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Breastfeeding and smoking

By stopping smoking before – or as soon as – you get pregnant, you can have a safer pregnancy and a healthier baby.

About 10.5% of women are still smoking when they give birth. Stopping smoking once your baby is born will still help protect them against:

See more about the effects of passive smoking on children.

Don't stop breastfeeding if you smoke

As a new mum, not smoking is also the single most important thing you can do to protect your own health. 

However, if you're finding it hard to quit smoking, it's important not to stop breastfeeding. Breastfeeding will still protect your baby from infections and provide nutrients they can't get from formula milk. 

If you or your partner can't stop smoking, making your home completely smokefree will help protect your baby's health. You may need to ask friends and family not to smoke near your baby, too.

If you or your partner smokes, it's important not to share a bed with your baby (co-sleep). This is known to raise the risk of SIDS, particularly if you smoke, you recently drank alcohol, or you're taking medication that makes you sleep more heavily. 

See more about reducing the risks of SIDS.

Support with quitting smoking 

You're up to 4 times more likely to stop smoking successfully with NHS support. 

Your midwife, health visitor or GP can give your details of your local NHS stop smoking service. You can also visit the Smokefree website or call the NHS smoking helpline on 0300 123 1044.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and breastfeeding

Licensed NRT products are safe to use while you're breastfeeding. They increase your chances of quitting smoking, especially if you also have support from your local NHS stop smoking service.

NRT is available free on prescription while you're pregnant and for 1 year after your baby is born. It comes in a variety of formats, including patches, gum, lozenges, nasal spray and inhalators. 

The stop smoking medicines Champix and Zyban are not recommended for breastfeeding women.

See more about NRT.

E-cigarettes, vaping and breastfeeding

While using an e-cigarette (vaping) is a lot safer than smoking, it isn't completely risk free. As well as nicotine, e-cigarette liquid and vapour can contain toxic substances, although these are mostly at much lower levels than in cigarette smoke.

At the moment there are no e-cigarettes licensed as medicines. New mums are advised to use licensed NRT products for help with quitting smoking and staying smokefree.

However, if you do choose to use an e-cigarette to help you stay smokefree, it's still better to carry on breastfeeding as the benefits will outweigh any potential harm. 

Read more about e-cigarettes.

Page last reviewed: 10 December 2018
Next review due: 10 December 2021