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Third hand smoke. How big of a deal is it?
August 22, 2014 9:59 AM   Subscribe

We are expecting our first child in just over a month. My in-laws want to visit ASAP, but FIL is a heavy smoker. How concerned should I be?

My in-laws would like to visit ASAP after the baby is born. That's great, except that FIL is a heavy smoker. Like chain smoking, 2 packs a day heavy smoker. I'm really concerned about how this will affect the baby (SIDS, carcinogens, breathing problems in the future, etc, etc, etc), but I can't tell if I'm being crazy or not.

He already knows that he can't smoke inside our house. I want to go a few steps farther than that, especially since the baby will be so small when they visit. I would like him to arrive freshly showered in smoke free clothes if he wants contact with the baby. After he goes out for a smoke, he's done holding the baby for the day unless he changes his shirt and washes his hands and face. I would also like to drape his clothes with a blanket because everything that has been in their house REEKS of smoke. My husband alternates between thinking I'm nuts and supporting my position (although he doesn't think smoking one or two cigarettes and then holding the baby is a big deal).

This is a big deal because we don't see my husband's parents very often and this will be only the second time they've visited us in the almost 11 years my husband and I have been together. We visit them at least once yearly although this is sure to change because I will not have a tiny baby hanging out in their house (there are additional issues besides the smoke that are significant but not relevant to this ask). My husband is worried about offending them or giving them so many requirements that they don't bother to come at all. He thinks that my requests are too cumbersome for his dad. Neither of us think that his dad realizes how bad the smoking is - for him or the people around him - or that he's in deep denial about it.

Am I being crazy about the smoke? We're talking about limited contact for a few days to a week BUT when the baby is very small - 1 month old or less.

How can we approach this with my father-in-law in a compassionate way? I have to admit that I don't have much sympathy for his addiction. In all the time that I've known him he has not made one earnest attempt to quit - he refuses to try the patch, gum, an e-cig, or just cutting back because "that's not really quitting."
posted by tealcake to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hate the residual smell of stale cigarette smoke on clothing, hair, etc. Hate it. But you're being unreasonable. The mere smell of a smoker will not harm your child - at all. Like, zero effect. Absolutely nothing.
posted by The World Famous at 10:02 AM on August 22 [47 favorites]


I have to admit that I don't have much sympathy for his addiction.

No kidding.

I think it's reasonable to ask him to wash his hands after he comes in from smoking and before he holds the baby (as you will probably be asking of everybody for a while), but the rest of it comes across as pretty insulting to the grandfather of your child.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:04 AM on August 22 [21 favorites]


I definitely don't think you're being crazy about this, but I do think it's important to handle this diplomatically. The more you can make your rules about everyone's hygiene rather than FIL's smoking, the better. Here's what I would do:

- Absolutely enforce the hand-washing rule - not just for FIL, but for everyone. I would never hold a tiny baby without washing my hands first. By making this a universal rule, you make this more about general cleanliness and less about FIL's behavior.

- As for the clothing issue, what if you always handed off Baby with a little blankie, so that everyone holding him/her has a blanket between Baby and clothing?

I don't think you can ask him to change his shirt and wash his face before holding the baby without causing some strife, though. So I would weigh those ideas carefully against your desire for family harmony.

Oh, and FYI Scientific American seems to disagree with The World Famous' take on third-hand smoke. As does Mayo.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:07 AM on August 22 [5 favorites]


I would like him to arrive freshly showered in smoke free clothes if he wants contact with the baby. After he goes out for a smoke, he's done holding the baby for the day unless he changes his shirt and washes his hands and face. I would also like to drape his clothes with a blanket because everything that has been in their house REEKS of smoke. My husband alternates between thinking I'm nuts and supporting my position

You want what you want, but I think you're being unreasonable. If you don't want to host these folks at your house, that is absolutely something that you can request. If you want to host them, putting up a bunch of "You are basically not welcome" hurdles isn't hospitable. Could you have them stay in a smoking-okay hotel near you and then meet in some neutral not-your-house location for some baby time as a compromise. Basically the outline that you have is a mixture of stuff you think may medically matter (it doesn't) and personal preference stuff that has very little to do with the baby (draping him in a blanket is just basically saying "don't come over").

