General chatter - Smoking and Breastfeeding

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12-10-2011, 03:32 AM
Before I tell you this story, I just want to make clear that I do believe a woman has the right to do what she wants with her body.

Since I believe this, my experience from last night was a bit baffling.

We went to a wine party at a friends house to kick-off holiday celebration. One mother and father were there with their tiny 4-month old baby. I've known the couple for awhile - they are a bit older (36) and they had tons of trouble trying to conceive. In fact, spent thousands on invitro-fertilization.

The father is definitely just as much a part of the baby's life as the mother.

The mother's parents smoke and she had also smoked the past twenty years of her life, but had given up smoking because her doctor told her it would increase her chances of getting pregnant if she stopped.

Last night, the mother's sister and sister-in-law were both there, smoking like chimneys (we were all outside on a large balcony). The mother caved when offered cigarettes from them, despite the fact that she is still actively breastfeeding.

The father, a former smoker who quit many years ago and hasn't touched them since, was quite angry at the mother. But she kept smoking! He then became angry at his own sister for offering his wife the cigarettes. That didn't help because the mother's sister was also offering her cigarettes.

He sort of just had to stand by. I mean, he can't physically make his wife not smoke.

It did hurt me actually - he cares about his baby and doesn't want the baby to ingest the chemicals from cigarettes (understandably!). I know a cigarette or two isn't deadly, but really, we don't know all of the consequences early exposure to carcinogenic chemicals can have on babies.

I felt the tables were turned last night and the man's rights were infringed upon. It made me uncomfortable. It also made me uncomfortable that the others simply couldn't leave their cigs at home for the night to help their sister avoid temptation.

I am a former smoker, I realize how hard it is to quit. I can, to a certain extent, sympathize with smokers. On the other hand, I couldn't identify last night with any of the smokers and felt they were using their addiction to cigarettes as an excuse to act irresponsibly.

So, this baffled me. I really want to believe that a woman has 100% control over her body to do as she pleases - but the situation has changed a bit. The baby is now its own person and responsibility for it is actively split between father and mother (who are both good parents with active roles). Because the baby obvisouly cannot speak up for itself, the father had to. The mother rejected the father's opinion. Of course the father is not violent and would not physically remove the cig from the mother's hand. He was powerless.

What do you guys think about the situation? It has been troubling me all morning!

12-10-2011, 07:52 AM
I think it's just horrible.

Since the mother is breastfeeding, she shouldn't be doing anything that can endanger the baby's health. Also, her family should have been refraining from smoking, themselves, so as not to knock her off the wagon (and endanger the baby with second-hand smoke). They most definitely shouldn't have offered her a cigarette!

12-10-2011, 08:15 AM
Some interesting information from Kellymom

12-10-2011, 08:37 AM
I can understand your dilemma. I also was very strongly pro-choice... until I had babies of my own. Now, while I'd still slightly lean towards pro-choice... I'm not so sure anymore. When you see that tiny life moving and breathing inside, you get a sense of it's separateness, but also its fragility and dependence. It makes the question of choice and responsiblity so much more difficult.

I would also be very uncomfortable with that situation. It is so profoundly selfish on so many levels - the sister and mother (who are clearly only thinking of themselves, wanting their old smoking partner back to justify their own habit...), and the mother, who HAS to know that those carcinogenic chemicals pass through her breastmilk to her baby. Not to mention that once a former smoker restarts, it makes it that much more difficult to say no next time. It's really sad for the poor baby, who had no one speaking for him except his dad - who was powerless.

But what;s the alternative? SHOULD the dad have the power to stop the mom from doing it? No. There's no situation I could imagine where that would be okay. So despite how ugly and sad it is, it's ultimately the mother's right to do what she wants... and the baby who will pay (or profit) in the end, depending on her choice. But I guess that's the same the world over, in many situations... the children pay when the adults in their lives steal, commit crimes, do drugs, have unmedicated mental health issues, don't have enough money to feed, clothe or house them...

