PHILADELPHIA (September 4, 2007) - - A study from the Monell Chemical Senses Center reports that nicotine in the breast milk of lactating mothers who smoke cigarettes disrupts their infants' sleep patterns.
Infants spent less time sleeping overall and woke up from naps sooner when their mothers smoked prior to breastfeeding, says lead author Julie A. Mennella, PhD, a psychobiologist at Monell.
The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, raise new questions regarding whether nicotine exposure through breast milk affects infant development.
While many women quit or cut down on smoking while pregnant, they often relapse following the birth of the baby. Mennella comments, Because nicotine is not contraindicated during lactation, mothers may believe that smoking while breastfeeding will not harm their child as long as the child is not exposed to passive smoke. However, there has been very little research on either short- or long-term effects of nicotine delivered through breast milk.
Nicotine is a pharmacological stimulant that affects the developing brain and has been shown to cause long-term behavioral and learning deficits.
In the Monell study, researchers measured the feeding behavior and sleep patterns of 15 breastfed infants over a 3-1/2 hour observation period on two separate days. The infants were between two and seven months of age. All mothers were current smokers who abstained from smoking for at least 12 hours before each observation period.
Each mother smoked one to three cigarettes immediately prior to the observation period on one day and refrained from smoking on the other. On both occasions, mothers breastfed their infants on demand over the ensuing 3-1/2 hours. Following each feed, mothers laid infants down on their backs in a crib or on the floor.
An actigraph strapped to the infants ankle enabled researchers to measure activity and sleep time. Levels of nicotine and cotin
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Monell Chemical Senses Center