Tobacco Smoking: When Mother Smokes
Baby Also Smokes

Do we have the right to endanger an innocent helpless baby’s well being?
Tobacco smoking is highly prevalent among women in spite of the health risks it poses.

Women, right from their early years, get lured to smoking by the cigarette marketing gimmicks, which portray smoking as being stylish, attractive, desirable, independent and slim. Statistics from 2008 show that in the US almost 20 percent of women smoke.

Though the incidence of women smoking during pregnancy has been declining, yet it is high enough to cause significant child health concerns..

Prevalence of prenatal smoking

12 percent of all the women who give birth continue to smoke through their pregnancy, and rest are affected by second hand smoke. Consequently the US cost of newborns’ health care attributable to mothers’ smoking habits amounts to hundreds of millions per year.

Cigarette smoke is composed of numerous toxic gases and submicron solid particles. Most of these pollutants easily make their way through placenta.

Of which, Nicotine is a developmental neurotoxin and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have growth-restricting effects. They have the potential to cause malformation in the developing fetus. 

Prenatal effects of second hand smoke on fetus

Effects of second hand smoke on breast milk

  • Milk secretion is reduced:
    Nicotine hampers prolactin production, the hormone that stimulates and maintains milk secretion.

  • Lowers nutritional value of breast milk:
  1. Low mineral content: 
    Literature emphasizes on low Iodine content. Iodine is an essential component for Thyroid hormone formation thereby for normal infant development.

  2. Low levels of vitamins, particularly that of vitamin C. 

  3. Compromises breast milk’s ability to provide resistance towards infections.

  4. Reduces fat content of breast milk.
  • Gives unpleasant taste to breast milk

  • Breast milk gets tobacco flavored.

Effects of passive tobacco smoking on breastfeeding infant

  1. Fussing

  2. Irritability

  3. Poor self-regulation ability; needs frequent and prolonged interaction to calm frustration.

  4. Refuses to latch and/or suck at the breast.

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Tobacco consumption impedes breastfeeding

Tobacco Consumption Impedes Breastfeeding
  • Some babies even reject the breast all together.
    Milk smells of tobacco and tastes of nicotine. Consequently, baby tends to fuss and become irritable during breastfeeding,

  • Tobacco intake interferes with mother's milk production and let down reflex. The smooth constant flow of milk in response to infant’s sucking is thus not maintained.

  • These mothers therefore find it difficult to initiate and maintain breastfeeding.

  • They introduce weaning foods earlier in hope of maintaining infant’s nutrition. But there is No substitute for breast milk.  

  • Weaning foods also means weaning the baby off nicotine.
    Nicotine is highly addictive drug. Fluctuation in its levels further leads to fussiness and  irritability in these children. 

Simple suggestions to breastfeeding mothers

Breastfeeding mothers should keep away from cigarette smoke. 
Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke through breast milk is just as damaging to the baby as its prenatal exposure.

Nicotine and other pollutants of cigarette smoke pass easily into breast milk. Their concentration in breast milk may rise up to three times higher than that in the mother’s blood.

However, research till date do not  confirm the short- or long-term effects of nicotine delivered to infant through breast milk. On the other hand, harmful effects of passive smoking on infants have been scientifically established.

Make your baby’ environment free of tobacco smoke:
Give up tobacco smoking!
However, if you, your partner or any other family member/visitor is addicted to it and can not do without it then -

  • Do not smoke while feeding the baby.

  • Smoke after feeding the baby.

  • Smoke outside.

  • Keep a jacket only for smoking and leave it outdoors.

  • Do not feed the baby till 2 hours after the smoke/second hand smoke..

Must reads:

Dangers of passive smoking in infants and toddlers

The gravity of health threat tobacco smoking is imposing on children. 

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