine in the breastfeeding mother’s milk and blood peak after a smoke. Even after 95 minutes only half the nicotine is expelled from the body. That is why most medical experts are of the opinion that breastfeeding and smoking even for a short term too, do not go together at all.

Advice: Most doctors will advice you to stop smoking the moment you become pregnant. In fact, doctors recommend that you should take this step from the time you decide to get pregnant. This is because smoking can have a harmful effect on the fetus, which can range from serious birth defects to abortion. If you are a heavy smoker, you must try to stop this habit at the earliest, so that your baby’s grow and development is not hindered. While it certainly requires tremendous willpower, you may consider taking the help of some people who are close to you, for example your husband, parents, siblings or friends. You may even consider joining some therapy or counseling groups, who may offer some healthy substitutes for smoking, whenever the craving hits you.Diet: At the same time, try to follow a healthy breastfeeding diet, which will improve the quality of your breast milk, and thus provide the necessary nutrition for your baby’s growth and development. You should be getting at least 2000 calories with a balanced mix of proteins, carbohydrates, ‘good fats’, minerals and vitamins.

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