Nowadays there is a lot of tension around the issue of smoking while breastfeeding and there is no wonder, as in the past two decades the number of female smokers has rapidly grown. Pregnancy and the postpartum period are probably the most important moments in every mother’s life. After all, the state of her physical and mental health directly affects the health of the baby. It’s not a secret that smoking is a bad habit and medical industry is constantly trying to inform people about it. But anyway, now this problem becomes more and more widespread and even touches upon both pregnant women and nursing mothers. The question “Can smoking and breastfeeding coexist?” shouldn’t even be asked – the answer is obvious: “No!”
Possible Risks and Consequences of Smoking While Breastfeeding
Of course, smoking during pregnancy when the baby is physically linked to the mother’s body via the umbilical cord causes more harm than smoking after childbirth. Nevertheless, as long as breastmilk is the baby’s only food, all useful and harmful substances from the mother’s organism get to the baby through breastfeeding. These are nicotine, harmful pitches, carcinogens, and other impurities of tobacco smoke. All these substances affect not only lactation but also the health of the baby who receives breast milk.
A nursing woman who smokes should remember that nicotine is absorbed into her blood during the first 30 minutes. Then it comes to the baby through the milk. It is a well-known fact that breastfeeding among smokers differs from that of mothers without passion for nicotine.
- After smoking a cigarette, the body receives 4 thousand poisonous compounds which have a negative effect on the work of all organs. It destroys useful substances in the blood and reduces the amount of oxygen.
- Nicotine has an effect on blood vessels and milk ducts, narrowing them, slowing the access of oxygen to the tissues, and making it difficult to produce milk.
- What’s more, nicotine negatively affects the hormone prolactin which is responsible for lactation. It means that the amount of milk of the nursing mother is reduced.
- Nicotine has a negative effect on the entire body, affecting each organ. So, the mother cannot give the child enough vitamins, since all the stocks go to her own body.
The Harm of Passive Smoking
Getting into the mother’s body, nicotine enters the breast milk in a short time, and then reaches the child’s organism. Due to smoking while breastfeeding the mother puts at risk the immune system of her child, as nicotine destroys vitamin C and other useful substances. It results in frequent diseases of the baby.
Smoking is harmful not only when the baby is breastfed. The passive smoking of children is no less dangerous. Children from smoking families, in most cases, also become inveterate smokers at the initial stage of puberty. Then the bad habit is passed down from generation to generation.
Tobacco smoke which the baby inhales can cause nausea, allergy, vascular spasms, and various respiratory diseases. The most obvious example of tobacco harm is that instead of pure oxygen the child receives carbon monoxide known for its toxic properties.
Effects of Smoking during Breastfeeding on a Child
The univocal harm of smoking during breastfeeding results in the following:
- Nicotine adrenalizes. Smoking while breastfeeding leads to the disruption of sleep, nervousness, and petulance.
- Smoking while breastfeeding can be the cause of sudden death of newborns. The risk of SIDS is 5 times higher in families where both parents smoke and 3 times higher when only the mother smokes.
- Children are more susceptible to viral and cold-related diseases. The immune system of such children is much weaker than that of kids whose parents don’t smoke. They often get sick in early childhood and at school.
- Intestinal colic is acuter. Toxins from cigarette smoke change the motility of the baby’s intestines, which causes pain and anxiety. They also damage the upper parts of the digestive tract – the baby often regurgitates, eats less, and, consequently, gains less weight.
- Toddlers lag behind in development. This is especially noticeable in children whose mothers did not give up the bad habit during pregnancy. In early childhood such babies start walking later, they speak much worse. At school, they lag behind their peers and do not learn well.
How to Minimize the Risk of Smoking While Breastfeeding
It is clear that smoking while breastfeeding leads to horrible consequences. In order to somehow reduce the risk of chronic diseases and protect the baby from harmful effects of nicotine, a smoking mother should do the following:
- Reduce the number of cigarettes smoked at least to 5 per day. Naturally, the less – the better, the more – the worse for the child;
- Do not breastfeed your baby for 1 hour after smoking. The perfect interval between a cigarette and a feeding is 3 hours. Thus nicotine has time to weaken its action and partially withdraw from the body;
- As nicotine reduces the production of milk, keep to a healthy diet and eat fresh foods. Ask your doctor, maybe they will prescribe a vitamin complex for nursing mothers. It is well-known that the lion’s share of useful substances from food is not absorbed while smoking;
- Drink more clean water – it removes toxins, which contributes to better milk production;
- Do not take your baby after smoking without changing clothes beforehand, washing your hands, and rinsing your mouth.
Observance of these simple rules will help to reduce the harmful effects of smoking on your baby’s health. However, do not think that observing these rules will be enough to keep your baby from the harm of nicotine.
Smoking and Breastfeeding Harms Both of You
Trying to calm themselves and their loved ones, a lot of mothers try to minimize the effects of smoking while breastfeeding. But even if the number of cigarettes does not exceed 4-5 ones per day and the process of smoking occurs immediately after breastfeeding or at least 2 hours before feeding a baby, the damage will still take place, even though it will be minimal.
Scientists have proved that smoking while breastfeeding can have a negative impact much later after the cessation of breastfeeding. Children who were forced to take nicotine through breast milk are subsequently characterized by increased aggression and irritability. They make bad progress at school and also have problems with memory and behavior. What’s more, such children are not immune to respiratory diseases and the development of allergic reactions.
Systematic smoking, even in small doses, leads to the atrophy of many organs and to oxygen starvation of tissues, so the risk of these consequences will always take place, no matter how much a mother tries to minimize it. At present time, the surrounding world is so polluted that the pleasure you get from nicotine intake wouldn’t be worth the risk of adding harmful substances to your own body and your child’s organism. Therefore, remember once and for all: breastfeeding and smoking are incompatible under any circumstances.