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Effects of maternal tobacco smoking on breast milk composition and infant development: a literature review


Journal of Bacteriology & Mycology: Open Access
Faiza Ahmed,1,2 Fernand Jean- Baptiste,1 Andre Thompson,2 Uzoamaka Nwokorie,1 Godsgift Enebong Nya,1,4 Paul-Moreau Bossous3

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Abstract

Several research studies highlight the importance of breastfeeding. Breast milk is a necessary nutrient for infants as it provides everything they need during the most vulnerable stage of their lives. It contains antibodies that protect newborn babies against viruses, bacteria, and various kinds of illnesses that their undeveloped immune constitution cannot fight alone. Mothers are also encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle in order to produce good quality milk; they are advised to eat healthily to improve their ability to lactate properly. Thus, it is suggested that engaging in hazardous vices, mainly smoking, during the nursing period, may adversely impact upon the yield of breast milk and will lead to an unhealthy reaction in the infants. It is reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center of Health Statistics, that about 12% of women actively smoke during pregnancy, and that some of them try to quit unsuccessfully. Many women relapse back to their smoking habits, which causes drastic alterations to the composition of breast milk (2018). Smoking tobacco does not only attenuate the protective properties of breast milk, but also affects the baby's well-being. The specific pathophysiological mechanisms which underpin these adverse effects are still nebulous and warrant further research in the field. This literature review is a narrative synthesis of previous studies which were primarily scoped to the deleterious effects of tobacco on breast milk composition, the mother’s lactating process, and the development of the infant. A comprehensive search of the up-to-date, evidence-based literature was performed, and a meta-analysis of the results was conducted to come up with an appropriate conclusion. Previous studies have suggested that nicotine alters the quality of breast milk, and although the results are generally inconclusive, there are also recurrent themes which have emerged from these studies: nicotine smoking while breastfeeding can cause lactation issues among mothers, and the nicotine transferred through breast milk leads to a disruption in infants’ sleeping patterns. Previous studies have shown that breastfeeding mothers who smoke tobacco have increased levels of nicotine in their milk. The milk concentration of nicotine is three times higher than non-smokers plasma concentration. . Also, the quantity of breast milk produced is less, and the lactation period is much shorter than usual. Smoking is very hazardous and dangerous to an infant’s health. It changes not only the milk's taste but also its composition by reducing the essential protective properties required for the survival of the baby. It also affects how the infant responds to breastfeeding. It is advisable for breastfeeding mothers to abstain from nicotine smoking for the safety and overall wellbeing of their child.

Keywords

breast milk, smoking, pregnancy, nicotine, regular cigarette smokers, tobacco, mothers

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