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Smoking and Breastfeeding

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Old 12-10-2011, 02:32 AM   #1
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Default Smoking and Breastfeeding

Before I tell you this story, I just want to make clear that I do believe a woman has the right to do what she wants with her body.

Since I believe this, my experience from last night was a bit baffling.

We went to a wine party at a friends house to kick-off holiday celebration. One mother and father were there with their tiny 4-month old baby. I've known the couple for awhile - they are a bit older (36) and they had tons of trouble trying to conceive. In fact, spent thousands on invitro-fertilization.

The father is definitely just as much a part of the baby's life as the mother.

The mother's parents smoke and she had also smoked the past twenty years of her life, but had given up smoking because her doctor told her it would increase her chances of getting pregnant if she stopped.

Last night, the mother's sister and sister-in-law were both there, smoking like chimneys (we were all outside on a large balcony). The mother caved when offered cigarettes from them, despite the fact that she is still actively breastfeeding.

The father, a former smoker who quit many years ago and hasn't touched them since, was quite angry at the mother. But she kept smoking! He then became angry at his own sister for offering his wife the cigarettes. That didn't help because the mother's sister was also offering her cigarettes.

He sort of just had to stand by. I mean, he can't physically make his wife not smoke.

It did hurt me actually - he cares about his baby and doesn't want the baby to ingest the chemicals from cigarettes (understandably!). I know a cigarette or two isn't deadly, but really, we don't know all of the consequences early exposure to carcinogenic chemicals can have on babies.

I felt the tables were turned last night and the man's rights were infringed upon. It made me uncomfortable. It also made me uncomfortable that the others simply couldn't leave their cigs at home for the night to help their sister avoid temptation.

I am a former smoker, I realize how hard it is to quit. I can, to a certain extent, sympathize with smokers. On the other hand, I couldn't identify last night with any of the smokers and felt they were using their addiction to cigarettes as an excuse to act irresponsibly.

So, this baffled me. I really want to believe that a woman has 100% control over her body to do as she pleases - but the situation has changed a bit. The baby is now its own person and responsibility for it is actively split between father and mother (who are both good parents with active roles). Because the baby obvisouly cannot speak up for itself, the father had to. The mother rejected the father's opinion. Of course the father is not violent and would not physically remove the cig from the mother's hand. He was powerless.

What do you guys think about the situation? It has been troubling me all morning!
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Old 12-10-2011, 06:52 AM   #2
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I think it's just horrible.

Since the mother is breastfeeding, she shouldn't be doing anything that can endanger the baby's health. Also, her family should have been refraining from smoking, themselves, so as not to knock her off the wagon (and endanger the baby with second-hand smoke). They most definitely shouldn't have offered her a cigarette!
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:15 AM   #3
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Some interesting information from Kellymom
http://kellymom.com/health/lifestyle/smoking.html
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:37 AM   #4
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I can understand your dilemma. I also was very strongly pro-choice... until I had babies of my own. Now, while I'd still slightly lean towards pro-choice... I'm not so sure anymore. When you see that tiny life moving and breathing inside, you get a sense of it's separateness, but also its fragility and dependence. It makes the question of choice and responsiblity so much more difficult.

I would also be very uncomfortable with that situation. It is so profoundly selfish on so many levels - the sister and mother (who are clearly only thinking of themselves, wanting their old smoking partner back to justify their own habit...), and the mother, who HAS to know that those carcinogenic chemicals pass through her breastmilk to her baby. Not to mention that once a former smoker restarts, it makes it that much more difficult to say no next time. It's really sad for the poor baby, who had no one speaking for him except his dad - who was powerless.

But what;s the alternative? SHOULD the dad have the power to stop the mom from doing it? No. There's no situation I could imagine where that would be okay. So despite how ugly and sad it is, it's ultimately the mother's right to do what she wants... and the baby who will pay (or profit) in the end, depending on her choice. But I guess that's the same the world over, in many situations... the children pay when the adults in their lives steal, commit crimes, do drugs, have unmedicated mental health issues, don't have enough money to feed, clothe or house them...

Tough to watch though.
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:51 AM   #5
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This is very upsetting. What a bunch of selfish people. What are they thinking of. I have a friend who never ever smoked. Her husband was a smoker. Guess which one got lung cancer ? That's right, my friend who never smoked a day in her life but lived with a smoker.If I were the husband, in this case I would have picked up the baby and gone home. he needs to have a long serious talk with his wife and she needs to have a long, serious talk with her family.
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Old 12-10-2011, 07:55 AM   #6
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Sorry I'm confused, was the baby being held in the cigarette smoke? Or is it the fact that she is breastfeeding (with baby not being present at this time)?
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Old 12-11-2011, 09:06 AM   #7
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What do you guys think about the situation? It has been troubling me all morning!
I think that smokers, in general, certainly don't care about their own health, so why would they care about anyone else's?

