SIDS and Smoking: Know the Facts

You probably know by now that secondhand smoke can be just as harmful or even more harmful than smoking directly. But did you know it also increases your baby’s risk for SIDS?

Even if you stopped smoking during pregnancy, your baby is at a heightened risk if you or someone else in the household smokes after the baby is born. Knowing the facts about SIDS and smoking will help you lower your baby’s risk.

shutterstock_63799780According to the Centers for Disease Control, multiple studies over the last several decades have confirmed it time and time again: mothers who smoked during or after their pregnancy were more closely associated with babies who died of SIDS. The risk is still present when the mother doesn’t smoke, but someone else in the household does. If both parents are smokers, the risk increases further.

While doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes SIDS, there are multiple ways your baby is affected by secondhand smoke that may contribute to sudden infant death. The CDC reports that chemicals in secondhand smoke affect the brain in ways that may interfere with a baby’s ability to regulate breathing; this may play a role in SIDS deaths.

Infants who die of SIDS are found to have higher concentrations of nicotine in their lungs than babies who die of other causes. Nicotine has been associated with lower birth weights and hindered development, both of which may also contribute to SIDS. Finally, babies exposed to secondhand smoke have lower respiratory function than those not exposed to smoking.

According to the CDC, parents can help lower their baby’s risk for SIDS by not smoking during a pregnancy or after the baby is born. Smoking only outside the home is helpful, but does not completely remove secondhand smoke as a risk factor.

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The chemicals in cigarette smoke stick to your clothing and hair, and is passed onto your baby every time you’re close by. Furthermore, if you don’t smoke around the baby but are breastfeeding, you can pass harmful substances on to your baby that way.

Smokers and non-smokers alike should always put babies to sleep on their backs rather than on their stomachs or sides. For more facts and figures on SIDS and other safe sleep recommendations, visit

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