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Matern Child Health J. 2007 May;11(3):287-91. Epub 2007 Jan 17.

Maternal smoking and infant feeding: breastfeeding is better and safer.

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Department of Nutrition, Universidade de Brasília, and Division of Post-Graduate Studies, ESCS (School of Medicine) FEPECS-SES, C.P. 04322, 70919-970, Brasilia DF, Brazil.


The rise in smoking rates among young women has implications for children's health aggravated in lower social strata where infant morbidity and mortality rates are higher. The protection afforded by breastfeeding is beneficial to infants in rich and poor countries alike. Women (especially when young, uneducated, and unsupported) who are smokers constitute a risk group for abandoning breastfeeding; moreover, their bottle-fed newborns run a greater risk of morbidity and mortality. Bottle-feeding is attendant on maternal cigarette smoking. The advantages of breastfeeding over bottle-feeding are discussed with regard to systemic effects and the specific effects of cyanide (which can affect the iodine metabolism of infants) and nicotine derived from food and maternal smoking. Despite great strides in bans on smoking, public health policies should be designed to keep in perspective that breastfeeding is an effective tool to counterbalance the health disadvantages that under-privileged infants of smoking mothers face. This paper argues that infants born to smoking parents are better protected by breastfeeding than by formula feeding. Therefore, if public health policies cannot stop addicted mothers from smoking during pregnancy it is fundamental not to miss the chance of encouraging and supporting breastfeeding. The food and health inequalities of socially disadvantaged groups demand well crafted public-health policies to reduce the incidence of diseases and compress morbidity: these policies need to make it clear that breastfeeding is better and safer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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