Tough to watch though. :hug:

12-10-2011, 08:51 AM
This is very upsetting. What a bunch of selfish people. What are they thinking of. I have a friend who never ever smoked. Her husband was a smoker. Guess which one got lung cancer ? That's right, my friend who never smoked a day in her life but lived with a smoker.If I were the husband, in this case I would have picked up the baby and gone home. he needs to have a long serious talk with his wife and she needs to have a long, serious talk with her family.

12-10-2011, 08:55 AM
Sorry I'm confused, was the baby being held in the cigarette smoke? Or is it the fact that she is breastfeeding (with baby not being present at this time)?

Beach Patrol
12-11-2011, 10:06 AM
What do you guys think about the situation? It has been troubling me all morning!

I think that smokers, in general, certainly don't care about their own health, so why would they care about anyone else's?

That said, I believe what a person does with their own body is their own business. And being a non-smoker myself, I appreciate that some smokers are polite enough not to force their nasty habit on me. However, that's not true of everyone. And anyone who smokes around a baby, children, elderly or handicapped people (those who cannot remove themselves from the smoking environment) are just being inconsiderate & rude.

12-11-2011, 11:14 AM
Thank you for the replies, they did make me sort through the situation mentally. kirsteng, I definitely agree with your viewpoint. I suppose I just witnessed, up close, how a child unjustly pays for the act of its parent.

Btw, the baby was not around the smoke.

The troubling situation was that the mother was going to breastfeed in less than an hour after smoking some cigs, meaning the hundreds of chemicals that are in cigarettes would then be in the breastmilk. I could imagine that has the capability to turn on the gene for addiction, for example.

bargoo: that is so terrible about the second hand smoke (possibly) leading to cancer in one who never smoked. Oh man! That is seriously scary.

Beach Patrol: I agree, the mother was inconsiderate, to say the least.

12-11-2011, 11:49 AM
Though it is true the husband cannot physically stop the wife from smoking, he can discuss it with her, and if he wants to do that, at a party in front of friends and acquaintances is not the place to do it. So just because he didn't make a huge scene about it right there, doesn't necessarily mean he won't be able to state his case and influence her choices in a more private, appropriate setting.

Unna, I do understand your discomfort with the situation. It's very awkward when someone is doing something that you think is destructive, or don't approve of, and you don't have any leverage to express your concern about it.

12-11-2011, 01:15 PM
Smoking is horribly addicting. It's a shame the mom smoked in this situation, but look at it like food.

You're working your plan, doing great, you go to a social situation, someone puts out chocolate truffles, everyone's eating the truffles, you have one.

Something about social situations makes it harder for me, a dieter, to stay on plan. Of course, eating a chocolate truffle only affects my waistline, not really the health of my new baby. But the addiction, the temptation, how hard it is to say no - yeah, I can see it happening.

Hopefully the new mom got right back on her non smoking plan the very next day, the same way I would if I ate something at a party that wasn't on my plan.

If the situation still makes you mad, direct your ire to the tobacco companies. They know their products are both addictive and deadly and they are committed to addicting new people each year. It's disgusting and morally repugnant.

12-11-2011, 03:22 PM
I am horrified that there were family members there offering her cigs. They are the ones I'd like to slap upside the head. lol I think it's really sad and wrong that the mom was smoking, but I have been horribly addicted to cigarettes myself (I quit when I was 27 bc I *knew* I would not have any children unless I was seriously over cigarettes) and I can imagine how difficult it must have been for her. I was very happy and comfortable as a new mom when my babies were that age and not at all stressed out by it (for some reason my 8 year old stresses me out! lol), but I think the vast majority of new moms find that time period to be very stressful and difficult. I am sure she was feeling tortured by those cigarettes and by the fact that she gave in. :(

But, while I feel a lot of sympathy for her, I'm not so sure I think it should be 100% up to the woman what she does. If my husband was exposing my babies to stuff that scared me, I wouldn't say that was his prerogative and I couldn't do anything about it. Also, if taken to its logical conclusion it's obvious that mom can't do whatever she wants. If she was pregnant and smoking crack or something, we'd have no problem saying that is not okay and hubby should have just plain stopped her from doing it. Now, whether cigarettes are over the line, I don't know. I would feel uncomfortable about it, though, mostly because you know it is not a one time thing. Having quit myself, I know you cannot have just one. So, it makes me think she's going to be sneaking cigarettes away from her child whenever she can, and maybe smoking around him. And it's just not going to be good for any of them.

