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Smoking and Breastfeeding

Cigarettes are just as dangerous for your little one as they are for you. If you’re a smoker and a new nursing mom, here’s what you need to know:

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Hi, I'm Kimberly Durdin, and I'm a board certified lactation consultant, and I've been helping moms breastfeed for over 20 years. You might be wondering, "Can I breastfeed if I smoke cigarettes?" Many moms are concerned that smoking cigarettes is contraindicated during breastfeeding. Actually, breastfeeding is recommended for moms who cannot quit smoking before having their babies. One of the reasons why breastfeeding is recommended for moms who smoke cigarettes is because breastfeeding-- breast milk is uniquely designed to protect infants against illnesses, and infants, whose parents or whose mom smokes, are more susceptible to certain illnesses, especially respiratory illnesses. So in actuality, breast milk and the components of breast milk are gonna protect a baby from that increased risk of respiratory illnesses that they'll have just from being in a smoking environment. Care should be taken, however, to avoid passing on second-hand smoke to babies. So, that means that, number 1, if a mom is going to smoke cigarettes, she shouldn't do it around the baby. She should go outside, away from the baby. She should have a smoke-free environment in her home and she should also consider wearing something like what we might call a smoking jacket, another garment that will go over her clothes so that when she smokes, she can have on a different garment and then actually take that garment off when she returns to be with her baby. Nicotine does pass into breast milk, but we can reduce the amount of nicotine that a baby gets from its breastfeeding mom by timing smoking and breastfeeding. About an hour and a half after a mom smokes a cigarette, her nicotine levels in her breast milk will be very, very, very, very low. So, it's recommended that a mom breastfeed her baby first and then smoke a cigarette right after, and if she can wait at least an hour and a half before she breastfeeds her baby again, she will have reduced the exposure to nicotine that the baby will get in the breast milk. Every drug passes into breast milk, but, most of the time, at much lower amounts than are present in the mom's blood. It's also noted that co-bedding is not recommended for parents who smoke cigarettes. So co-bedding is sharing the same sleeping surface with your infant, and you can co-bed safely. There are many wonderful ways to do that. However, if you are a smoker or your partner is a smoker, it's not recommended that she share that same sleeping surface with your infant. Studies have shown that the risks for sudden infant death syndrome are much higher in babies who shared a bed with their smoking parents, either one of the parents. Studies have shown that it's safe to nurse the baby in the bed, but you should move the baby to a separate sleeping surface in between nursing periods. That reduces the amount of second-hand smoke that your baby would be exposed to, and it also lowers the incidents of sudden infant death syndrome in children whose parents are smokers. So, that gives you some tips on breastfeeding if you're a smoker, and you can get lots more information from the resources that we've supplied on our site here. Thanks for watching.