Tobacco and Parenting - What You Should Know

Cigarette smoking is the #1 cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. It harms nearly every organ in the body.  Tobacco use is not as common today as it once was--now, only about 14% of adults smoke cigarettes, but more people also use tobacco via e-cigarettes, vaping, and hookahs. Using tobacco of any kind during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as around your child, could have long-lasting effects on your baby’s health. 

Tobacco Use During Pregnancy

 When people consume tobacco products, an active chemical called nicotine reaches the brain (through inhalation and your bloodstream). Nicotine is incredibly addictive. There are several other toxic chemicals in tobacco that can lead to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. These chemicals can be passed from the mother’s blood to their baby through the umbilical cord. Smoking tobacco during pregnancy can lead to an increased risk of premature infants, low birth weight, miscarriage, and stillbirth. It may also cause birth defects, like cleft palate, and learning problems for your child. 

Tobacco Use While Breastfeeding

 While mothers who use tobacco products can breastfeed, it’s safest to not to use tobacco while breastfeeding or pumping. Smoking can reduce milk production and alter the quality of the breastmilk. Chemicals from smoking or vaping can also be transferred to the breastmilk. 

Responsible Tobacco Use While Parenting

 It is generally a good idea to avoid using tobacco while caring for your child. Babies exposed to smoke during pregnancy and babies exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are at a higher risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Secondhand smoke exposure can also lead to lung cancer and heart disease. It can cause health problems in both adults and children. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at higher risk of ear infections, severe asthma, and lung infections. Even if nobody in your household smokes, it’s still important to keep your children away from second-hand smoke in other homes or public places. If you use tobacco products, only use them outside of your home and do not smoke in your car. Smoking inside the home or car leaves harmful residues on floors, furniture, and other surfaces that can harm your baby. Wash your hands and change your clothes after smoking before you handle your baby. 

Quitting Tobacco

 The good news is that there are a lot of resources out there to help people quit using tobacco. Millions of people successfully quit every year – and being pregnant or having a baby are perfect reasons to take this important step for your health and the health of your family. Nicotine replacement therapy, Smokefree Texting Programs , and counseling are all free ways to kick the habit. 

Helpful Resources

  • Smokefree is a free national resource to help you quit smoking, vaping, and other tobacco use. You can chat live with a trained counselor online.
  • CDC – Tobacco, E-Cigarettes, & Breastfeeding The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have compiled data regarding tobacco use, breastfeeding, and pregnancy.