Breastfeeding: How will smoking affect breastfeeding?

I am a nursing mother of a four-month-old baby and yes -- I still smoke. I’m starting a program with Nicoderm (I hope I can quit!). How does smoking while breastfeeding affect my baby and my milk?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Tough as it is, giving up cigarettes is the best thing you can do, both for your own health and your baby’s. And while smoking does affect the milk you make, many experts believe it's best for a mother to breastfeed her baby anyway. The less you smoke each day, of course, the smaller the risk for you both. 

Heavy smokers have decreased milk production and lower levels of Vitamin C in their milk; their babies may be at a greater risk for nausea, colic and diarrhea. 

Mothers whose infants are exposed to second hand smoke are at increased risk for allergies, pneumonia, bronchitis and worst of all, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). 

Check with your doctor before you start on the patch (continuing to smoke while using it or while chewing nicotine gum could result in very high nicotine levels, which could be dangerous to your nursing baby). 

If you are unable to stop smoking, cut down the amount of cigarettes you smoke, and try a low-nicotine variety. Do not smoke during or just prior to breastfeeding, when nicotine concentrations in your breast milk are highest. To lessen the effects of second hand smoke, refrain from smoking around your baby, including in the house and in the car. Third hand smoke (the residue that clings to surfaces and clothing) is harder to combat, but you can try by changing your clothes after any smoking and washing your hands and face thoroughly.

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