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Newborn and Infant Care

Breastfeeding and smoking

03/27/1998

Question:

Could you please tell me the effects of smoking and occasional alcohol consumption on breastfeeding? Is it still better to breastfeed even if I engage in these activities?

Answer:

There is conflicting information regarding nicotine and its effects on breastfeeding. Nicotine does pass quickly into the breastmilk and has the ability to cause side effects in the infant. Heavy smoking (more than 20 cigarettes per day) can reduce your milk supply, and on occasion may cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea in your baby. Smoking also lowers the prolactin levels. (Prolactin is responsible for developing your milk supply) Cigarette smoking has also been shown to affect letdown. In addition to this there are the effects of second hand smoke that your baby will experience.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has approved the use of alcohol in breastfeeding mothers. However, the effects of alcohol on breastfeeding are directly related to the amount of alcohol the mother drinks. When less than two drinks per day are taken no adverse effects have been noted in the infant. Alcohol can cause a decrease in let down, and psychomotor delays in infants whose mothers drink two or more drinks per day. The baby may experience irritability, a weak suck, and sedation.

Based on your history and your baby's history you and your personal health care provider can make the decision regarding breastfeeding your baby.

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Response by:

Tina   Weitkamp, RNC, MSN Tina Weitkamp, RNC, MSN
Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati