What Are the Effects of Smoking on Breastfeeding?
Possible causes of symptoms in 3 mins
Newborn and Baby Data Verified

Effects of Smoking on Breastfeeding

Written by 
Dr. Lakshmi Aravind
 and medically  reviewed by Dr. Rajdeep Haribhai Rathod

Education: MD Pediatrics, MBBS

Professional Bio: Dr. Rajdeep Haribhai Rathod is Pediatrician with a clinical experience of eight years. He completed his MBBS in 2015 and MD pediatrics in 2018 from B.J. Medical College, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is curr... 

This doctor is not available for online consultations on the platform anymore.
Consult other doctors in the same speciality >>

Published on Jun 19, 2023   -  4 min read


Smoking during breastfeeding can have harmful effects on babies. Read why mothers should avoid breastfeeding if they cannot quit smoking.


Smoking during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not advised. Women who smoke usually stop it during pregnancy. But after delivery, most of them start smoking again. However, it is advised to stop smoking while breastfeeding, as the benefits of breastfeeding can outweigh the harmful effects of smoking. Moreover, smoking mothers can induce harm even if the infant is breastfed or bottle-fed. Cigarettes, tobacco, and cigars, contain harmful chemicals like nicotine that can be passed through the breast milk of the smoking mother to her child. During smoking, these substances might accumulate in the air to which the child gets exposed and may result in serious effects.

What Are the Effects of Smoking on Breastfeeding?

Nicotine, an important constituent of tobacco and other constituents, can affect both mother and child if the mother smokes. It can be passed through the breastmilk easily. Following are some of the harmful effects of smoking on breastfeeding:

  • Reduction in the Supply of Breast Milk: Low supply of breastmilk can occur due to many reasons. However, smoking is an important cause. Smoking can affect the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps in the release of breast milk from the breast. When the breast milk is not released, further milk production does not occur, leading to its low supply.

  • Change in the Taste of Breast Milk: The normal taste of breast milk is sweet and creamy due to the high concentration of lactose. Smoking can alter the taste of the milk and even give the milk the smell and flavor of the smoke. These alterations in taste and smell may make the child refuse breast milk.

  • Difficult Milk Ejection Reflex: The milk ejection reflex is a natural response of the mother’s body. When the baby starts to suck the nipples, a message is sent to the brain to release hormones such as prolactin and oxytocin, which triggers the production and release of milk. This is also known as the letdown reflex. Smoking is a possible cause of slow or difficult letdown reflex.

  • Babies Refusing to Breastfeed: It is also known as a nursing strike. As smoking alters the taste and flavor of breast milk, babies may go on a nursing strike.

The babies of mothers who smoke have a higher risk for many conditions and infections, such as:

  • Difficulty sleeping.

  • Chronic diseases like asthma and allergy.

  • Ear infections and hearing loss.

  • Digestive or bowel problems.

  • May develop SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

  • Behavioral problems.

Can Smoking Mothers Continue to Breastfeed Their Children?

It is advised not to smoke at all while breastfeeding. However, if the mother finds it very difficult to quit smoking, it is recommended not to stop breastfeeding their babies. Breast milk contains many more important nutrients and antibodies than formula milk. At the same time, mothers should start ways to minimize smoking and prevent smoking near babies. Also, mothers should avoid smoking just before breastfeeding as it can reduce the amount of nicotine passed through the breast milk. Smoking mothers should avoid sleeping with the baby as sleeping with the baby can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Mothers should also not let the father or others smoke near the baby and sleep with them.

How Can Breastfeeding Mothers Quit Smoking?

The best method to avoid any complications is to quit smoking. Smoking mothers health is also at a high risk for many diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), cancer, heart disease and so on. As children require their mothers, it is important for the mothers who smoke to quit the habit because, in addition to developing diseases, children may also suffer from losing their mothers. The following methods may help to quit smoking:

  • Nicotine Gum or Patches: Doctors may suggest nicotine replacement therapy if any other options to quit smoking do not work. In this therapy, nicotine gums or patches will be prescribed based on the dose of nicotine considered by the patient. Nicotine gums or patches contain only nicotine, and all other harmful substances are absent. Hence it is a better option than smoking and can be tried by breastfeeding mothers with a doctor's help.

