Alcohol, Cannabis, Tobacco, and NRT while Breastfeeding

Alcohol

Tobacco

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

Cannabis

Alcohol use while breastfeeding

Is it safe for me to drink alcohol when breastfeeding?

The safest choice is not to drink any alcohol. If you are breastfeeding and are thinking about drinking alcohol on a special occasion, follow these simple rules to reduce the risks to your baby:

  • Limit the amount you drink to 1 or 2 drinks per occasion.
  • Measure to be sure how much you are drinking. 
  • Drink alcohol after breastfeeding, not before breastfeeding.
  • Occasional drinking is not a reason to stop breastfeeding.
  • Invite your partner to limit their alcohol use to support you.

How can alcohol affect my breastfeeding baby?

Heavy, frequent drinking carries risks for you and your breastfeeding baby. Alcohol is passed through the breast milk to the baby. Heavy alcohol consumption puts you and your baby at risk by:   

  • Disrupting your baby’s sleep patterns.
  • Decreasing the letdown reflex and the amount of milk being produced.  
  • Affecting your baby’s weight gain, growth and risk of developmental delays.

Is there a cocktail that has no alcohol?

If you are breastfeeding consider having a non-alcoholic cocktail called a mocktail. Many refreshing mocktail recipes can be enjoyed without any worry or risk to you or your breastfeeding baby.

If you consume alcohol and want more information or need help to reduce your consumption, you can:

For more information:

Tobacco

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, counselling is recommended as the first choice of treatment for quitting smoking.

If counselling does not work for you, the use of nicotine replacement therapies (such as lozenges, gum, and inhaler) is preferred over the use of the nicotine patch.

If you do use the patch and you are pregnant, remove it before bed to reduce the exposure of nicotine to the fetus.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) should be avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy. If you are having trouble quitting on your own try NRT as directed by your health care provider.

What does Ottawa Public Health recommend?

  • That you try to quit smoking as soon as possible
  • Using NRT is better than smoking
  • Breastfeeding women are recommended to breastfeed before using NRT each time in order to minimize the exposure to the baby
  • When breastfeeding, keep using NRT for as long as you need it

Smoking while pregnant

Smoking during pregnancy is not healthy for you and can lead to:

  • Miscarriage
  • Going into labour too early
  • Your water may break too soon
  • Problems with placenta (with risks to mom and baby)
  • Increases your child's risk for:

    • Being born too small
    • Infections and other health problems
    • Behaviour and mental health problems (such as ADHD, autism, depression, learning problems)

Smoking during breastfeeding

Smoking during breastfeeding can expose you and your child to harmful chemicals and can lead to less or lower quality breast milk. If you continue to smoke, don't stop breastfeeding. There are still many more benefits from breastfeeding. Just make sure you smoke outside and away from the baby.

Nicotine Replacement

Benefits:

  • You and your baby avoid the 4,000 chemicals found in cigarette smoke
  • Help you with cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Doubles your chances or quitting smoking
  • Exposes you and your baby to less nicotine than cigarettes

Risks:

There are no known risks compared to smoking

There are a number of resources to help you if you need it:

  • For information and support to pregnant and postpartum women, visit the Pregnets website
  • For free confidential information and advice on a number of topics- Ottawa Public Health Information Line: 613-580-6744 or by email
  • Smoker's Helpline 1-877-513-5333
  • Motherisk Helpline 1-877-327-4636
  • Prenatal classes online

Cannabis use while breastfeeding 

How can cannabis affect breastfeeding babies?

Cannabis is a plant that has hundreds of chemicals. Some of these chemicals are called cannabinoids, like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is psychoactive, meaning it affects the way your brain thinks and feels.  No matter how cannabis is used, THC is absorbed and stored in breast milk. This means it can be passed to your baby through breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for baby and mom.  It is safest to stop using cannabis while breastfeeding. 

If you consume cannabis and need help to reduce your consumption or would like help quitting, you can:

For more information:

Do you have more questions?

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