Does Smoking Cigarettes During Breastfeeding Affect You And Your Baby?

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Tobacco products and cigarettes are widely known to cause health problems. As an infant, you expose him or her to nicotine and other compounds through breast milk, which is why the effects are multiplied during breastfeeding. The average American woman of reproductive age smokes around 25 percent of the time. Smoking cessation may occur during pregnancy, but many mothers return to the habit after pregnancy [1]. Breastfeeding babies may suffer negative effects if the mother smokes during that time. Is that to say that if you can’t stop breastfeeding, you should stop? Continue reading to learn how smoking cigarettes while breastfeeding may affect your baby.

Related: The risks of smoking in pregnancy

Smoking During Breastfeeding: Everything You Need To Know

What are the effects of smoking on breastfeeding mothers?

Cigarettes contain nicotine, as well as additional chemicals that affect different parts and processes of the body, including breast milk production. As a smoker, you might experience these health effects.

  • Smoking reduces serum prolactin levels, which may reduce breast milk supply. Breast milk production is stimulated by the hormone prolactin.
  • Breast milk’s composition may be altered by smoking several cigarettes per day, such as by a reduction in iodine content. If the baby doesn’t receive sufficient nourishment, the risk of malnutrition increases.
  • A higher level of nicotine and carbon monoxide in the blood may alter the taste of breastmilk.
  • In the long run, smoking may lead to mothers sacrificing the benefits of breastfeeding, such as lower risks of certain types of cancer. Mothers who smoke may feel less inclined to breastfeed, resulting in early weaning.

What are the effects of maternal smoking on the baby?

The blood vessels in the lungs quickly absorb nicotine, and other chemicals, from cigarettes and other tobacco products. Breast milk eventually contains the compounds that reach the breasts.

Breastfeeding babies who are exposed to nicotine and other harmful chemicals through breast milk have an increased risk of developing the following conditions.

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Risk of infection
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Irritability and fussiness
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Inadequate nutrition from a breast milk composition
  • Chronic liver disease due to nicotine exposure
  • Damage to beta cells in the pancreas due to nicotine exposure
  • Thyroid gland dysfunction and obesity in the long run
  • Addiction to nicotine can cause behavioral problems

Smokers may expose their babies to secondhand smoke if they are near them. Cigarette smoke can contain nicotine, which then settles on your clothing, causing your baby to expose itself to the residue. Third-hand smoke is what causes this. The baby could be at greater risk of developing the following problems after being exposed to second-and third-hand smoke.

Furthermore, infants frequently exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop chronic health problems such as addiction, circulatory problems, and immune system weakness.

What is the amount of nicotine transmitted through breast milk?

Several factors can affect how much nicotine is transmitted through breast milk, from the nicotine content of a cigarette to the number of cigarettes smoked within 24 hours, to how much nicotine is absorbed in a smoking session, as well as the body’s metabolism of nicotine. Even so, nicotine is found in breast milk in significant amounts. When smoking during pregnancy, two times the amount of nicotine is transferred to the placenta as when you breastfeed.

Even though the mother has smoked for the past 24 hours, there is still nicotine in the blood of the mother. If you do not quit smoking completely, you will continue to produce breast milk containing some nicotine.

Related: Drinking alcohol during pregnancy

Smoking And Your Baby: What Can Be Done To Minimize Risks?

If you want to protect your baby from smoking-related risks, you should quit smoking. If you are interested in quitting smoking, you may want to speak with a doctor or join a local help group for suggestions.

Don’t stop breastfeeding if you are attempting to reduce your smoking habit or cannot quit smoking at the moment. Breastfeeding may offer several significant benefits to children, so experts recommend that you do not stop breastfeeding. Babies younger than six months also receive the best and only natural nourishment from breast milk.

Following are some strategies you can utilize if you smoke and intend to breastfeed:

  • Never smoke before or after breastfeeding. Your breast milk contains half as much nicotine after you smoke two hours afterward. When you wait a long time between breastfeeding sessions, the baby will inhale less nicotine.
  • You can express and store breast milk so you can feed it later if you smoke right before breastfeeding.
  • To prevent the exposure of your baby to second-hand smoke, don’t smoke near the baby. To prevent third-hand smoke from affecting your baby, change all your clothes after a smoke session.
  • Smokers should wash their hands after they smoke to prevent third-hand smoke from getting into the baby’s mouth.
  • Make sure the baby will never be taken to the room where you smoke. The device can help prevent third-hand smoke and other cigarette residues from being inhaled. Smoke outside in a designated area if possible and legal.
  • If you take your baby to any place where smoking is allowed, do not do so. When you travel in the same car like your baby, don’t smoke.

By using Nicotine gums and patches, you can reduce the exposure of your baby to nicotine as well. To reduce the risk of further harm to the baby, be sure to use them after breastfeeding. Consider using nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine patches or e-cigarettes, with the help of a licensed provider. By gradually reducing your nicotine dosage, the therapist can help you stop smoking.

Mothers’ lives are most fulfilling when they breastfeed. Lactating mothers’ lifestyles can have a direct impact on the health of their babies. Consider your choices carefully and reflect. If you have not been able to give up smoking before, breastfeeding provides the best opportunity to do so. If you gave up smoking and realized that you were protecting the health of your baby, the satisfaction is addictive enough to possibly never consider smoking again after quitting.


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