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Mothers who smoke still encouraged to breast-feed

11:26 AM, Jun. 7, 2013  |  Comments
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Did you know that May 31 was World No Tobacco Day? The World Health Organization started No Tobacco Day in 1987, changing the theme each year to emphasize different aspects of the personal and business effects of smoking.

So why are we talking about smoking in an article about breast-feeding? Women who smoke should not breast-feed - wrong!

A mom who can't stop smoking should breast-feed. Breast-feeding provides many immunities that help her baby fight illness and can even help counteract some of the effects of her cigarette smoking. For example, breast-feeding has been shown to decrease the negative effects of cigarette smoke on a baby's lungs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics policy on breast-feeding states that although you should be encouraged to quit smoking, if you smoke, smoking cigarettes is not a reason not to breast-feed. One study reported that, among women who continue to smoke throughout breast-feeding, the incidence of acute respiratory illness is decreased among their infants, compared with infants of smoking mothers who are bottle fed. It may be that breast-feeding and smoking is less detrimental to the child than bottle feeding and smoking.

How does smoking affect breast-feeding? Women who smoke tend to wean earlier then those who do not. They may have problems with lower milk production. Smoking also may interfere with the "let-down" process (slower flow).

Here are a few tips to minimize the risk to the baby of a mother who smokes:

? The ideal: Stop smoking altogether.

? Cut down. The less you smoke, the smaller the chance that difficulties will arise. The risks increase if you smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day.

? Don't smoke immediately before or during breast-feeding. It will inhibit let-down and is dangerous to your baby.

? Smoke immediately after breast-feeding to cut down on the amount of nicotine in your milk during nursing. Wait as long as possible between smoking and nursing.

? Avoid smoking in the same room with your baby. Even better, smoke outside, away from your baby and other children. Don't allow anyone else to smoke near your baby.

Risks still are apparent even when all the safety precautions are in place. Babies of mothers and fathers who smoke have a seven times greater chance of dying from sudden infant death syndrome.

If a mother wants to quit, a nicotine patch is probably safer than either nicotine gum and smoking. Quitting smoking is best for the mother's health and that of her child, regardless of how they are fed.

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