Monday, July 27, 2009

Thank You for Smoking (around the baby)

I volunteer at a local organization dedicated to health education for women. My specific role is to research specific health concerns as they come up in the year (August is Children's Eye Safety month - mark your calendars!). It's a fun gig because I get to learn little factoids that aren't entirely worthless. Did you know that "cataract" means "waterfall"? Did you know that Virginia is the only state to include legislation allowing breastfeeding on any state-owned property or land? The bad part about it is that I usually terrify myself into thinking that I have whatever condition I'm researching. However, I do feel pretty confident at this point that I have neither lupus nor teen pregnancy.

While researching breastfeeding, I found something slightly more disturbing than most of the conditions themselves. While advocates of breastfeeding say that it prevents many future health problems in children, it seems there is little or no conclusive evidence to support this statement. (Hannah Rosin's article in the Atlantic Monthly references 1970's studies that turned "breast-feeding advocates and formula makers into Crips and Bloods, and introduced the take-no-prisoners turf war between them that continues to this day.")

That being said, I did quadruple-take when I found this statement on the official, for-real website for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If you smoke tobacco, it is best for you and your baby if you try to quit as soon as possible. If you can't quit though, it is still better to breastfeed since your baby is at higher risk of having respiratory problems and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breastfeeding lowers the risk of both of these health problems in your baby. Be sure to smoke away from your baby and change clothes to keep your baby away from the chemicals from the smoke on your clothing.

Ah, parental responsibility. Who needs it? The excerpt goes on to say, "You should probably not allow your baby to smoke. However, if your baby wants a cigarette, please keep in mind that your baby's motor skills are not fully developed, and offer to light it for him or her. Lighting it yourself lowers the risk of accidental burn and house fires. Your baby can enjoy nicotine straight from the source, rather than diluted in your milk, and the risk of injury is drastically decreased."

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