Smoking can affect breastfeeding process for new mothers

New mothers who are surrounded by cigarette smoke tend to stop breastfeeding sooner than women not exposed to second-hand smoke, finds a study. “Our study showed that just being in a smoking household — whether it was the husband, mother or member of the extended family — reduced the time that a child was breast fed,” said Professor Marie Tarrant, Director of UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing. “In fact, the more smokers there were in the home, the shorter the breastfeeding duration.”

“Our findings were consistent with previous studies and we found that exposure to household smokers also had a substantial negative effect on breastfeeding practices,” said Tarrant. “More than one-third of participants had partners or other household members who smoked. And fathers who smoked were significantly less likely to prefer breastfeeding when compared with non-smoking partners.”

Nicotine is transmitted in the breast milk to the child and Tarrant said there is also some suggestion that it may reduce the overall quantity of the breast milk. There is also the concern regarding the environmental exposure of second-hand smoke on the child. “Our study did show that smoking partners may affect the mother’s decision to stop breastfeeding and that paternal and household smoking exposure is strongly associated with a shorter breastfeeding duration.”

Tarrant said the takeaway from the study is to recommend that women and their families quit smoking before they become pregnant, and for new mothers to wait until they have finished breastfeeding, if they choose to restart smoking. And she recommends if a woman chooses to smoke with a baby in the home, they make sure the infant is not exposed to second-hand smoke.

“We know the effects of environmental tobacco smoke on young babies is very detrimental as babies who are around smoking are more like to get respiratory infections and other experience other respiratory problems,” said Tarrant. “However, if a mother is breastfeeding, the benefits of her doing that still outweigh the negative effects of the smoking as long as she maintains good smoking hygiene and doesn’t expose the baby to tobacco smoke.”

The study was published in the Breastfeeding Medicine journal.

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First Published: Aug 02, 2018 14:57 IST

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