Smoking While Breastfeeding

It is pretty clear that cigarette smoking is bad for you – even those who love to smoke can readily admit that they would be healthier if they stopped. Pregnancy is an especially important time to consider putting down the smokes. Smoking while breastfeeding puts your baby at risk in a wide variety of ways. Can a woman still breastfeed if she smokes? Is her breast milk safe for the baby? Keep reading to find out.

Can I Smoke While Breastfeeding?

Women who are looking forward to breastfeeding, and ARE breastfeeding should stop smoking as soon as possible.

It is important to know that nicotine and the other chemicals in cigarettes do get into the breast milk; in fact, they do so at very high rates. This means that your baby is exposed to the carcinogens in cigarettes not only through inhaling the second-hand smoke, but also through drinking the milk of a mother smoking while breastfeeding.

How many of these chemicals get into your baby’s body depends on how much you smoke each day, and how long it has been since you last had a cigarette. The more you smoke, the higher the risks. Some research says that those who smoke 20 cigarettes a day or less are presenting a smaller risk to their baby than someone who chain smokes a great deal. Those who smoke that much are likely seeing lowered breast milk productionas well as problems for their baby in some cases, such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

Should I Continue Breastfeeding If I Smoke?

If you are determined to continue smoking, you should not stop breastfeeding your baby. Breastfeeding provide important immunities for your child, and might even provide some protection against the second-hand smoke, which puts your baby at an increased risk of lung infections, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Breastfeeding is still the better way to go compared to formula feeding, whether you smoke or not. However, keep in mind that you are also being very detrimental to your child if you smoke while breastfeeding. The best option for everyone is to put down the smokes before you nurse your baby.

Harms of Smoking While Breastfeeding

Health Risks for Babies

Babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke can face a whole list of problems. In addition to lung infections, an increased risk of asthma, serious colic, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramping and a higher risk of SIDS, babies who are exposed to cigarette smoke face long-term issues.

Their blood levels are often off-kilter, such as lower levels of good cholesterol and more allergy-related illnesses. Babies who are exposed to the smoke go to the doctor 2-3 times more often for problems that might have been prevented if they weren’t exposed. They also have a much higher chance of developing lung cancer in the future Some studies have also linked a higher incidence of behavioral problems in babies whose mothers engaged in smoking when breastfeeding. The evidence is clear that such practice, as well as exposing your vulnerable child to second-hand smoke, sets them up for serious health problems later in life.

Affects Breastfeeding

Mothers who insist on smoking while breastfeeding will likely endure problems with let-down, lessened milk production, early weaning, lower levels of prolactin, and even lower levels of iodine in their milk, which can lead to health problems for both the mother and child.

How to Minimize the Risk of Smoking while Nursing

The best way to prevent problems is to stop smoking!

However, if you insist on smoking while breastfeeding, there are a few things you can do to cut down the risks your baby is exposed to.

  • Smoke immediately after you breastfeed. This allows more time between the smoking and the breastfeeding session, so not as much nicotine and other chemicals get into your child’s next meal.
  • Never smoke during or immediately before breastfeeding.
  • Always smoke outside, away from your baby, to avoid problems of second-hand smoke.
  • Smoke fewer cigarettes. The less you smoke, the healthier your baby – and you – will be.
  • Change your clothes. The smell of cigarette smoke is on your clothes, hair and skin after just one smoke. This means that your baby is exposed to second-hand smoke even if you smoke outside. To remedy this, have a certain “smoking outfit” that you can change out of when you’re done smoking.
  • Cover up. When you do smoke, cover up your hair with a shower cap or other impermeable item that will keep the majority of the fumes from sticking to the strands. Take that cap off when you finished smoking and leave it outside.
  • You can stop smoking while breastfeeding with the help of things like the nicotine patch. Though some levels of nicotine will still get into your breast milk, it is much better for your baby to avoid all the other chemicals and the risks of second-hand smoke. Talk to your doctor about the proper dosages.
  • Finally, if you do smoke, avoid certain vegetables that have trace amounts of nicotine, such as green or pureed tomatoes, cauliflower and eggplant.
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