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Breastfeeding Magazine

Breastfeeding and Smoking: Minimizing Baby’s Risk



Smoking while Breastfeeding

If you are concerned about breastfeeding and smoking, you are not alone. In recent years, the known health risks associated with cigarette smoking have been increasing. People are beginning to see how harmful smoking can be to both themselves and to the people close to them.

Most moms realize that smoking during pregnancy can be very harmful to their babies. However, once pregnancy ends, many women go right back to smoking again. However, breastfeeding and smoking can be very dangerous to their babies! You should know that while there are a few things that you can do to minimize the risks, the best thing mothers can do for their babies is to quit!

If this is you…do yourself and your child a favor…quit as a gift to you both. If you feel that you can’t quit, the benefits of breastfeeding and smoking are still greater to your baby than if you were to stop breastfeeding altogether.

Smoking and Breastfeeding –
Risks You Need to Know

There are a variety of risks that are associated with breastfeeding and smoking. One of the biggest problems is that smoking actually lowers breast milk production, which may mean your baby will not get as much milk. The decrease of the chemical prolactin in the blood (due to smoking) causes there to be a problem with the milk production and letdown. Lowered levels of prolactin also affect the mother’s ability to cope with the baby when crying and may make her more irritable, too. (Just what we need when we are also sleep deprived?!)

Babies That Are Exposed to Cigarette Smoke

Breastfeeding Smoking
When your baby is exposed to cigarette smoke, by breastfeeding and breathing in the smoke from your cigarettes, there are a variety of negative effects to your baby.

The following are just a few common problems that your baby may have if you are smoking and breastfeeding:

– Excessive Crying
– Addiction to Nicotine
– Increased Risk of SIDS
– Increased Risk of Lung Cancer
– More Incidents of Respiratory Problems
– Cramps, Nausea, Diarrhea

How to Quit

But if you want to try to quit, are smoking cessation aids that replace nicotine safe while breastfeeding? The answer is that they are actually safer than smoking. When used as directed, these products pose no more problems for the breastfeeding infant than maternal smoking does and without the dangers of second-hand smoke.

According to the latest research, the blood level of nicotine in most smokers who smoke approximately 20 cigarettes per day approaches 44 nanogram per milliliter (ng/ml.) The levels in patch users only average about 17 ng/mL…must less than actually smoking.

As a result, the level of nicotine in breast milk will be much less in patch users than those found in smokers. (A warning however—any mom who both smokes and uses the patch would have extremely high blood nicotine level that could be harmful to a breastfeeding child!)

So as long as you don’t smoke while trying the patch, your health and your baby’s should be improved by not smoking.

If You Are Still Going to Smoke…
Minimize the Risks

If you feel that you cannot give up smoking, you absolutely should still choose to breastfeed. Breastfeeding provides many immunities that help your child fight illness and can even help counteract some of the effects of cigarette smoking.

There are also some things that you can do to at least minimize the risks to your baby.

1. Smoke fewer than 20 Cigarettes a day– Most studies show that as long as you smoke fewer than 20 cigarettes daily, you can keep the risks minimal. However, if you start smoking more than that and the risks start going up.

2. Never smoke while nursing – You should never smoke while you are actually nursing your baby. This results in him or her breathing in the smoke, which is very harmful, and also elevates the nicotine levels in your blood, which can be transferred through your milk.

3. Avoid nursing right after smoking – It takes at least 1.5 hours to get half of that nicotine out of your blood stream. In addition, smoking before you nurse can cause problems with your letdown as well.

4. Never ever smoke around your baby (or anyone else’s baby!) If you are going to smoke, make sure that you never do it around children. Go in another room, or better yet, outside so babies are not exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke.

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