Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

Breastfeeding and Cigarette Smoking

on September 12, 2016

La Leche League Leaders are often asked whether smoking cigarettes impact a mother’s ability to breastfeed. It is not the role of La Leche League to judge a parent’s decision to smoke. We are here to provide fact based information which allows parents to make their own decisions. So what does some of the research say?

What people believe about smoking and breastfeeding: a study that looked at the factors which contribute to intention to breastfeed and breastfeeding outcomes examined how smoking status affected the decision making. The conclusion of the researchers was “Women perceived that a strong risk of harming the baby was posed by smoking while breastfeeding and received little encouragement to continue breastfeeding despite an inability to stop smoking. The perceptions of the toxic, addictive, and harmful effects of smoking on breastmilk constitution and quantity factored into reasons why women weaned their infants from breastfeeding much earlier than the recommended 6 months.”

Breastfeeding duration: a 2006 study followed mothers who had smoked during pregnancy and mapped how long they continued to breastfed. The results showed a lower rate of initiating breastfeeding and a shorter duration (average of 11 weeks vs 28 weeks) when compared with the non-smoking mother control group. The statistical difference persisted even after adjusting for mother’s age, education, income, father’s smoking status, mother’s country of birth, mother’s intention to breastfeed for more than 6 months and baby’s birth weight.



Does breastfeeding change smoking behavior? A 2012 study done in Italy showed that women who had stopped smoking during pregnancy were less likely to resume smoking after giving birth if they were breastfeeding. Women who had continued to smoke during pregnancy and breastfeeding smoked less at the interview check points than the mothers who were not breastfeeding. A similar study concluded that early prenatal care and breastfeeding is associated with postpartum smoking abstinence.

Infant sleep: a 2007 study looked at sleep duration in a group of infants on two separate occasions: after their mothers had smoked and when their mothers had refrained from smoking. They found the babies spent less time over all and the longest sleep session was shorter.

Lower respiratory tract infections: Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) considered in this study were pneumonia, bronchitis and bronchiolitis. This study looked back at a large group of children born over a two year period in Oslo Norway and tracked health information from physicians. Their data showed that the babies of non-smoking breastfeeding mothers who breastfed for more than six months had the lowest risk of having a LRTI in the first year of life. Babies of mothers who smoked and breastfed for more than six months had an increased risk of an LRTI in the first six months of life. The risk decreased in the second six months although not to a level as low as that of the non-smoking group. Short term breastfeeding (less than six months) and smoking had an increased risk of LRTIs compared with short term breastfeeding without smoking. The results suggest that breastfeeding has a protective effect for babies who are going to be exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. A 2008 study on a similar topic looked at breastfeeding, maternal smoking, recurrent LRTIs and asthma in children.


If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to an accredited La Leche League Leader. In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking or Internationally

If you have found this article helpful, La Leche League Canada would appreciate your support. Your donation is essential and very much appreciated to help LLLC cover the cost of producing breastfeeding resources: or become a LLLC Friend



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