Can I Smoke While Breastfeeding?

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Smoking and breastfeeding is not a good combination. Secondhand smoke is dangerous to everyone, and it is especially dangerous to newborns and small children with developing lungs and susceptible respiratory systems. While smoking mothers are still entirely able to breastfeed, there are still health risks for mother and baby, just as with any other person who smoke.

According to La Leche League’s website and their reference to their publication, The Breastfeedinag Answer Book, if a mother smokes fewer than twenty cigarettes per day, the health risks associated with the nicotine passed through her breastmilk are insignificant. Still, secondhand smoke is directly linked to respiratory illness, bronchitis, pneumonia, SIDS, and other diseases among babies. It is certainly best that mothers do not smoke. If smoking is a necessity, limiting smoking to as infrequently as possible and away from the baby is best.

Not only is secondhand smoke harmful to babies, smoking also poses many health risks to mothers. Smoking mothers are more at risk of early weaning, let-down difficulty, and low supply. Secondhand smoke is also linked to colic and fussiness in babies. Smoking is one of the most difficult addictions to break, so one should not begin smoking because of the health risks and potential long-term effects of smoking. Lung disease and cancers, mouth and throat cancers, respiratory illnesses, difficulty breathing, and many other health issues are directly linked to smoking. Illnesses from smoking can take a toll on a woman’s overall health and ability to care for her child. Smokers tend to tire more easily because of breathing difficulties. The habit of smoking can also force a mother to put parenting responsibilities on hold while she smokes.

Although smoking is dangerous to both mother and child, it is still possible for a smoker to breastfeed her baby. A smoking mother should do her best to quit or cut back on the amount of cigarettes she smokes. She should also avoid smoking around her child, if at all possible. According to an article published on the US Center for Biotechnology Information, Library of Medicine website, breastfeeding may offer protection, as respiratory illnesses are less common in breastfed babies whose mothers smoke, than in formula-fed babies. According to this documented study, sleep patterns by breastfed infants were also disturbed when their mothers smoked. These babies tended to wake from their naps earlier and spend less time in active sleep (Mennella, Yourshaw, and Morgan).

Because of the proven link between smoking and numerous diseases and health risks, women who are pregnant or who plan to become pregnant are highly encouraged to cut back or quit smoking. The earlier one quits smoker, the sooner one can reap the benefits of a smoke-free life, such as lower risk of cancers and respiratory illnesses and complications.

If you smoke and are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are currently nursing a baby, seek help from your healthcare provider on ways to stop smoking. A smoke-free mother and home are the safest for a breastfed baby. If quitting is not possible, breastfeeding your child is still extremely beneficial, and in some ways offers some protection from secondhand smoke that formula-fed babies may not receive.


Julie A. Mennella, PhD, Lauren M. Yourshaw, BA, and Lindsay K. Morgan. Breastfeeding and Smoking: Short-term Effects on Infant Feeding and Sleep” National Centers for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine,, 2007 Sep. Web. 2015 Sep 6.

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