Does vaping affect breastfeeding?

Do e-cigarettes containing nicotine affect your breastmilk? Is it safe to vape while you’re breastfeeding? Here’s what you need to know…

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In a nutshell

Yep, vaping e-cigarettes will have an effect on your breastmilk.

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Whether it could have long-term negative health effects on your baby, no one really knows yet – but we do know that nicotine from breastmilk has been shown to affect babies’ sleeping patterns, among other things.

How does vaping affect breastfeeding?

As far as we can tell, while, as we’ve said, nicotine does get into your milk and can affect your baby, vaping doesn’t have any impact on your ability to actually breastfeed. 

One 2007 study showed that babies whose mothers smoked tobacco cigarettes (away from them) and then breastfed slept significantly less in the hours afterwards – compared to being breastfed without their mothers smoking. 

This study was done using regular cigarettes, but looks at the effects of nicotine – a key component of most vape pens and e-cigs.

Even though e-cigs tend to have much lower nicotine doses than typical cigs, that’s not the only potential issue. 

Regulated e-cigs also contain ingredients like glycerol, propylene gylcol and ‘flavourings’. 

A 2018 paper in Frontiers of Physiology says that, while these ingredients often considered safe for oral consumption, they’ve not been checked for inhalation purposes.

They found that the chemicals making up those flavourings (including cinnamon and vanilla) were shown to be toxic to our white blood cells when inhaled.

Doesn’t sound ideal, does it? Still, we really can’t say for sure whether or not the flavourings themselves specifically have any impact on breastmilk.

Is there much research on vaping and breastfeeding?

Disappointingly, there isn’t much research on the topic of vaping and breastfeeding. So far, we’ve found no in-depth research specifically about the effect of vaping on breastmilk.

We’d also say not enough research has been done on the long-term effects of vaping in general (as would all of the researchers we’ve mentioned), so it’s a tricky one to pin down.

We reached out to the NCT on the subject, and they said they “hadn’t really looked at” vaping, suggesting other networks and organisations to reach out to (which we’ve done).

We’ve also contacted the Institute of Health Visitors to find out what they’d say to new mums who are worried about the impact of vaping on their breastmilk, and we’ll let you know if we hear back.

What the experts say

It almost goes without saying that the best thing to do for both you and your baby is to try and quit nicotine, and give up vaping altogether.

(The NHS website has lots of resources you can use to help you quit. There’s also a Smokefree National Helpline on 0300 123 1044.)

That said, many sources do suggest that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risk of nicotine exposure through the milk – though the same 2007 study we referenced earlier makes it pretty clear that a LOT more research still needs doing.

If you still don’t feel like you can quit vaping, make sure you vape right after breastfeeding.

Leave a big gap between your last vape and when you lactate, to ensure there’s the least possible amount of nicotine in your milk.

It’s also wise to make sure you vape outdoors, and away from your baby.

Images: Getty Images

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