What is cigarette smoke doing to your baby?

Research shows that babies who are exposed to tobacco smoke before and after birth are at an increased risk of sudden and unexpected death, including SIDS. Cigarette smoke, including second hand smoke, also increases the risk of stillbirth.

But what exactly is this smoke doing to your baby? Red Nose Chief Midwife Jane Wiggill explains.


“Tragically, we too often see that smoking while pregnant increases the risk of stillbirth and neonatal mortality, which is death within 28 days of birth,” Jane cautions.

“Mothers who smoke while pregnant, or who are around people who smoke, are also more likely to have premature babies, or babies of low birth weight.”

And research has also found that babies who are exposed to smoke before and after birth do not arouse as easily as babies who were not exposed to smoke.

“It is really important that babies can easily be aroused from sleep. This works best when babies are placed to sleep on their backs in a smoke-free environment,” Jane explains.

What about passive smoke after baby is born?

“Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to the poisons in second-hand smoke because their bodies are still developing,” Jane says.

“Passive smoking can also lead to respiratory infections and conditions such as croup, bronchitis and pneumonia; ear infections; childhood asthma.

So how can you reduce your baby’s exposure to second-hand smoke?

Put simply, don’t let anyone smoke near your baby – and make sure no one smokes in places where your baby spends time, including
the house and car.

Also encourage members of your household, especially your partner, to quit smoking.

“We understand it can be hard to quit smoking, so make sure you ask for help,” Jane says.

“Speak to your GP, nurse or midwife, or contact Quitline for the right support.

If you do find yourself around someone who smokes, make sure they don’t touch your baby until after they have a shower and change their clothes.

“Smoke toxins stay on the skin and clothing, and are easily transferred to your baby, even if the person hasn’t smoked near your baby.”

Remember, it is often hard to quit smoking so ask for help. Call the Quitline on 137 848 or ask your doctor, midwife or child health nurse for information and advice about quitting.