Some women who smoke cigarettes have been told they should not breastfeed because they are smokers. They may have been told that, because of the concerns of exposure to nicotine or to other chemicals in cigarettes, it is better for them to give formula instead. Unfortunately, this is bad advice.
While it is ideal to quit smoking altogether, it is much safer to smoke and breastfeed than to smoke and formula feed. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Although you should be encouraged to quit smoking if you smoke, smoking cigarettes is not a reason not to breastfeed.”
In addition to what we already know about the negative effects of smoking, it can also lead to low milk supply and may also interfere with milk let-down in the nursing mother. Therefore, mothers who smoke should pay attention to their baby’s soiled diapers and report any concerns with supply to their doctors or lactation consultants.
What protects against SIDS, respiratory infections, and asthma? Breastfeeding!
Babies who live in houses where someone smokes are at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. These babies are also at higher risk for developing respiratory infections and asthma. And what protects against SIDS, respiratory infections, and asthma? You guessed it: breastfeeding! Therefore, these babies in particular can reap the benefits of receiving breast milk.
If you are a nursing mom who smokes, it is important to engage in some general practices to decrease exposure to your baby. Smoking outside as opposed to in your house can make your home environment healthier. Be sure to never breastfeed in clothes that you have smoked in, and always wash your hands after smoking and before handling your baby. Avoid smoking just before and during a feeding to decrease the amount of nicotine in your milk and also to avoid smoke exposure in your baby.
If you have questions about cutting back or quitting, be sure to talk with your doctor or midwife or call 1-800-QUITLINE to get more information.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, December 2018
- It’s best to quit smoking altogether if you have a new baby.
- Moms who smoke are encouraged to breastfeed rather than use formula.
- Breast milk has been shown to protect against some of the side effects of smoking in babies.
- Take every effort to minimize your baby’s exposure to nicotine and harmful smoke.