That said, I believe what a person does with their own body is their own business. And being a non-smoker myself, I appreciate that some smokers are polite enough not to force their nasty habit on me. However, that's not true of everyone. And anyone who smokes around a baby, children, elderly or handicapped people (those who cannot remove themselves from the smoking environment) are just being inconsiderate & rude.
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Old 12-11-2011, 10:14 AM   #8
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Thank you for the replies, they did make me sort through the situation mentally. kirsteng, I definitely agree with your viewpoint. I suppose I just witnessed, up close, how a child unjustly pays for the act of its parent.

Btw, the baby was not around the smoke.

The troubling situation was that the mother was going to breastfeed in less than an hour after smoking some cigs, meaning the hundreds of chemicals that are in cigarettes would then be in the breastmilk. I could imagine that has the capability to turn on the gene for addiction, for example.

bargoo: that is so terrible about the second hand smoke (possibly) leading to cancer in one who never smoked. Oh man! That is seriously scary.

Beach Patrol: I agree, the mother was inconsiderate, to say the least.
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Old 12-11-2011, 10:49 AM   #9
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Though it is true the husband cannot physically stop the wife from smoking, he can discuss it with her, and if he wants to do that, at a party in front of friends and acquaintances is not the place to do it. So just because he didn't make a huge scene about it right there, doesn't necessarily mean he won't be able to state his case and influence her choices in a more private, appropriate setting.

Unna, I do understand your discomfort with the situation. It's very awkward when someone is doing something that you think is destructive, or don't approve of, and you don't have any leverage to express your concern about it.
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Old 12-11-2011, 12:15 PM   #10
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Smoking is horribly addicting. It's a shame the mom smoked in this situation, but look at it like food.

You're working your plan, doing great, you go to a social situation, someone puts out chocolate truffles, everyone's eating the truffles, you have one.

Something about social situations makes it harder for me, a dieter, to stay on plan. Of course, eating a chocolate truffle only affects my waistline, not really the health of my new baby. But the addiction, the temptation, how hard it is to say no - yeah, I can see it happening.

Hopefully the new mom got right back on her non smoking plan the very next day, the same way I would if I ate something at a party that wasn't on my plan.

If the situation still makes you mad, direct your ire to the tobacco companies. They know their products are both addictive and deadly and they are committed to addicting new people each year. It's disgusting and morally repugnant.
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Old 12-11-2011, 02:22 PM   #11
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I am horrified that there were family members there offering her cigs. They are the ones I'd like to slap upside the head. lol I think it's really sad and wrong that the mom was smoking, but I have been horribly addicted to cigarettes myself (I quit when I was 27 bc I *knew* I would not have any children unless I was seriously over cigarettes) and I can imagine how difficult it must have been for her. I was very happy and comfortable as a new mom when my babies were that age and not at all stressed out by it (for some reason my 8 year old stresses me out! lol), but I think the vast majority of new moms find that time period to be very stressful and difficult. I am sure she was feeling tortured by those cigarettes and by the fact that she gave in.

But, while I feel a lot of sympathy for her, I'm not so sure I think it should be 100% up to the woman what she does. If my husband was exposing my babies to stuff that scared me, I wouldn't say that was his prerogative and I couldn't do anything about it. Also, if taken to its logical conclusion it's obvious that mom can't do whatever she wants. If she was pregnant and smoking crack or something, we'd have no problem saying that is not okay and hubby should have just plain stopped her from doing it. Now, whether cigarettes are over the line, I don't know. I would feel uncomfortable about it, though, mostly because you know it is not a one time thing. Having quit myself, I know you cannot have just one. So, it makes me think she's going to be sneaking cigarettes away from her child whenever she can, and maybe smoking around him. And it's just not going to be good for any of them.

ETA: I think the dad should have told her they needed to leave immediately. Period. Just get her away from the temptation. And if she wouldn't go, possibly leave and take the baby with him. I would really, really hate it if my husband got that way with me over something. But I do think he has every right to protect his baby from her smoking, even if that means buying some formula. I nursed my first until he was 3 1/2 years old and I'm currently nursing my nearly 3 year old. Nursing to me is a near religious experience. It's so wonderful for babies, of course in terms of nutrition, but even moreso in terms of having that nursing relationship. It would horrify me to see someone other than the mother step in and disrupt that, but then how would I feel if my dh was feeding my kids known carcinogens.... Hmmmm.
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Old 12-11-2011, 06:22 PM   #12
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Eesh. How awkward for everyone involved. I think, honestly, one or two cigarettes is not going to be a big deal, like OP pointed out. When I was pregnant, I smoked two cigarettes during my entire pregnancy and all I can remember is how guilty I felt for doing it. I was very, very young and very, very dumb. I wonder if the nursing mom in this story felt the same way later.

It does bring up a lot of questions about what Dad's rights are. If I were him, though, I would have not made it a big deal(especially in front of others) unless she was starting to smoke with some frequency.

