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Alcohol and Smoking After Pregnancy


mom holding baby to her chest



Drinking and smoking aren't just harmful when you're pregnant - they can affect your baby's health, too.

It’s best not to drink alcohol or smoke at all while breastfeeding. Alcohol can affect babies’ sleep or decrease the amount of milk they take at feeding time. Smoking can increase their risk for sudden infant death syndrome ( SIDS) or chronic diseases. Here’s some more information on why to avoid these risks.

Alcohol and your baby

The safest choice is not to drink alcohol while breastfeeding. Alcohol may decrease the amount of breast milk you produce. Alcohol can affect your baby’s motor development and sleep. It can also decrease the amount of breast milk your baby takes at feeding time. Despite popular myth, it has been shown that drinking beer does not increase your milk supply.

If you do choose to drink a small amount of alcohol, plan breastfeeding around it to prevent alcohol from reaching your baby. You could mean that you pump and store milk for your baby’s next feeding.

If you’ve had a drink, wait to breastfeed or pump again until the alcohol has passed out of your breast milk  (approximately 2 – 3 hours per drink). Drinking water, resting, or 'pumping and dumping" breast milk will not clear the alcohol from your breast milk any faster. Only timeallows the alcohol level in the breast milk to drop.

Help for Substance Abuse

  • Substances such as street drugs and alcohol pass through your breast milk and can affect your baby.
  • If you are taking street drugs or drinking alcohol in large amounts, do not breastfeed.
  • Talk with your health care provider, public health nurse, pharmacist or HealthLink BC at 8 1 1 about getting help.
  • The Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Line at 1 800 663 1441 is another resource for drug and alcohol programs.

Smoke and your baby

Cigarette smoking is not recommended if you’re breastfeeding. Nicotine and other harmful ingredients in cigarettes pass through your breast milk and can affect your baby. Smoking can also reduce the amount of milk you produce and can make your baby fussy and irritable. However, because breastfeeding is so good for your baby, it is better to breastfeed than not even if you do not stop smoking.

Smoking and second hand smoke exposes your baby to a higher risk of:

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Increased hospital admissions in the first year of life than infants of non smoking parents.
  • Ear infections and chronic illnesses, such as asthma and bronchitis.
  • A reduced milk supply in the mother.
  • Your child also becoming a smoker.

Its best to reduce your baby’s exposure to second-hand smoke by not smoking at home or in the car with your baby, and avoiding second-hand smoke in public places.

Help to Quit Smoking:

It’s never too late to stop smoking or using other substances – it will benefit both you and your baby.

    • See your health care provider.
    • Join a stop smoking program.
    • Contact Quit Now for free, confidential, no-pressure coaching to help you quit. Options include coaching by phone for you or a group, computer live chat, video conference or by phone/text. or toll-free at 1-877-455-2233. Call HealthLink BC at 8 1 1 for information on local stop smoking programs.
    • Access the BC Smoking Cessation Program which helps eligible B.C. residents by covering 100% of the cost of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products (specific nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, inhaler), or by contributing to the cost of specific smoking cessation prescription drugs. 
    • Ask for the support of your partner, friends, family and co workers.
    • Buy yourself something special with the money you save.
    • If you smoke to deal with stress, find healthy ways to relax.
    • Focus on the health of your baby as a motivator.


Last Updated: January 18, 2018