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The Effects of Smoking on Babies

By Tracey Bleakley ; Updated April 18, 2017

Most parents will tell you they want to avoid exposing their baby to anything that might be harmful to them. Many, though, don't stop to think how much harm they are exposing their baby to by smoking. Secondhand smoke in the house puts their baby at risk in many ways.

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Infants exposed to secondhand smoke at home have an increased chance of developing asthma. Asthma is a chronic disease affecting your airways. Babies who grow up around smokers become very sensitive to certain triggers, such as allergies or exercise. When they react to these triggers their airways narrow, causing wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. Smoke can also trigger asthma attacks in people who have asthma.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant under 1 year of age. There are many risk factors for SIDS, including sleeping on the stomach, overheating and poor prenatal care. Another risk factor is smoking. Infants born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy and those who live in houses where one or both parents smoke have an increased risk of dying of SIDS.


An increased chance of being hospitalized due to pneumonia during their first year of life is another effect smoking has on infants. Smoking is also linked to other lower-respiratory infections that require infants to be hospitalized.


All of these effects are seen in households where either parent smokes. The risks are even greater when infants are breastfed by mothers who are heavy smokers--those who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day. Maternal smoking has also been linked to earlier weaning and less milk production in breastfeeding mothers. All secondhand smoke is harmful to infants, but it is less so when it occurs outside an infant's home and by those who are not the primary caregivers.


If you are parents of an infant, make every effort to stop smoking. If you cannot quit, try to smoke outside or in a separate room from the baby. Avoid exposing your baby to secondhand smoke whenever possible. Ask family and friends to avoid smoking when your infant is present.

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About the Author

Tracey Bleakley has been writing for the last year. She has had numerous education articles published on both eHow.com and Brighthub.com. She has 10 years experience as an elementary school teacher. Bleakley received her Bachelor of Science in education with a specialization in reading from the University of Texas at Austin.

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