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Vaping While Breastfeeding: Does It Harm the Baby and Should You Stop?

Perhaps you switched to vaping or e-cigarettes from smoking cigarettes during your pregnancy, and now you wonder if vaping and breastfeeding will harm your newborn. It turns out that the research on vaping while breastfeeding is very limited.

Key takeaways:

There is some research on vaping while pregnant and as e-cigarettes have only been available for about 15 years, vaping after childbirth has not been investigated. However, we do not recommend engaging in any activities with known or unknown effects on the newborn that could cause potential harm.

Should I stop breastfeeding if I vape?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognize that the effects of vaping on the health of infants are unknown. They do recommend breastmilk as the preferred food for infants, even if the mother is vaping.

The American Association of Pediatricians and the National Health Service in the UK encourage breastfeeding even if the mother is smoking cigarettes. As it is currently recognized that vaping can be safer than smoking cigarettes, it could be thought that vaping is less harmful than smoking during breastfeeding. Vaping during pregnancy and breastfeeding are not recommended, but if you can't quit smoking cigarettes, vaping may be less harmful to your baby.

Experts agree that no amount of nicotine is considered safe for your baby, and quitting vaping is strongly encouraged. Although no one knows yet what the effects of vaping on breastmilk and subsequently your baby are, mothers are encouraged to continue breastfeeding.

Effects of vaping on breast milk

Breast milk does contain nicotine, regardless of whether the mother uses a real cigarette or an e-cigarette. Research shows that a cigarette contains 0.6 mg of nicotine. The largest amount of nicotine is found in breast milk 30 minutes after smoking, and it is completely gone in 3 hours.

Experts recommend breastfeeding your baby prior to vaping, which minimizes the amount of nicotine in your breast milk. You can time breastfeeding and modify the amount of nicotine you vape and how frequently.

How is vaping different from smoking?

One of the reasons that vaping is considered safer than smoking cigarettes is because vaping does not deliver tar and smoke to your lungs. In vaping, a liquid is heated to create a mist or vapor that is inhaled. Vaping is similar to smoking a cigarette, but no flame is used, and smoke is not created.

Although both cigarettes and vaping contain nicotine, the amount of nicotine inhaled during vaping is generally less than in a cigarette. Also, vaping can be done in shorter intervals rather than smoking a whole cigarette. This can spread out the amount of nicotine that the smoker gets with vaping. It is also possible to inhale more, depending on how often you vape and for how long each time. With vaping, you have control over how much nicotine you inhale.

Can vaping harm my breastfeeding baby?

No one knows. There is no research on the effects of vaping while breastfeeding. Much research has been done on smoking cigarettes during pregnancy, but there is little research on smoking cigarettes or vaping while breastfeeding.

CDC suggests that nicotine may cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Nicotine may also:

  • Disrupt development. Affect how your baby’s lungs develop.
  • Cause infections. Cause ear infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
  • Weaken the baby. Weaken your baby’s lungs.

It is hard to know if these health problems are caused by the nicotine in your breast milk or in your home when you are vaping.

According to Dr. Kim Langdon, smoking cigarettes leads to secondhand smoke and may be the reason for an increased risk of respiratory, ear infections, and SIDSs. The risk of vaping while breastfeeding is related primarily to the nicotine content and less with the ambient gas emission, although those emissions are not negligible. Keeping the nicotine concentration low and discarding the pumped milk after vaping is probably the safest course of action, which means vaping after you breastfeed. And, do not vape around the baby.

Can vaping help quit smoking?

Perhaps you switched to vaping with the intention of quitting smoking but find yourself still vaping after childbirth. There is a lot of evidence that vaping or using e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking, but some experts disagree. The reason vaping is suspected of helping people quit smoking cigarettes is that the amount of nicotine can be controlled. Other recommended products to help people quit are chewing gums and patches containing nicotine.

Those who support the use of vaping contend that it is no different than other nicotine products that are used to help people to quit smoking cigarettes. For people who enjoy the experience of ‘smoking’ vaping is a good alternative.

If you started vaping during your pregnancy to either try to quit smoking cigarettes or as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes and find yourself still using e-cigarettes while breastfeeding, you are encouraged to keep breastfeeding your baby. Although there is little research on vaping while breastfeeding, the information known about cigarettes and breast milk can be used to guide you while vaping during breastfeeding. You have control over how often you vape and how much nicotine you get each time you vape. The most important thing to remember is that breast milk is recommended as the best food for your baby.

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