Smoking and breastfeeding

If you are a smoker and you are struggling to give up smoking, it can be tempting to think that formula feeding your baby must be the best option.

The truth is that it is still safer for your baby to continue to breastfeed.

Research shows that babies and children exposed to cigarette smoke have a higher incidence of infections, e.g., chest infections, ear infections, sinus problems. However, the beautiful thing about breast milk is that it has antibodies in it, which can help to counteract some of the negative impacts of cigarette smoking and can help to fight against these illnesses.

Of course, it is better that you don’t smoke at all, but if you’re finding it difficult to quit, then reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke per day is advantageous. Breastfeeding can continue, and there are also ways to minimize the risks.

Mum and baby breastfeeding whilst lying down

So how can you reduce the risk to your baby?

One of the most important things you can do is to smoke straight after feeding your baby so that there will be a more extended period between nursing your baby and having a cigarette.

Studies show it can take up to 95 minutes for half of the nicotine to be out of your system.

Research is also clear about the risks of passive smoke.

It is, therefore, an excellent idea to smoke outside, if possible, away from your baby, and away from other children, and encourage other members of your family or friends who do smoke, not to smoke in the same room as the baby.

Some studies have shown that smoking can potentially alter a baby’s sleeping pattern, and other studies suggest that smoking can affect babies’ weight gain. So, as a rule of thumb, keep a check on your baby’s weight at your local baby clinic.

There are so many good reasons to give up smoking, both for your health and for the health of your baby. Seek out all the help you can. There are many smoking cessation programs and useful advice to help you to reach your goals.

If you do seek help to stop smoking, and you’re using nicotine replacement products like patches, gums, inhalers, tablets, it’s good to know that less nicotine will reach your baby through these products. Use these products a couple of hours before feeding.

So to reiterate; it’s still important to carry on breastfeeding and to allow the antibodies to continue to fight against those illnesses that are associated with smoking.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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