Approximately 10% of women report smoking during pregnancy. The number of breastfeeding women who relapse back to smoking is even greater. Smoking may cause adverse changes to the milk’s composition by not only reducing its protective properties, but also by affecting the infant’s health. The pathophysiological mechanisms underlying these adverse effects are not entirely known.
This article is a review of previous reports about the effects of smoking on the lactation process, breast milk composition and infant development. A systematic search for English language articles published until 2015 was made, using a MEDLINE data. The key search terms were “smoking and breastfeeding”, “smoking and lactation”, “smoking and milk composition”, “nicotine and breast milk”.
Studies have shown that nicotine levels in breast milk of women who smoke are three times higher than those in the plasma levels. Breast milk volume is reduced and the duration of lactation period is shorter. Smoking causes adverse changes to the milk’s composition by not only reducing its protective properties, but also affecting infants’ response to breastfeeding and to breast milk.