Tobacco, Alcohol and Other Substance Use

What Is Secondhand Smoke?

There are two different kinds of secondhand smoke or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).

  1. Sidestream – the smoke that comes off the end of a lit cigarette
  2. Mainstream – the smoke that the smoker blows out after taking a puff

Both have harmful toxic chemicals, but sidestream smoke is worse because it is unfiltered. Learn more about secondhand smoke: Take this Secondhand Smoke Quiz.


What Is Third-hand Smoke?

After you smoke, toxins stay on your clothes and soft things around you (walls, furniture, car seats) for days and weeks. So even if you don’t smoke in front of your baby, these lingering toxins can affect your baby. Babies spend time on floors, with blankets, in car seats, putting toys in their mouths and cuddling with you. The thirdhand smoke toxins on these items can get into your baby’s lungs and cause health problems.

Yes, you know all the reasons why you should quit smoking. But what are YOUR reasons for quitting smoking? What keeps you smoking? Get a piece of paper and make a list. Really take some time to weigh both sides.


Your New Baby and Substance Use

The best environment for your new baby is one free not only of tobacco but of other substances as well.

What if you are not using substances, but your partner, family members, or other caretakers are? Everyone needs to be on the same page that protecting your baby is the number one priority. If someone has been using, play it safe and do not allow them to care for your baby. If you feel someone is a threat to your baby, talk to your provider or call 211 to connect with a resource in your area.

The effect that marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs have on your judgment is dangerous for baby. Too many babies have been injured or even killed because his or her caretakers were under the influence.  It is better to be safe than sorry.


Breastfeeding and Substance Use

If you are breastfeeding, you need to be even more cautious about your substance use. There is no safe amount of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs while you are breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics section on breastfeeding notes, “Breastfeeding mothers should avoid the use of alcoholic1 beverages, because alcohol is concentrated in breast milk and its use can inhibit milk production. An occasional celebratory single, small alcoholic drink is acceptable, but breastfeeding should be avoided for 2 hours after the drink.”2


 “Pump N Dump?”

Alcohol does not build up in breastmilk, so pumping and dumping is not going to get your milk alcohol levels down. Alcohol leaves the milk just as it leaves the blood. So if you are feeling the effects of alcohol, even just a little, so will your baby. Regular exposure to alcohol through breastmilk can affect your baby’s development.




1)  Pregnancy. 2012. Department of Health and Human Services  – Office of Women’s Health
2)  Breastfeeding and Alcohol Policy Statement. 2012. American Academy of Pediatrics.