  • E-Cigarettes: E-cigarettes contain only nicotine, and all other dangerous cigarette substances are absent. However, according to the brand, e-cigarettes might differ, and the substances present in them may not be entirely known. Hence, before switching to an e-cigarette, it has to be discussed with the doctor.

  • Contact doctors or health care professionals to learn about smoking cessation programs and support groups.

  • Search for authorized online support groups for assistance.

  • Quit meter or goal-setting apps can be used for motivation.

What Are the Measures to Be Taken by Breastfeeding Mothers if They Cannot Quit Smoking?

These tips may help mothers in breastfeeding their children if they cannot quit smoking:

  • Avoid smoking near the baby and do not allow others as well to smoke near the baby.

  • Avoid smoking near the baby in cars or houses. Smoke from cigarettes can linger on the fabrics and other areas, and if the child comes and plays in these areas, chances of getting exposed to the smoke are high.

  • Try to reduce the number of times and duration of smoking.

  • Do not smoke before breastfeeding as it will lead to high amounts of nicotine in breast milk. Therefore, smoke after breastfeeding.

  • Never smoke while breastfeeding or while holding the baby.

  • Distance the child from people who smoke, as the child can get exposed to secondhand smoke.


Smoking is not indicated during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Although many women stop smoking during pregnancy, some may start again after delivery and not breastfeed their babies. Breast milk can contain higher amounts of nicotine than the plasma of smoking mothers. However, it is advised not to stop breastfeeding even if mothers cannot quit, as it contains antibodies and nutrients required for the baby's healthy growth. Although some doctors recommend breastfeeding, other scientists and researchers ask mothers not to breastfeed if they cannot quit smoking. With proper support, mothers who smoke can quit the habit for the good health of their babies and themselves.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
19 Jun 2023  -  4 min read

Dr. Rajdeep Haribhai Rathod

Dr. Rajdeep Haribhai Rathod



Comprehensive Medical Second Opinion.Submit your Case

iCliniq's FREE Newsletters

Expert-backed health and wellness information, delivered to your email.

Thank you for subscribing to our Newsletters!

Related Questions & Answers

Breastfeeding Duration and Female Mortality

Article Overview: Breastfeeding duration significantly influences maternal health. Read this article to know its effects on female mortality. Read Article

Dr. Preethi. R
Dr. Preethi. R
Obstetrician And Gynaecologist

Introduction Breast milk is the most essential nutritional need for newborns and is associated with numerous benefits for both the child and the mother. Breastfeeding maintains maternal health and prevents long-term disease conditions. It is proven that breastfeeding over a period of time significan...  Read Article

Nutrition for the Breastfeeding Mother

Article Overview: A nutritious and balanced diet for breastfeeding mothers is essential for newborns. Read the article below to understand the basics of breastfeeding nutrition. Read Article

Dr. Akanksha Singh
Dr. Akanksha Singh
Lactation Counselor

Introduction: A nutritious and balanced diet keeps you energetic and helps you make an ample amount of milk for your baby. Nutrition while breastfeeding is as important as during pregnancy. The phase of breastfeeding is a difficult period for all breastfeeding mothers. There are many things that a m...  Read Article

How to Overcome Problems With Breastfeeding

Article Overview: Women come across many challenges while they are breastfeeding. Learn how to overcome breastfeeding problems through this article. Read Article

Dr. Akanksha Singh
Dr. Akanksha Singh
General Medicine Physician

Introduction: A woman goes through various physiological changes in their body while they are in the pregnancy phase and breastfeeding. Some signs may indicate normalcy and happen because of biological differences, while some symptoms could cause the abnormality. It is evident and typical to have so...  Read Article

Popular Articles Most Popular Articles

Do you have a question on ?

Ask a Doctor Online
* guaranteed answer within 4 hours.
Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.