The ONE Thing Nobody is Telling Smoking Moms Who Want to Breastfeed

It’s World Breastfeeding Week and I know that there will be extra information out there about the benefits of breastfeeding. The truth is, I’ve seen a lot of women over my 20 year career who wanted to breastfeed, but didn’t because they were smokers and they couldn’t quit.

Let’s face it- the research is in and the word is out: smoking is unhealthy for everyone, whether they’re breastfeeding or not. Smokers know that they shouldn’t smoke, but it isn’t called an addiction for no reason, amiright?

But here’s the thing that nobody is telling smoking moms:

Even if a mama can’t quit smoking, she should still breastfeed.

A baby whose mom smokes and breastfeeds is better off than a baby whose mom smokes and formula feeds.

Yup. You read that right.

Look, I know how hard it is to quit- I’ve been there! And even though I know in my heart that you can do it, I’m also very realistic. So hear me now- if you're still smoking a few cigarettes a day, don’t stop breastfeeding!

Breastfeeding is so amazing that it’s proven to give a baby immunities that may actually help them fight some of the effects of cigarettes on their lungs. But the important thing to remember here is that the more cigarettes you smoke, the greater the risks to your baby.

One non-negotiable for smoking and breastfeeding: never smoke in the house or while you’re holding your baby.

What happens to babies when they're exposed to cigarette smoke?

I’m not trying to be negative, but smoking is a real downer for your baby. If you’re going to smoke, make sure you’re doing it outside and away from your little one. I know you only want the best for your baby, so have a smoke-free home. Tell your family and friends to light up on the porch because:

  • Babies exposed to cigarette smoke have more problems with pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, croup, and ear, nose and throat infections.
  • A baby is more likely to have colic if there’s smoking in the home.
  • If a mama smokes heavily, the baby may be affected by: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a sore tummy.
  • Babies whose parents smoke have a seven times greater chance of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Children whose parents smoke have to visit the doctor more to deal with allergy and respiratory- related illnesses.
  • If parents smoke, children are more likely to become smokers themselves
  • Growing up in a home where two parents smoke could double a child’s risk of lung cancer later in life.

How does smoking affect breastfeeding?

Smoking can make your breastfeeding journey a little tougher than it needs to be:

  • It lowers your milk production
  • It interferes with milk let-down which means the baby doesn’t get as much milk

How to minimize the risk to your baby if you smoke:

So, I know that you’re a mama who wants to do the best for your baby and I'm sure you are! But there are things you can do to minimize the risks to your baby if you decide to smoke and breastfeed:

  • Stop smoking (Obviously #1) (Sorry- had to).
  • Smoke less than 20 cigarettes a day. The less you smoke, the smaller the chance that your milk and your baby will be affected.
  • Smoke immediately after breastfeeding to cut down on the amount of nicotine in your milk during nursing. It takes about 90 minutes for half of the nicotine to be eliminated from your body.
  • Smoke outside, away from your baby and other children. Never smoke while you are breastfeeding.

So on this World Breastfeeding Week, I’d like to tell you this: If you're a smoking, breastfeeding mom, you're still doing great. Instead of making you feel more guilty about smoking than you already do, I choose to give you information that can encourage you, Mama.

Happy Breastfeeding.

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Joanne Ilaqua - CEO of MamaSoup

Hey there, I’m Joanne.

I’ve spent about 20 years serving women as a nurse, doula and Lamaze educator. I have 4 kids and I know firsthand how lonely and isolating motherhood can be, so I created MamaSoup. I'm mostly known for my love of red wine, spontaneously singing and my confidence in being my true self on social media. When I’m not busy building women up, you can catch me taking Instagram stories of my bulldog Ruby, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, playing MUber (Mom Uber) to my kids or vacationing in my favourite town: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

I love serving the world by providing a space for moms to connect and support each other. In my opinion, moms are the backbone of communities because they are (literally) raising the future!

As the founder and CEO of MamaSoup, I’ve been featured on CHEX TV Morning Show, KawarthaNOW, Economic Development- The City of Kawartha Lakes and MyKawartha.

Still with me? Join me over at MamaSoup to keep the conversation going!

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