Breastfeeding & Smoking

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Back to work, back to smoking


Despite my best efforts to avoid smoking, I have found that I've returned to smoking (2-5 cigarettes per day) now that I'm back at work. Does anyone know what the half-life of nicotine is? I have a 6 month old baby who I would like to continue breastfeeding, if possible. Thanks for your thoughts.

The obvious and most prudent advice is to stop smoking for your own health and longevity *for your child*, but I have been there and know how HARD it really is to quit.

I really admire you bring this up because there are many folks who break the rules when pregnant and nursing, but are ashamed to admit it or seek advice. I was in your same boat and chose to continue nursing as a light smoker. My child has always been healthy and has developed ahead of schedule in most areas. Early pregnancy and post partum, I happened to take part in a UCSF research study on the impact of nicotine patches on pregnant women. To make a long story short, one of the conductors of the study told me that nicotine passes poorly in breastmilk, but does decrease the amount of production. The conclusion was that the risks of using a nicotine patch to aid in the cessation of smoking outweighs the drawbacks. Keep in mind that cigarettes can have tons of other carcinogenic chemicals, additives, and carbon dioxide (I happened to smoke a brand that claimed to be free of most of those agents). Another thing to consider is you will be nursing considerably less going forward because of your baby's increased reliability on solids.

Not sure how helpful this was, but I wish you the best luck in making the right decision for you and your baby.

So sorry you were unable to resist tobacco. I understand that tobacco (and its by-products such as cadmium) stays in the body quite a long time. If you wish to try (again) to break the habit, take a look at Julia Ross' THE DIET CURE. She offers amino acid therapies for addictions ranging from cocaine, pot, and tobacco to sugar, chocolate and alcohol. Sometimes deficiencies in certain neurotransmitters create imbalances in the body. Even if your diet has complete protein and adequate micronutrients to digest it, you may still be deficient in certain amino acids. While you really need to read this book and/or seek a holistic nutritionist's advice before embarking on this experiment, Ross does suggest tyrosine, phenylalanine, gamma amino butyric acid, and/or tryptophan can help, under the right circumstances. She has loads of caveats, like drug interactions. If you've read Dufty's SUGAR BLUES, you may recall that American tobacco has sugar in it which contributes, he says, to the craving/addiction/health issues. Good luck! Nori

I nursed two babies for 6 months each while smoking occasionally. Of course it is not the ideal situation, but on the other hand people do it and it works out fine. They just don't talk about it. Both my children are healthy, and I had no problem with my milk supply. Good luck. By the way, that was years ago. Try the patch.

Two words: Nicotine Patches