ETA: I think the dad should have told her they needed to leave immediately. Period. Just get her away from the temptation. And if she wouldn't go, possibly leave and take the baby with him. I would really, really hate it if my husband got that way with me over something. But I do think he has every right to protect his baby from her smoking, even if that means buying some formula. I nursed my first until he was 3 1/2 years old and I'm currently nursing my nearly 3 year old. Nursing to me is a near religious experience. It's so wonderful for babies, of course in terms of nutrition, but even moreso in terms of having that nursing relationship. It would horrify me to see someone other than the mother step in and disrupt that, but then how would I feel if my dh was feeding my kids known carcinogens.... Hmmmm.

12-11-2011, 07:22 PM
Eesh. How awkward for everyone involved. I think, honestly, one or two cigarettes is not going to be a big deal, like OP pointed out. When I was pregnant, I smoked two cigarettes during my entire pregnancy and all I can remember is how guilty I felt for doing it. I was very, very young and very, very dumb. I wonder if the nursing mom in this story felt the same way later.

It does bring up a lot of questions about what Dad's rights are. If I were him, though, I would have not made it a big deal(especially in front of others) unless she was starting to smoke with some frequency.

I took a class this semester with a girl (well, woman, she's probably 35)who is pregnant and every day she brought into class a huge coffee and a huge diet soda. She kept telling me about how much caffeine she was having to consume to keep herself alert enough to study because the pregnancy made her so tired (which I can identify with, but I found myself struggling not to be judgmental about the massive amounts of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and junk she's consuming while pregnant. Then, the other day, I saw her hanging around outside the school with some classmates and she was the only one smoking. I do understand, like I said, I used to smoke myself, but it just seemed kind of...tacky. No offense to anyone on here who may have smoked while they were pregnant. I am definitely pro-choice and support the right of women to do what they want with their bodies, but I guess it was an eye-opener to me that I am still pretty judgmental of others.

12-11-2011, 08:03 PM
I found myself struggling not to be judgmental about the massive amounts of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and junk she's consuming while pregnant.

Ah well you would have judged me too. I certainly enjoyed my coffee and diet soda when pregnant, there are certain amounts that are deemed 'safe', whether or not people choose to believe it.

Unfortunately, when pregnant/with newborn/as a mother, everyone will find SOMETHING wrong with you, what you do, call you a bad mother, etc. It doesn't matter if you do one thing perfect, you will always do something wrong in the eyes of others. This woman (in the OP) is no exception.

As a mother who has been judged over and over by others (as a long-term babywearer who does not leave her baby to cry to sleep etc - attachment parenting), I simply stopped caring what other mothers do. I know how it feels, and it hurts, even when I know I'm not doing anything wrong. Is it uncaring? Maybe - but the backlash of constant judgment from others made me realize that I'd rather say nothing than hurt the feelings of another mother. Right? Wrong? I don't care, it's the cruel comments of others that made me indifferent...

12-11-2011, 09:53 PM
Unfortunately, when pregnant/with newborn/as a mother, everyone will find SOMETHING wrong with you, what you do, call you a bad mother, etc. It doesn't matter if you do one thing perfect, you will always do something wrong in the eyes of others. This woman (in the OP) is no exception.

This is kind of what I've been thinking as I read this thread. I'm not a mother (yet), but the blind-ish judgment heaped upon the woman the OP spoke about makes me a bit uncomfortable. Who here hasn't been judged by someone for doing something others think is wrong, unhealthy, "horrible", "selfish", etc.?

