Breastfeeding and smoking

Learn more about how smoking affects breast milk and nursing mothers’ bodies.

A cigarette against a black background.
Photo: Realworkhard/Pixabay.

When breastfeeding, it is important to consider what you are putting into your body, as some elements may pass into your breastmilk and ultimately to your baby. This may lead to harmful effects for your baby. If you smoke and are currently breastfeeding it is important to try to quit. Reach out to your healthcare provider for support to quit.

Clearly, smoking and breastfeeding is not ideal, but it is worse to smoke and not breastfeed. It is well documented that maternal smoking increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) regardless of breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, but breastfeeding does provide protection against SIDS. Infants of mothers who smoke are exposed to secondhand smoke as well as the chemicals in tobacco which are passed through the breastmilk. Smoking has also been tied to decreased milk production. Limited research has been done on the effect of maternal vaping on the health of breastfed infants.

Breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to quit smoking, if possible but even if you can’t, breastfeeding is still recommended because of the numerous benefits that breastmilk provides. To limit the exposure for the child, it is important that, not only mothers, but others that smoke should smoke away from the infant, outside if possible, and wash hands before coming in contact handling the infant. Also try to put as much time between smoking and breastfeeding to decrease the amount of nicotine that is passed into milk.

There are resources available to help support quitting smoking. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides many resources. Combining a variety of resources often leads to greater success with quitting.

Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition education and breastfeeding support to feeding mothers, their babies and their companions. Contact your local MSU Extension office to find support near you.

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