If you are
breast-feeding, many substances that you eat, drink,
inhale, or inject end up in your breast milk and may harm your baby.
Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco may reduce
your milk production and inhibit the
let-down reflex. It also may make your baby fussy or
irritable. Babies who are exposed to
secondhand smoke are at increased risk for many
sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). You should not
smoke or be around those who do while you are pregnant or breast-feeding. If
you smoke, do so as little as possible. Smoke outside and right after you have
breast-fed, to give your baby the least exposure to the harmful
When a breast-feeding woman drinks alcohol heavily, it
can cause a lack of energy and other health problems for her baby. One to two
drinks a day have been linked to poor milk let-down and may affect the baby's
muscle coordination.1 If you choose to drink alcohol, avoid breast-feeding or
pumping milk right after you have had a drink. Wait 1 to 2 hours a drink, to
allow your body to clear some of the alcohol from your system
Illegal drugs can be passed to a baby in some amount through
the breast milk. Drug use can cause poor milk let-down in the mother and a lack
of energy, intoxication, hyperactivity, addiction, or other health problems in
Briggs CG, et al. (2008). Ethanol. In Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation, 8th ed., pp. 675–683. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.