I'm presently going through IVF to have a child, and recently quit smoking myself for that reason. Not because it would give me a better chance of getting pregnant, but because I wouldn't expose a fetus/baby to the chemicals in cigarettes. Still, I had a hard time kicking the habit, and while I cut down tremendously I didn't stop smoking completely until just before my embryo transfer. I'm sure there are plenty here who would/will judge me for that. But then again, I'm sure there are also people who would judge me (including friends of mine!) for not switching to a completely organic, whole foods diet while trying to get pregnant or while potentially harboring a pregnancy, as whatever chemicals I'm ingesting in my food are also being passed on to my embryo if it implanted. And I had some artificial sweetener today too - Splenda to be specific - and I'm sure there are plenty here who would be horrified by that too. ESPECIALLY since I've paid out more than most spend on a new car to go through this IVF process - shouldn't I do everything absolutely perfectly, to give myself the absolute best chance of having the healthiest pregnancy/baby possible???

We are all human, there is no perfect, and no matter what you do someone will find something wrong with it. Do I think the breastfeeding woman should be smoking? No, obviously not since I've quit for the same reasons myself. But, it's her body, and no one here has any idea what she has been through. Infertility and IVF are very rough roads to travel, and no one knows what she gave up, what she did without, what she had to do to herself and for how long to have that baby. My guess is that the adjustments and sacrifices she made in her life to be able to have that child are probably far greater than the average person in the have-sex-and-pee-on-a-stick crowd.

So fine, she shouldn't have had a cigarette. But it's not the end of the world, and IMO she's not a bad mother, bad wife or bad person because she did.

12-11-2011, 11:34 PM
I think that smokers, in general, certainly don't care about their own health, so why would they care about anyone else's?

Sorry, I missed this the first time around. How would you react if someone said "I think that obese people, in general, certainly don't care about their own health, so why would they care about anyone else's?" Would the two halves of that statements follow logically for you?

Are there people who have posted in this thread that think that a mother who isn't a healthy weight or who has unhealthy eating habits is "selfish" and "horrible" in the sense that she's passing poor eating habits on to her child and potentially doing a great deal of damage to her child that way?

For that matter, what about women who bear children while they're obese? It's well known that being obese increases the chances for a wide variety of complications during pregnancy, including an increased chance of miscarriage, neural tube defects, gestational diabetes, premature birth, etc.; and many physicians now classify the dangers of obesity during pregnancy in the same light as alcohol and smoking (see Would you call a woman who purposely became pregnant while overweight/obese "selfish" and "horrible"?

I'm not trying to defend or excuse smoking while breast feeding; I said in my previous post that I don't agree with it. What I am trying to get across is that there are many of us here (myself certainly included) who haven't always been the epitome of health, and so maybe we should be careful of throwing too many stones.

12-12-2011, 02:43 AM
I don't think anyone who posted is "blaming the mother" or saying she is a bad person. As Glory87 pointed out, addictions take on a life of their own and sometimes they are too much for a person to say no to.

I also think rubidoux made a point that was in the back of my mind, also because I am an ex-smoker: she is most likely sneaking cigarettes more often, because it is SUPER hard to just have one.

Ultimately, for me, I do blame her friends and family that came and were chainsmoking in her presence.

I think it could seem like most the posts are blaming the mother - but in my mind, we want to protect the baby (who has no say in the manner). I just think we all cringe when we know a baby will be exposed to carcinogens in cigarettes. We don't know what bad side effects it could have.

Btw, ingesting artficial sweetener, caffiene, or produce that is not organic may not be the "ultimate picture of health", but in the matter of degrees, it has nowhere near the amount of harmful chemicals as cigarettes. I don't think it is fair at ALL, or correct, to compare those substances.

