Breastfeeding, smoking and caffeine

  • April 18, 2014
breastfeeding, smoking and caffeine
I’m worried about breastfeeding, smoking and caffeine. Does smoking or having other drugs such as caffeine harm my baby through breastmilk?

Drugs such as nicotine do get into breastmilk so they should be stopped or the amount taken in decreased. It is important that parents take care to reduce the expose of babies to smoke even if a parent (or others) smoke outside. Smoke particles remain on the breath, skin, hair and clothing so washing hands, brushing teeth and changing clothes etc will help to minimise your baby’s exposure.

Some smokers choose to give up breastfeeding because they are worried that their milk will contain chemicals from the cigarettes. They believe that artificial feeding may be a safer option for their babies. In fact, because of the unique protective properties of breastmilk, babies who are not breastfed are at greater risk from people smoking around them. Research shows that breastfeeding is better for a baby’s health even if the mother continues to smoke. It is better to reduce your smoking than to stop breastfeeding completely.

The amount of caffeine in your breastmilk depends on how well your body absorbs and gets rid of it. Caffeine levels are at their highest 60 minutes after you finish your cup. Generally, a mother can have up to three caffeinated drinks a day without having much effect on her breastfed baby. Any more can lead to unsettled behaviour, colic and constipation in babies. Beware of energy drinks that contain very high amounts of caffeine/guarana.

As well as alcohol and caffeine, drugs such as marijuana may enter breastmilk and can have detrimental effects as chemicals from marijuana concentrate in breastmilk, so the baby gets high doses, lasting weeks after the mother has used the drug. Brain devleopment can be affected and long term impacts can be serious.

Safe Sleeping and Drugs

It is also important to remember that if you are a smoker you should not sleep with your baby, no matter where or when you smoke. You should also not sleep next to a baby if you are intoxicated or have taken any medication or drug which could make you extra sleepy.

Further information:

Breastfeeding & Smoking: the facts
Pregnancy smoking fact sheet PDF

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