I took a class this semester with a girl (well, woman, she's probably 35)who is pregnant and every day she brought into class a huge coffee and a huge diet soda. She kept telling me about how much caffeine she was having to consume to keep herself alert enough to study because the pregnancy made her so tired (which I can identify with, but I found myself struggling not to be judgmental about the massive amounts of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and junk she's consuming while pregnant. Then, the other day, I saw her hanging around outside the school with some classmates and she was the only one smoking. I do understand, like I said, I used to smoke myself, but it just seemed kind of...tacky. No offense to anyone on here who may have smoked while they were pregnant. I am definitely pro-choice and support the right of women to do what they want with their bodies, but I guess it was an eye-opener to me that I am still pretty judgmental of others.
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:03 PM   #13
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I found myself struggling not to be judgmental about the massive amounts of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and junk she's consuming while pregnant.
Ah well you would have judged me too. I certainly enjoyed my coffee and diet soda when pregnant, there are certain amounts that are deemed 'safe', whether or not people choose to believe it.

Unfortunately, when pregnant/with newborn/as a mother, everyone will find SOMETHING wrong with you, what you do, call you a bad mother, etc. It doesn't matter if you do one thing perfect, you will always do something wrong in the eyes of others. This woman (in the OP) is no exception.

As a mother who has been judged over and over by others (as a long-term babywearer who does not leave her baby to cry to sleep etc - attachment parenting), I simply stopped caring what other mothers do. I know how it feels, and it hurts, even when I know I'm not doing anything wrong. Is it uncaring? Maybe - but the backlash of constant judgment from others made me realize that I'd rather say nothing than hurt the feelings of another mother. Right? Wrong? I don't care, it's the cruel comments of others that made me indifferent...
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Old 12-11-2011, 08:53 PM   #14
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Unfortunately, when pregnant/with newborn/as a mother, everyone will find SOMETHING wrong with you, what you do, call you a bad mother, etc. It doesn't matter if you do one thing perfect, you will always do something wrong in the eyes of others. This woman (in the OP) is no exception.
This is kind of what I've been thinking as I read this thread. I'm not a mother (yet), but the blind-ish judgment heaped upon the woman the OP spoke about makes me a bit uncomfortable. Who here hasn't been judged by someone for doing something others think is wrong, unhealthy, "horrible", "selfish", etc.?

I'm presently going through IVF to have a child, and recently quit smoking myself for that reason. Not because it would give me a better chance of getting pregnant, but because I wouldn't expose a fetus/baby to the chemicals in cigarettes. Still, I had a hard time kicking the habit, and while I cut down tremendously I didn't stop smoking completely until just before my embryo transfer. I'm sure there are plenty here who would/will judge me for that. But then again, I'm sure there are also people who would judge me (including friends of mine!) for not switching to a completely organic, whole foods diet while trying to get pregnant or while potentially harboring a pregnancy, as whatever chemicals I'm ingesting in my food are also being passed on to my embryo if it implanted. And I had some artificial sweetener today too - Splenda to be specific - and I'm sure there are plenty here who would be horrified by that too. ESPECIALLY since I've paid out more than most spend on a new car to go through this IVF process - shouldn't I do everything absolutely perfectly, to give myself the absolute best chance of having the healthiest pregnancy/baby possible???

We are all human, there is no perfect, and no matter what you do someone will find something wrong with it. Do I think the breastfeeding woman should be smoking? No, obviously not since I've quit for the same reasons myself. But, it's her body, and no one here has any idea what she has been through. Infertility and IVF are very rough roads to travel, and no one knows what she gave up, what she did without, what she had to do to herself and for how long to have that baby. My guess is that the adjustments and sacrifices she made in her life to be able to have that child are probably far greater than the average person in the have-sex-and-pee-on-a-stick crowd.

So fine, she shouldn't have had a cigarette. But it's not the end of the world, and IMO she's not a bad mother, bad wife or bad person because she did.
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Old 12-11-2011, 10:34 PM   #15
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I think that smokers, in general, certainly don't care about their own health, so why would they care about anyone else's?
Sorry, I missed this the first time around. How would you react if someone said "I think that obese people, in general, certainly don't care about their own health, so why would they care about anyone else's?" Would the two halves of that statements follow logically for you?

Are there people who have posted in this thread that think that a mother who isn't a healthy weight or who has unhealthy eating habits is "selfish" and "horrible" in the sense that she's passing poor eating habits on to her child and potentially doing a great deal of damage to her child that way?

For that matter, what about women who bear children while they're obese? It's well known that being obese increases the chances for a wide variety of complications during pregnancy, including an increased chance of miscarriage, neural tube defects, gestational diabetes, premature birth, etc.; and many physicians now classify the dangers of obesity during pregnancy in the same light as alcohol and smoking (see http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20060...s-in-pregnancy). Would you call a woman who purposely became pregnant while overweight/obese "selfish" and "horrible"?

I'm not trying to defend or excuse smoking while breast feeding; I said in my previous post that I don't agree with it. What I am trying to get across is that there are many of us here (myself certainly included) who haven't always been the epitome of health, and so maybe we should be careful of throwing too many stones.
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Last edited by chickadee32 : 12-12-2011 at 01:11 AM. Reason: To clarify
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