12-12-2011, 03:48 PM
Unna, I agree. I didn't mean to come off sounding like I thought caffeine and nutra-sweet are anywhere near as toxic as cigarettes, and I didn't mean to offend anyone on the board who has consumed any of those substances while pregnant. I don't think that that makes you a bad mom, a bad person, or anything else. I know how hard it is to abstain from anything and I guess what I was trying to say in my post was not that i thought it was "wrong" for people to do these things, but I was trying to keep myself from making judgments about people when I see them doing things we kind of assume are "wrong" for pregnancy when I don't know the whole story. Like some of the other posters on this board have pointed out, of course there are safe levels of caffeine and other chemicals during pregnancy, and those are decisions that should be made by the woman with information from her health care provider- not strangers who see them briefly as I did in my situation with the girl in school. I know that there's even a safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, according to many health care providers, and it is common in many countries for women to occasionally have a drink while pregnant. In the US, if a pregnant woman were having a drink at a bar, I think there would be a lot of stares and judgment, even if it was a half a wine spritzer or something.

Perhaps her friends and family who were smoking around her didn't give much thought to the fact that she was breastfeeding before they lit up, or that it might be difficult for her to refuse. I know you've posted before that in your area of the world, smoking seems more prevalent than it does in the US. Do you think that they just thought that since she wasn't pregnant anymore there was no harm in her lighting up? Do you think some of it could have been them feeling defensive once her husband said he didn't want her smoking (along the lines of, "Well, I smoked when I was breastfeeding, and MY baby turned out just fine, what are you trying to say??")?

In any case, I didn't mean to offend anyone on here! Sometimes it's hard to post about things like this because they are sensitive and personal, and without the benefit of being face-to-face with all you lovely ladies, sometimes intent gets lost.

12-13-2011, 05:14 AM
DezziePS: The comment wasn't aimed at your story at all. I think it is natural to contemplate how "safe" chemicals such as sweetener, or the intake of massive amounts of caffiene, can effect the baby.

A few other posters seemed to then read your post as if you were saying these more minor things were just as bad as smoking and that you were being too judgmental of mothers. What you were really saying was that one mother-to-be's behavior went completely against common sense and you worried about the potential outcome - just as the mother I saw the other night did something that went against common sense. Both of our examples are extreme - they are not simply a mother who drank a diet coke.

Also, the mother's sister has a child, she smokes frequently, and I'm pretty sure she smoked while breastfeeding. Actually, she left quite early - maybe the husband did offend her. Interesting point - I hadn't thought of that.

chickadee32: I don't think we are throwing stones. There are some facts that should also not be ignored.

-While being obese and pregnant may injure the child, it is not necessarily so.

-Smoking cigarettes and then breastfeeding will injure the child (the severity of the injury will differ).That we know for sure.

I think the thread is super interesting - I have learned one thing, though, while you may happen to think thoughts of judging a mother's behavior (normal), NEVER say it. It is not our place. I guess it is the equivalent of telling someone they need to change their diet because they are getting too big! That always backfires.

12-13-2011, 07:23 AM
Smoking while breastfeeding increases risks, yes, but that does not equate with injury. There is no rule that says smoking when breastfeeding *WILL* cause problems, it means the risks increase. It's not the same thing.

Just the same, it is considered (statistically via risks) safer to breastfeed as a smoker than to give formula as a smoker(!) which is why I posted the kellymom link in the first place (this relates to immunity protection etc).

"It's definitely better if breastfeeding moms not smoke, but if you can't stop or cut down, then it is better to smoke and breastfeed than to smoke and formula feed."

**^^This is why I spoke against the "no win" of comments from others. Even though it is statistically safer for her to breastfeed as a smoker than to give formula as a smoker, others chimed in that she should at least give formula instead rather than actually researching this comment and realizing that even lactation consultants will say the opposite. Obviously not smoking or "pump n dump" is a better option but formula... no. This highlights why us moms simply can't win sometimes ;)

- Sacha (a never smoking, formula feeding mom)

12-14-2011, 04:28 AM
sacha: I like how you signed off with "never smoking, formula feeding mom", that made me smile!

What I meant with:

"Smoking cigarettes and then breastfeeding will injure the child (the severity of the injury will differ).That we know for sure."