Your father-in-law smokes. You seem to think that you can control his behavior because smoking has bad health effects. I sympathize, I don't like spending a lot of time around smokers either. However, this is basically what addiction looks like. You do not seem to have made your peace with this and you may want to figure out how you're going to do that in the decades ahead because these people will still be in your family. Get some good health information from a doctor or other health professional and feel free to make medically-sound lifestyle decisions as a result of that. Otherwise try to find some middle ground where your child's grandparents can have some sort of relationship with your child without having to wear a scarlet S around. There has to be a middle ground.
posted by jessamyn at 10:08 AM on August 22 [12 favorites]


After he goes out for a smoke, he's done holding the baby for the day unless he changes his shirt and washes his hands and face

Washing hands and face after having a smoke and holding the baby is kinda weird, but it's not asking for the world. Changing his shirt on the other hand? I'm not really seeing what the point is; I mean it's smelly, sure, but that's about it.

I would also like to drape his clothes with a blanket because everything that has been in their house REEKS of smoke.

When is this? While he's wearing the clothes or when they're in the room he's staying in? Either way, again, weird, but asking him to keep his clothes packed away is one thing. Asking him to walk around in a blanket is the other, and the fact that I'm not sure which you're implying should tell you something about the nature of your other requests.

Your husband is totally right to worry about this meaning his parents won't be able to come over, because it seems like you're making some weird-but-okay requests, and some weirdly-and-unreasonable requests and don't see the difference between the two. At the end of the day, it's your and your husbands baby, your house, your rules. But an old man smoking two packs a day isn't going to just up and quit one day and if you want your kid to have contact with his grandfather, there will need to be compromises coming from you as well.

Fortunately for you, the nature of many of those compromises is just reading up on the nature of carcinogens in smoke and where and how they can effect people.
posted by griphus at 10:10 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


How can we approach this with my father-in-law in a compassionate way? I have to admit that I don't have much sympathy for his addiction. In all the time that I've known him he has not made one earnest attempt to quit - he refuses to try the patch, gum, an e-cig, or just cutting back because "that's not really quitting."

Please don't do this. He's an adult and can make his own decisions. Whether he quits smoking or not is quite frankly none of your business.

You can very reasonably request no smoking in your house. You can very reasonably request no smoking on your property (it does get sucked into the house through windows and vents). You can reasonably request he wash his hands. You can absolutely refuse to bring the child to their house if they smoke in it. But not allowing a grandfather to hold his grandchild because he smells like smoke is a bit much. If having someone who smoked hold me as a baby was hazardous in any way, I would almost certainly be dead or at least horribly diseased, as would most of my friends and family members.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:12 AM on August 22 [15 favorites]


This might not work depending on the weather, but can he put on a certain jacket that he only wears when he goes out to smoke? It would protect his underclothes.

I am sympathetic to your concerns but I do think you're being unreasonable. Especially since you don't see these people often. The benefit of having a good relationship with your FIL and his bonding with the baby far outweighs any potential damage that a short amount of exposure to third-hand smoke could do.
posted by radioamy at 10:13 AM on August 22


...but can he put on a certain jacket that he only wears when he goes out to smoke?

You can get your FIL a nice old-school smoking jacket as a gift and keep it at your place (or insist he bring it over and have a backup if he doesn't.)
posted by griphus at 10:15 AM on August 22


I just want to clarify that the in-laws will not be staying with us (we don't have the space). And I'm talking about draping his front with a clean blanket when he wants to hold the baby, not 24/7. And I fully recognize that I may be being a mite overprotective.
posted by tealcake at 10:16 AM on August 22


I've thought about how I'd handle this issue as well (MIL is heavy smoker) when the time comes. Honestly, I don't think that whatever level of contact for a few days to a week is going to irreparably harm your child. If you are in doubt, ask your doctor.

I think the crux of the issue is that you are upset that you're even being put in a position of determining whether your child being around his grandfather will be harmful to his health. You resent your FIL for the fact that you have to even ask this question. I'd try to unpack those feelings a bit more, and see what's there.

