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Breastfeeding And Smoking: What Are The Effects?

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 25, 2020 10:00:00 AM / by Calvin Leong


Blog Breastfeeding & Skoking-01

It is not safe to smoke when you are breastfeeding. Smoking during breastfeeding is harmful to you and to your baby in many ways. When you smoke during breastfeeding, nicotine and other harmful (toxic) substances pass through your milk to your baby.

When you smoke, your baby is also exposed to cigarette smoke (second-hand smoke) and to surfaces contaminated with the harmful substances in cigarette smoke (third-hand smoke). The dangers of smoking during breastfeeding apply to using e-cigarettes as well. These also expose your baby to nicotine and other toxic substances.

If you are smoking and breastfeeding, do not stop breastfeeding. Breast milk is still the best food for your baby. Take steps to quit smoking.

Newborn baby first days drinking breast milk

How does this affect me?

The effects of smoking are well known. When you smoke, you increase your risk of:

Smoking also affects your ability to breastfeed successfully. Smoking lowers a chemical messenger (a hormone called prolactin) in your body that is important for stimulating the production of breast milk. Smoking during breastfeeding may lead to:

  • Trouble breastfeeding
  • Stopping breastfeeding early
  • Producing breast milk that smells and tastes like cigarettes
  • Producing breast milk that has a lower fat content


How does this affect my baby?

When you smoke, nicotine and other toxic substances pass through your breast milk directly to your baby. This can affect the development of your baby's brain and body. It can also cause:

When you smoke or someone else smokes around your baby, your baby is also exposed to second-hand smoke. The effects of second-hand smoke on babies can include:

  • SIDS
  • Ear infections
  • Frequent colds
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis 
  • Poor lung development
  • Frequent asthma attacks, if your child has asthma

When you or other people smoke in your home, toxic substances from smoke can gradually build up in your hair and clothing as well as in fabric on furniture and drapes. Your baby can be exposed to these substances after touching contaminated surfaces (third-hand smoke exposure). This may be especially risky for babies because babies put their fingers into their mouth often. A baby's developing brain is also more sensitive to toxins.

Baby feeds on mothers breasts milk

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your healthcare provider.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your healthcare provider.
  • Do not let anyone smoke in your house.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as instructed by your healthcare provider. This is important.
  • If you are still smoking:
    • Do not stop breastfeeding.
    • Reduce the frequency of smoking and continue your smoking cessation efforts.
    • Smoke outside.
    • Smoke after you breastfeed your baby, not before.
    • Wash your hands and change your clothes before breastfeeding.

Contact a healthcare provider if:

  • You are smoking while breastfeeding.
  • You are struggling to stop smoking.
  • You are having trouble breastfeeding.
  • Your baby is restless and has trouble sleeping.
  • Your baby has a fever, cough, or congestion.
  • Your baby is not gaining weight.

non smoking woman askying his partner to stop smoking



  • Smoking when you are breastfeeding is dangerous for you and for your baby.
  • Your baby may be affected by nicotine and toxic substances in your breast milk, second-hand smoke, and thirdhand smoke.
  • Ask your health care provider for help if you are struggling to stop smoking.
  • Do not stop breastfeeding. Stop smoking.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.


Giglia R., Binns C.W., Alfonso H.: Maternal cigarette smoking and breastfeeding duration.Acta Paediatr 2006; 95: pp. 1370-1374.

Horta B.L., Kramer M.S., Platt R.W.: Maternal smoking and the risk of early weaning: a meta-analysis.Am J Public Health 2001; 91: pp. 304-307.

Liu J., Rosenberg K.D., Sandoval A.P.: Breastfeeding duration and perinatal cigarette smoking in a population-based cohort.Am J Public Health 2006; 96: pp. 309-314.

Weiser T.M., Lin M., Garikapaty V., Feyerharm R.W., Bensyl D.M., Zhu B.P.: Association of maternal smoking status with breastfeeding practices: Missouri, 2005.Pediatrics 2009; 124: pp. 1603-1610.


For more information on smoking cessation and breastfeeding, visit

How to quit smoking?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- Breastfeeding 

Ministry of Health Malaysia – Quit Smoking


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Topics: Wellness

Calvin Leong

Written by Calvin Leong

Calvin Leong holds a Master in Medical Education from the University of Dundee, United Kingdom. He is certified in Clinical Wound Care by the ASEAN Wound Care Association. Calvin has 20 years of clinical and lecturing experience focusing on Mentoring in Healthcare, Traumatology and Medical Sciences. Calvin is HRDC certified trainer. He is also a Life Member of The Malaysian Association for the Study of Pain (MASP) and the Malaysian Society of Wound Care Professionals (MSWCP).

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