Smoking & Breastfeeding

Cutting back or even quitting smoking improves your baby’s health and your own. It’s important that you do your best to cut back on the cigarettes or even better, stop completely. Your doctor, midwife, health visitor will be able to offer you support because it has been proven that smoking can lower the milk supply.

You should feed when your baby wants to (demand feeding) rather than following a particular schedule as frequent feeding ensures that the milk supply will adjust to your baby’s needs. It is also essential to maintain a sufficient milk supply so that you can continue to breastfeed for as long as you choose.

If you are unable to quit smoking, you should only smoke after you have breastfed in a room as far away from your baby as possible. Outside is even better as your baby will not be inhaling the smoke (risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and respiratory problems) and you re-haling the second hand smoke. It is always better to smoke following a feed as the blood and milk levels have less tobacco chemicals.

If you are unable to feed your baby successfully in the first days, you should use an electric breast pump to ensure that the milk supply is not lost. By making sure you have an adequate supply in the first few days, you should find that it will be easier to maintain that supply as your baby’s needs grow.

If you are using aids such as nicotine patches, ensure that the instructions are carefully studied. It should be noted that substitutes such as these can reduce your blood and milk levels of nicotine and other chemicals. The risk of second hand smoke is also eliminated. It is very important not to smoke whilst using the nicotine patches as the amount of chemical present in the milk will increase. Always remember to remove the patch at night when you would not usually be smoking.

Nicotine gum is thought to have the same advantages as patches although it has not been studied in breastfeeding women. Always chew the gum when you have fed your baby to decrease the amount of chemicals that are transferred into the milk. Again always read and follow the instructions very carefully and seek advice from a medical professional.

Some vegetables such as green/ pureed tomatoes, eggplant and cauliflower contains nicotine so if you are smoking, you should be limiting your intake of these types of vegetables.

Other people may be able to smell smoke in expressed milk. The baby’s urine levels may also contain continine which is a product of nicotine. Although formula milk does not contain such chemicals, it must be remembered that formula milk does not contain living cells and other germ killing chemicals that assist with protecting your baby from illness. Formula milk as opposed to breast milk does not contain nutrients that help with the brain’s developments along with hormones to assist with the digestive and immune system.