Tobacco smoking is always harmful, and all mothers should be encouraged to quit smoking prior to pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, smoking cigarettes is not considered to be a reason for not breastfeeding, since breastfeeding is the optimal nutrition for newborns. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on breastfeeding, “tobacco smoking by mothers is not a contraindication to breastfeeding, but health care professionals should advise all tobacco-using mothers to avoid smoking within the home and to make every effort to wean themselves from tobacco as rapidly as possible.”
Nursing mothers should understand that nicotine is passed to the baby in breast milk, and they should never nurse their baby immediately after smoking or while smoking. Babies exposed to secondhand smoke also are at risk for a number of health issues, so if a woman smokes, she should nurse her baby after smoking, in a room away from cigarette smoke. Of course, the safest policy for both mother and baby is to abstain from tobacco use while breastfeeding and forever thereafter.