Every cigarette smoked by anyone, and any baby that drinks breastmilk from a mother who has just smoked, will be harmed. The harm may or may not be noticeable, depending on each case. There is a risk that it may produce empirically observable harmful results. Regardless, the body will still be exposed to harmful substances and will thus be harmed in any case.

12-14-2011, 05:00 AM
Speaking of formula...maybe the mom in question fed her baby formula that night? Or she pumped before going to the gathering?

I know breastfeeding moms who will take a night off and have a drink, and give the little one pre-expressed milk for the night/following day. You say she was going to breastfeed and hour later and that was your issue, but did you physically watch her breastfeed? Do you know for a fact that she didn't give the baby a bottle instead?

I didn't want to comment on this thread initially, because I am a smoker, I've quit in the past and am currently trying to quit again...and while none of the comments on here offended me personally, I do think some of them were a bit out of line...such as smokers don't care about their health or anybody elses.

Those kinds of comments are unfair and completely hypocritical. Nobody is perfect, and everybody does SOMETHING that isn't 100% healthy. For every self righteous finger pointer, there is somebody standing on a soapbox slightly higher than you judging you for not doing something THEY deem essential or healthy.

Is smoking healthy? No. Should she have had a cigarette? Nobody's business but her own. Whether or not she breastfed her baby later that night, that's her own issue as well. nobody's perfect.

12-14-2011, 05:53 AM
That night, the father expressed his concern, saying "You have to breastfeed in 95 min, why would you be having a cigarette now?" I do think, however, that the mother probably decided to use formula in the end. I don't know for sure, and I'm not going to ask. I'm not going to talk with her about it because it is none of my business - I just needed to vent my dilemma with others to get it out.

I am also an ex-smoker so I can totally sympathize with smokers. In fact, to even say that I will never smoke again in the future is too much. I take it day by day. I know how hard addictions are.

Many of us begin smoking when we are young. We don't really think it through. Then the addiction takes over, it is not something we want or will - it is simply there. Sometimes we can be stronger than it, sometimes not.

In my own studies at the uni, I have read a lot of interesting material on addictions - I believe even the strongest person with the best intentions can still succumb to addiction. It involves very complex physiological and mental processes that are not rational and go against how we really want to be.

I suppose that is why, in the end, I sort of ended up being the most angry at the two sisters. They know how much the mother LOVED to smoke. They didn't just have one cig around her, they were smoking constantly in the span of 2 hours. But they are addicted as well - I guess it is a vicious cycle.

In the end, if the mother is to truly quit smoking, I think she will have to change up her environment. That is not going to happen. I'm pretty sure, despite the fact that she has quit for over a 1 year (first quit when she was trying to get pregnant, and then didn't smoke at all during pregnancy), she will start smoking full-time again once the baby is finished breastfeeding.

That is obviously no prob for me - I couldn't care less if someone smokes; it was always the issue of harming another who has no voice, and disregarding what the other parent had to say.

12-14-2011, 07:15 AM
I'm not going to talk with her about it because it is none of my business - I just needed to vent my dilemma with others to get it out.

Of course you were! It sounds like a very uncomfortable, awkward situation all around and you are COMPLETELY entitled to have feelings about it! I was just objecting to some of the comments from some of the other posters that were a bit mean.

I completely understand, and I know exactly how you feel. I used to work in a daycare and sometimes is soooooo hard not to say anything when a situation is iffy or rubs you the wrong way or just flat out makes you concerned for the baby. A lot of times I'd just go home and cry for a while.

I feel bad for the mother too. Its so hard not to join in when everybody's doing something that you enjoy doing...especially as it sounds like they were pressuring her a bit.

I hope she can be strong for her baby and husband and keep away from the cigs. Its mom smoked until I was about 10 and I know how hard she struggled to quit. It breaks her heart that I'm a smoker!

I think smoking in particular is the biggest case of cognitive dissonance there is. You know its awful, you know its bad for you, but you do it anyway and end up justifying it in some way. I think smoking and overeating are really similar addictions in this way.