Nicotine passes from a person’s lungs into the blood and breast milk. It is hard to say how long nicotine stays in milk because it differs for everyone. Nicotine levels in breast milk tend to drop by about half in around 95 minutes.

Avoiding nicotine products is the best way to protect babies from nicotine and other smoking-related chemicals.

This article will explain how nicotine gets into breast milk and how long it remains.

It will also discuss the risks of using nicotine when chest or breastfeeding, offer advice on quitting, and answer some frequently asked questions.

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Nicotine is an addictive chemical present in tobacco and smoking products such as e-cigarettes and vapes. Experts have said it is just as addictive as heroin, cocaine, and alcohol.

When people who are nursing an infant smoke, the chemical gets into the breast milk. This may affect the baby’s sleep patterns and decrease the person’s milk supply.

Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, 250 of which can damage health. Many of these can also pass into breast milk. Second-hand smoke also exposes babies to these harmful chemicals.

Therefore, stopping smoking is the best way to protect babies from nicotine and other smoking-related chemicals.

However, people who cannot quit smoking need to still nurse if they can. There are things they can do to reduce the risk to their baby.

When someone smokes, they inhale the nicotine into their lungs. The chemical passes through the walls of the lungs and into the bloodstream. From here, it passes through the breast milk into the baby.

Nicotine from nicotine patches can also enter the milk — the body absorbs the chemical into the blood through the skin.

The amount of nicotine in the milk will vary. It will usually be highest during and immediately after smoking. The amount will usually drop by half in about 95 minutes.

The time it takes for nicotine to leave the bloodstream entirely will depend on lots of things, including the person’s:

  • sex
  • diet
  • age
  • genetics

The amount of nicotine in the blood and breast milk will depend on several factors. These include when the person last smoked and how much they smoked.

However, people’s bodies will metabolize, or process, nicotine at a different rate. There is no failsafe way to speed up this process.

The main risks of using nicotine, whether via smoking, wearing nicotine patches, or using an e-cigarette, while chest or breastfeeding include:

  • Interrupting sleep patterns: This can raise the risk of blood sugar and thyroid problems in childhood.
  • Decreasing milk supply: Nicotine can lower the levels of prolactin, a hormone that stimulates milk production, in the smoker.

The March of the Dimes patient advocacy group says that nicotine can also make the baby fussy or have sleeping issues.

The best way to protect breast milk from nicotine is by avoiding smoking, if applicable.

The United Kingdom baby charity La Leche League offers the following advice to individuals who want to quit while nursing:

  • try finding other ways to relax, such as playing or cuddling the baby, going for a walk, or reading a book
  • visit non-smoking places while out in public to avoid temptation
  • spend time with other parents who understand the stresses of having a baby

Quitting nicotine while chest or breastfeeding can be difficult. For those who are unable to quit, there are things they can do to reduce the risk to the baby.

People can switch from cigarettes to nicotine replacement products, such as gum or nasal sprays. These deliver lower doses of nicotine than cigarettes.

It is worth noting that there is limited evidence on how much nicotine e-cigarettes deliver. Therefore, it is best to stick to products such as nicotine gum or nasal sprays.

For those who carry on smoking, they can try:

  • smoking as little as possible
  • never smoking while feeding their baby
  • never smoking near the baby
  • keeping the home and car smoke-free
  • leaving it as long as possible between smoking and nursing
  • washing their hands and changing their clothes after smoking and before picking up the baby

Some frequently asked questions about chestfeeding or breastfeeding and nicotine include:

Does nicotine disappear from pumped breast milk?

Researchers do not know if nicotine remains in pumped breast milk.

Experts recommend smokers leave it as long as possible between smoking and nursing or pumping.

Nicotine levels in the blood are highest during and immediately after smoking and reduce by half in about 95 minutes.

How does nicotine in breast milk affect a baby?

Nicotine in breast milk can interrupt a baby’s sleep patterns. This can increase the risk of childhood blood sugar and thyroid problems.

Nicotine can also decrease milk production, leading to early weaning. According to the March of the Dimes, breast milk is the most suitable food for babies in the first year of life because it contains all the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong.

Nicotine can pass from a person’s bloodstream into breast milk. Everyone will process nicotine at different rates, so it is hard to say how long it stays in breast milk.

Nicotine levels will be at their highest during and immediately after smoking. They will usually decrease by half in about 95 minutes.