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  • Post last modified:June 1, 2020

What are the effects of smoking while breastfeeding? Who decides if you should stop or not? Why not learn more about the effects of smoking while breastfeeding first, then make your decision after?

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Can’t seem to be able to quit smoking?

With a newborn baby in hand, smoking while breastfeeding is not without risk. This is primarily because of the presence of nicotine, and we all know that this substance is very bad for any human being; much more for a baby whose body is still developing quickly. But there are other problems as well.

What are the effects of smoking while breastfeeding? Who decides if you should stop or not? Why not learn more about the effects of smoking while breastfeeding first, then make your decision after?

Effects of Smoking While Breastfeeding

Taste of Milk Changes

When nursing a baby, it must be emphasized that what you eat and drink will affect the milk you feed your baby. This includes the nicotine you ingest when smoking, and your baby is likely to get exposed to this nicotine early in life. Furthermore, the taste of your milk might not be favorable to your baby.

However, there are ways to avoid exposing your baby to nicotine by smoking after breastfeeding instead of before, and not smoking at least 2 hours before feeding.

To learn more about the correlation between what mom eats and the taste of her breast milk, click here.

Lower Prolactin and Breast Milk

Smoking may lower the amount of breast milk you can produce. This is because prolactin, which is a protein hormone responsible for stimulating milk production, decreases by as much as 50% when smoking.

Respiratory Illness

Smoking directly affects the health of your lungs, and so by breastfeeding your baby, you expose her to possible respiratory illnesses. At such a young age, your baby will have destructive nicotine in her respiratory system, and if her genes and general physical health are not strong enough to fight respiratory ailments, she may have to deal with a life-long problem of respiratory illness.

Secondhand Smoke

It has been proven that secondhand smoke is even more toxic than the smoke inhaled by the smoker. It even causes higher incidents of ear infections among babies. This being the case, it is very important that you if plan to keep smoking while breastfeeding, the very least you should do is to stay away from your baby when you smoke and avoid smoking inside your home or your car because the smoke can linger.

Early Weaning

Statistics show that babies exposed to nicotine tend to be weaned earlier than babies who were not exposed. While research ha not yet been able to explain why this is, there are two theories: First, the baby might refuse the milk because of the taste or lack of sufficient milk supply; and second, the mother might not be as interested in breastfeeding her child because of the conflict between smoking and nursing.

Sleep Disturbances, Irritability, and Colic

Smoking while breastfeeding can cause colic incidents in babies. In fact, the more the mother smokes, the higher the chances of the baby suffering from colic. Unfortunately, the higher risk is established already during pregnancy, if the mom smokes.

Anyone who has been close to a baby with colic knows how hard it is on both baby and parent with the long crying spells and disturbed sleep pattern.

In addition, even if your baby will not get colic, one study has shown that babies sleep significantly less (almost 40% less) during the hours after their mother smoked and they breastfed, compared to days when their moms abstained from smoking. Another good reason for any sleep-deprived mom to let go of the cigarettes!

Diarrhea, Vomiting, Faster Heart Rate, Nausea

Diarrhea, vomiting, an increased heart rate, and nausea are other unpleasant symptoms that babies exposed to cigarette smoke and nicotine sometimes suffer from.

If You Simply Can’t Quit

In conclusion, the disadvantages of smoking while breastfeeding are tremendous; the cards are stacked up against the child. However, medical experts and doctors would rather have a smoking mother who breastfeeds than a smoking mother who gives formula milk. This is because of the nutritious value of breast milk that can more than compensate for the ill effects of smoking, at least compared to formula and a smoking mom.

Thus, smoking while breastfeeding is fraught with potential problems, it is not discouraged that much. Ideally, of course, you should quit smoking – forever. Unfortunately, this is something easier said than done. Just be aware that you will potentially be facing serious health issues – both for you and your child, and these are situations that cannot always be reversed.

But, if you simply can’t or won’t stop smoking, then at least extend the time you breastfeed for as long as possible!


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Canivet CA, Ostergren PO, Jakobsson IL, Dejin-Karlsson E, Hagander BM., Infantile colic, maternal smoking and infant feeding at 5 weeks of age., Scand J Public Health. 2008 May;36(3):284-91.
Stroud LR, Paster RL, Goodwin MS, Shenassa E, Buka S, Niaura R, Rosenblith JF, Lipsitt LP., Maternal smoking during pregnancy and neonatal behavior: a large-scale community study., Pediatrics. 2009 May;123(5):e842-8.
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Image: Courtesy of Reut C

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