Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quiz: Your Baby's First Year!

Is smoking harmful when breastfeeding?

Tobacco smoking is always harmful, and all mothers should be encouraged to quit smoking prior to pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, smoking cigarettes is not considered to be a reason for not breastfeeding, since breastfeeding is the optimal nutrition for newborns. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement on breastfeeding, "tobacco smoking by mothers is not a contraindication to breastfeeding, but health-care professionals should advise all tobacco-using mothers to avoid smoking within the home and to make every effort to wean themselves from tobacco as rapidly as possible."

Nursing mothers should understand that nicotine is passed to the baby in breast milk, and they should never nurse their baby immediately after smoking or while smoking. Babies exposed to secondhand smoke also are at risk for a number of health issues, so if a woman smokes, she should nurse her baby after smoking, in a room away from cigarette smoke. Of course, the safest policy for both mother and baby is to abstain from tobacco use while breastfeeding and forever thereafter.

Do breast implants, surgeries, or reductions affect breastfeeding?

Strictly speaking, neither breast augmentation surgery nor breast reduction surgery are indications that a woman should not breastfeed. However, all types of breast surgery can interfere with milk production. In women who have received implants, the location of the implant and the type of incision used in the procedure will determine the extent, if any, to which the implant may affect breast milk production or nursing ability. In some cases, operations on a woman's breast may have involved incisions in the nipple area (such as surgeries for biopsies), and in these cases, the milk ducts may have been disrupted. Surgical disruption of milk ducts and scar tissue may also predispose women to plugged ducts, mastitis, or milk retention cysts during breastfeeding.

Concerns have been expressed in the past that the content of breast implants (particularly with silicone implants) could leak out and be absorbed into breast milk, but studies have failed to show that this is a risk. Ideally, a woman who is planning breast surgery should discuss in advance with her surgeon the risks that the procedure may pose to future breastfeeding.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/15/2015

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