Smoking and Breastfeeding: ...

The nursing period of a baby is crucial for the healthy development of the child, and smoking and breastfeeding is a very dangerous habit. Whether it's cigarettes, hookah, or weed, it is extremely risky for everyone involved. Rather than nourishing the child, your breast milk could contain toxins that would put your baby at a very high risk of developing health issues.

So what can one do about it? Here, we will explore the important topic of smoking and breastfeeding, the risks of it, and how to manage the cravings of a quitting mother.

Cigarette Smoking and Breastfeeding

Cigarette smoking is notorious for having harmful effects on someone's health, and these consequences extend to breastfeeding as well. When a nursing mother smokes, toxic chemicals from cigarettes can find their way into breast milk. Thus, nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other toxic substances present in tobacco smoke can be transferred to your child through breast milk.

Smoking Hookah and Breastfeeding

Also known as a water pipe or shisha, smoking hookah involves inhaling smoke through a water-filled base. Smoking hookah and breastfeeding is as bad as smoking cigarettes while nursing, though many people believe hookahs are safer. Rather, it has quite detrimental effects on both the breastfeeding mother and the infant. 

Smoking Weed and Breastfeeding

The legalization of marijuana in many states in the U.S. has led to a high interest in it. Unfortunately, smoking weed while breastfeeding has also become common. Like everything else, the compounds in cannabis, especially tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can be passed on to the baby through breast milk. 

Effects of Smoking on Breastmilk

The harmful effects of smoking, whether it's cigarettes, hookah, or weed, on breast milk are largely due to the transfer of toxic substances. Harmful compounds such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, and THC can end up in breast milk. This can potentially affect the baby’s health and development.

The Harmful Effects of Smoking and Breastfeeding include,  

Reduced Nutritional Quality

Smoking can greatly compromise the nutritional quality of breast milk. Nicotine, carbon monoxide, and other toxic substances can diminish the essential nutrients in breast milk. This bad effect on the nutritional quality of a mother's milk can hinder the growth and development of the baby. Thus, it becomes less beneficial compared to the milk of a non-smoking mother.

Altered Taste

Babies are known to be sensitive to flavors, and the toxins in smoke can alter the taste and smell of breast milk. This changed flavor might be unappealing to nursing children and can make the task of breastfeeding difficult for the mother. This can lead to fussiness and a reluctance to feed. Ultimately, the altered taste of breast milk could disrupt the mother-child bonding experience and make breastfeeding less enjoyable. 

Reduced Milk Supply

Smoking, particularly cigarettes, often leads to a reduction in milk supply. A decrease in milk production can be very challenging when trying to provide adequate nourishment for the newborn. Infants heavily rely on a consistent and sufficient supply of breast milk for their growth and development, so nicotine's influence on milk supply is very concerning.  


The Risk of Smoking in Breastfeeding Infants

Breastfeeding is fundamental for the good health and development of an infant. It promotes immune system development, lowers risks of infections, and enhances the bonding experience with the mother. But, smoking during breastfeeding introduces risks that compromise these benefits.


Long-term Health Effects

The long-term consequences of exposing infants to smoke are not fully understood. It is also very ethically challenging to conduct long-term studies on the subject matter. Therefore, the best course of action to take is to stay cautious and minimize exposure. Given that smoking is universally known to raise the chances of developing cancer and other harmful illnesses., it would be wise to keep your child away from harmful substances.


Impaired Cognitive Development

Exposure to toxins while breastfeeding, from cigarettes or anything else, may even lead to impaired cognitive development in infants. Behavioral issues and cognitive deficits have already been linked to maternal smoking.


Respiratory and Digestive Issues

Smoking while breastfeeding can also result in respiratory and digestive problems in infants. Babies exposed to smoke through breast milk may experience issues like increased coughing, wheezing, or gastrointestinal discomfort. These health problems can be distressing for both the baby and the mother.


Managing Cravings and Withdrawal 

Doctors agree that the best option for breastfeeding moms is to quit the habit altogether. Of course, this can prove challenging to anyone, especially a nursing mother concerned about her child's health. However, there are many ways of managing cravings and withdrawal from smoking.


Nicotine Replacement Therapy 

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is the use of nicotine gum, patches or lozenges to help fight the craving to smoke while breastfeeding. It can help reduce cravings while minimizing your baby's exposure to harmful chemicals found in smoke. But, you should first consult a physician to determine which is the most suitable NRT method for you.


Behavioral Techniques

Learn and practice behavioral techniques to manage stress and cravings. Mindfulness and deep breathing can help you cope with the psychological aspects of a smoking addiction. It can also help you create a healthier response to stress that won't put your little one in harm's way.


Stay busy!

Engage in activities that keep your mind and body occupied. Physical exercise, hobbies, or spending quality time with your baby can help reduce the urge to smoke. Keeping yourself busy not only distracts you from cravings but also contributes to a healthier lifestyle.



While you should try as hard as possible to quit smoking while breastfeeding without any medication, we understand if it becomes too difficult. In this case, consult with a physician or lactation consultation about medication options that are safe for breastfeeding mothers to aid in quitting smoking.


Avoid and Overcome Triggers

The urge to smoke cigarettes, hookah, or weed can arise from certain situations. Learn to identify these situations and environments and make an effort to avoid them. Common triggers include stress, social situations, or certain places. By recognizing and circumventing these triggers, you can significantly reduce the temptation to smoke.


Final Note

Any form of smoking can have detrimental effects on both the breastfeeding mother and the child. Ideally, quitting is the best course of action. But if that's not an immediate option, try to minimize your child's exposure to smoke. Ultimately, the health of your baby is most important, and putting a stop to smoking and breastfeeding is vital.

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