If you are a smoker and would like to breastfeed your child, you should not abstain from breastfeeding just because you are smoking. Breastfeeding is the best way to care for your child’s health in their formative months and years. And breastfeeding actually counteracts some of the effects of smoking. If at all possible, you should try to stop smoking while your child is breastfeeding, though, and we will look at why that is below.
Babies and the Effects of Smoke
Children are at their most vulnerable when they are very young. Their brains are developing, and their bodies are growing, making them very susceptible to infections. And because they are developing, a lot of what affects them at this time will determine how they end up in their later years.
That is why it is important to keep all toxins as far from them as possible. They can easily inhale the toxins from smoke or absorb them into their skin.
The greatest danger comes from secondhand smoke. Nicotine, tar and various carcinogens are released into the air through secondhand smoke. These can enter your baby’s lungs and cause the child to develop emphysema, lung cancer, breathing difficulties and even lung failure. It is important to keep in mind that secondhand smoke is not filtered like some cigarettes are. There is no buffer between the toxins and baby, so they inhale a more concentrated form of the chemicals that are released.
That is why you should never smoke around your baby. Always go outside of the house or the car to smoke, so the smoke is not released near your child and so that it does not linger in the air near your child.
But more than that, you also have to be careful about the toxins that cling to your clothes and body. Nicotine in particular can stick to your clothes and your skin. You can see the effects of this toxin as it turns your teeth, lips and fingers yellow. After you smoke, it is a good idea to wash your hands, brush your teeth and change your clothes before breastfeeding the baby.
If you don’t, it is very possible that the child will absorb nicotine into their skin. This is an addictive drug that causes symptoms of dependence. It also constricts the blood vessels and increases the heart rate. This is dangerous for small children who already have a quickly-beating heart. And when their blood vessels constrict, it can increase their blood pressure. All these effects put them at serious risk of a heart attack or other cardiovascular health problems.
How Smoking Affects Breast Milk
The toxins from smoke will not make their way into breast milk. You don’t have to worry about your child absorbing any ill effects of smoking from your milk, since the toxins never enter your own bloodstream. What smoking will do to your breast milk is cause it to be produced in smaller quantities in some cases.
For a portion of breastfeeding mothers, smoking will decrease their ability to produce breast milk. They will still be able to make the milk, and it will be just as healthy as ever. But it may not be as abundant as it should be.
Are All Kinds of Cigarettes Harmful?
Not all types of cigarettes create secondary smoke. Electronic cigarettes, for example, create a vapor, which is still released into the air and can enter the lungs of those nearby.
If you vape electronic cigarettes, you are still putting your child at risk if you do it near them. While you won’t be releasing as many (if any) carcinogens into the air, you will still be releasing nicotine. Nearly every type of e-liquid used in electronic cigarettes contains nicotine. It is still released in the vapor, and it still clings to your clothing and skin.
You will have to take the same precautions as you would with combustible cigarettes. That is, you should wash yourself after using them and before breastfeeding. And you should change your clothes as well. You should also ensure that you never vape near your child.
You can still continue to smoke or vape while your child is breastfeeding, you just have to be very careful as to how you do it. Your child’s health and safety should be your top priorities. And even if it is inconvenient to keep the smell of smoke and traces of nicotine away from them, you should still take every precaution to do so.