Smoking and SIDS
Carbon monoxide, which is released whenever a cigarette is smoked, is considered to be the biggest factor in SIDS (cases of cot death). Smokers are breathing out poisonous carbon monoxide between 12 – 24 hours after smoking. As a result, babies of smoking parents are breathing in this gas when they are in close proximity to their parents.
Research by French scientists, led by Dr Claude Gaultier suggests that smoking during pregnancy is directly linked to SIDS/cot death. They have discovered that the nicotine in tobacco damages the receptors in the brain that keep sleeping babies breathing. They found that these receptors are in the same brain area where nicotine lodges. The result is that when a pregnant woman smokes, the nicotine passes into the unborn child’s brain and dulls the effectiveness of the receptors. Once born, if these receptors don’t work fully, they can fail to re-start breathing, causing the baby to die from a lack of oxygen. Dr Gaultier concluded from his research that nicotine from smoking can cause this natural reflex to be disrupted leading to tragic consequences.
How smoking can damage a baby’s heart
Parents who smoke during pregnancy and after the birth are putting their baby at risk of SIDS/cot death because they may have damaged their baby’s heart.
Allessandro Muglelli, of the University of Florence pharmacology department, said research had already shown that babies who died from SIDS had higher nicotine levels in their lungs than other children, regardless of what their parents said about smoking. “There is under-reporting of smoking by parents. Women say they have stopped during pregnancy but this is not always true,” he said.
Sarah Kenyon, of the Foundation for Sudden Infant Deaths, said research showed overwhelmingly that smoking by parents during and after pregnancy put babies at risk. “The risk of cot death goes up according to the number of cigarettes smoked in pregnancy,” she said. One study estimated that if smoking in pregnancy were eliminated, incidence of SIDS would fall by a third or more.