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Smoking while breastfeeding: is it better to stop?

Smoking while breastfeeding: is it better to stop?

Let’s talk about smoking during breastfeeding. No one doubts that smoking is a toxic habit and that tobacco addiction represents a major health risk for the smoker. It also affects those around you if you don’t take precautions, turning them into passive smokers.

But what happens during pregnancy and breastfeeding? A big question that arises is what to do if you want to continue smoking while breastfeeding.

What is better: to continue breastfeeding or give artificial milk to the baby?

Although sometimes pregnancy and breastfeeding are put in the same bag, they are completely different biological situations, so although LactApp is more about breastfeeding, we need to let you know about the possible effects of smoking on an unborn child.

When a pregnant woman smokes, the baby in the womb notices it immediately because the blood supply provided by the placenta decreases for about 15 minutes, which translates into a drop in the baby’s heart rate. In addition, continuing to smoke during pregnancy can lead to:

  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Increased chance of premature birth
  • Increased risk of low birth weight
  • Increased risk of malformations of the skull and urinary tract
  • And, once the baby is born, there is an increased risk of sudden infant death

Thus, during pregnancy, the most sensible alternative is to stop smoking, seek expert help and start a stop smoking program.

Smoking during breastfeeding

Some years ago, the recommendation was, that women who smoked should not breastfeed, as it was considered safer for their children to be fed with artificial milk.

And so smoking mothers tended to choose to breastfeed less often than non-smokers. And if they did initiate breastfeeding, they stopped breastfeeding earlier than non-smokers. But this fact conferred and confers an extra risk to their children. And this was demonstrated when in 2001 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) eliminated nicotine from its list of substances contraindicated during breastfeeding:

“A study has concluded that, among women who continue to smoke while breastfeeding, the incidence of acute respiratory illness was reduced among their infants, compared with infants of bottle-fed mothers. It is possible that breastfeeding and smoking may be less harmful to the child than bottle-feeding and smoking.”

It has been shown that children of parents who smoke have fewer respiratory problems if they breastfeed, compared to babies of parents who smoke but do not breastfeed. Therefore, if you can’t quit smoking, it will do your baby much good to continue breastfeeding.

Although nicotine passes into the breastmilk of the smoking mother, nicotine has even been found in the milk of non-smoking mothers who live with a smoker. But even though it might scare you to hear about nicotine in breastmilk, it is one of the least harmful substances contained in tobacco. Although nicotine may be present in the milk of a mother who smokes, there are no reports of adverse effects on the baby due to breastfeeding. The biggest risk to babies is tobacco smoke and all the harmful substances in it.

So what should I do?

To minimize exposure to nicotine through breastmilk and especially tobacco smoke, you should try to:

  • Always smoke outside, even when the baby is not present, since all the pollutants present in tobacco smoke adhere to the surfaces of curtains, sofas and every time the baby comes in contact with them, she/he breathes in those pollutants.
  • Smoking with specific clothing, a gown or similar that allows you to take it off before holding the baby in your arms.
  • If possible, cover your hair with a scarf or a cap.
  • Wash hands and mouth after smoking.
  • Do not co-sleep with your baby
  • Smoke after breastfeeding

I want to quit

If you feel encouraged to quit smoking, you can use nicotine patches or chewing gum, which are completely safe when breastfeeding, and you can use them without any concern (you can also see e-lactancia).

Do you have more questions? Would you like to talk to an expert?

Our App, LactApp, is free to download for iPhone and Android and there is a lot more information about all things breastfeeding. There you can also find our Consultation Channel, where you can talk to our team of experts.

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