Smoking and Breastfeeding – A Poor Combination

Many people have recently become aware of the serious health problems that go with smoking cigarettes. These health problems not only affect the smoker, they also affect everyone around them. Respiratory illnesses, lacking immune systems, and incidences of cancer are higher for smokers and those who are usually around cigarette smoke than they are for non-smokers. Many women quit smoking during pregnancy for the health of their fetus. However, most start smoking again after the birth of the child. Breastfeeding and smoking can go together, but the more a mother smokes, the more risk to a baby, whether he is breastfed or fed with a bottle.

If a mother consumes less than fifteen cigarettes each day, the risk to the baby from transmitted nicotine in the breast milk is quite small. However, as that number goes up, more nicotine is transmitted through the breast milk. The more cigarettes the mother smokes; the more chance she has of serious side effects. The baby might also have some problems like diarrhea, cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Nicotine takes about ninety-five minutes to be eliminated from your body and breast milk. This makes it imperative that the mother avoid smoking right before a feeding.

Smoking has some serious side effects on nursing for both parties. It can change the mother’s milk supply by more than one hundred milliliters. Despite the baby’s demands for milk, the mother’s body simply may not be able to respond because of the effects of smoking. Moreover, a smoking mother’s calorie supply may be low, which makes it more difficult for her body to produce the milk her baby needs. Smoking can also cause the baby to be fussier. Babies who come from homes with one or more smokers have twice the chance of contracting colic than babies who live in non-smoking homes. Smoking is also one of the number one causes of early weaning. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a baby be breastfed for the first twelve months of life to get all of the benefits. Babies of mothers who smoke and breastfeed are three times more likely to wean between six and nine months of age.

Because of the serious risks associated with smoking and nursing, many mothers take the opportunity to try to quit with the use of a medical aid. If you would like to quit smoking with the use of nicotine patch, research has found that it is no less safe for the baby than the actual cigarettes. The nicotine level in the breast milk appears to be almost identical. Using nicotine gum as a smoking cessation aid is a bit less safe. Nicotine levels in the breast milk with the gum seem to fluctuate greatly. As a result, mothers should avoid using the gum for at least two hours between any given nursing sessions.

If you currently smoke and you want to breastfeed, it would be best if you quit. Even if you decide to smoke and bottle feed, studies show that your baby will be at a higher risk for illness, allergies, and asthma throughout childhood and later life.