IMO, either he visits and is subject to the same rules as everyone else (hand washing, outdoor smoking only, etc), or you say they cannot visit at all.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:17 AM on August 22


FWIW our daughter's pediatrician's office is with you. They aren't crazy extremist anti-"toxin" pseudo-doctors, either. They're quite level-headed.

Our daughter has yet to be exposed to any of the heavy smokers in our family because of distance. My husband's mother, in particular, is a huge smoker - but hasn't met the baby yet, because she lives several states away. So we've never had to have the "please wash hands and use this blanket" conversation. But my husband is confident she won't have a problem with it. Probably because she's a nice person who cares about her grandkids more than she does about her Very Important Smoking. YMMV
posted by Coatlicue at 10:19 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


Anyone holding a newborn baby should be draped with a blanket, they have a tendency to leak from all ends! You can make that a "rule" for everybody without it being about his smoking.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:21 AM on August 22 [10 favorites]


It's not unreasonable to be concerned about this. The smell is not just an odor you find unpleasant. The smell is evidence of, and caused by, the same chemicals that are harmful to children. See "Thirdhand Tobacco Smoke: Emerging Evidence and Arguments for a Multidisciplinary Research Agenda" in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives:
Although much THS appears to be stored in dust and on surfaces in a polluted environment, THS is not constrained to the physical space in which tobacco was smoked. Recognizable as stale tobacco smoke, THS is trapped on the clothes of smokers and nonsmokers who were exposed to SHS. Most important, THS is detectable on the hands of smokers beyond the environment in which they smoked (Matt et al. 2004, 2011), and smokers may spread THS pollutants to other persons (e.g., their infants) and other objects (e.g., toys, food).
That said, most of the concern around third-hand smoke is about (1) being in an environment where smoking has occurred, rather than contacting smokers in a clean environment and (2) long-term frequent exposure, even at a low-level. Neither of those appear to be the case here.
posted by grouse at 10:23 AM on August 22 [7 favorites]


That Scientific American article doesn't really back the OP up. It's about smoke residue deposited over time, in that room.

So all you're talking about here is smoke on clothing, after at most one day's worth of smoking, for a weekend. "SIDS, carcinogens, breathing problems in the future, etc" is hardly at play here.
posted by spaltavian at 10:25 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]


I have read in health literature about using a blanket to drape over a heavy smoker while they hold a baby, so I don't think you're being crazy. I also believe that were it a regular thing I would not want my baby being held by a heavy smoker: those toxins are real and they are ground in to clothes. For a short one off visit though it might be more reasonable to ask them to simply be clean and not smell of smoke, and let them decide how far to take that once they're aware of your request.

Washing hands after smoking is, however, wholly reasonable and should be mandatory.
posted by Thing at 10:27 AM on August 22


+1 on "long-term frequent exposure" being key. A few cuddles over up to a week? The risks posed here from the "third-hand" smoke are absolutely de minimis.

Many of us posting here were cuddled by smoking grandfathers. Without hand-washing and (good heavens) blankets. I know, I know, people know more than they used to about cigarettes now, but do remember how this stuff went just a generation ago.

I think any risk posed to your kid would be the risk of a bad relationship with Grandpa. A loving, involved extended family is a terrific amount of good for a child. I would prioritize doing what I could to encourage that instead of worrying about trivia -- and at these levels, it is trivia.
posted by kmennie at 10:29 AM on August 22 [11 favorites]


As shocking as it seems in this more enlightened age, I grew up in a house where one parent (my father) smoked. Inside the house, all the time. He didn't hold lit cigarettes while he was holding me, but that was probably his only safety concession. I did have more earaches/sore throats/upper respiratory infections than babies/children living in smoke free homes, I'm sure. But I survived to adulthood despite constant exposure to smoke.

What I'm trying to say is that even if your FIL came to your house and smoked inside it during his visit, your baby would likely be okay. Hand washing and requesting that FIL smoke outside are reasonable expectations. Clothes-changing and "blanket barrier" requirements are less reasonable. It sounds like you have other interpersonal issues with your FIL that might be fueling your anxiety and irritation here. Tobacco addiction by itself is not exactly a moral failing, though.

Source: registered nurse, former smoker, child/grandchild of smokers.
posted by little mouth at 10:37 AM on August 22 [4 favorites]


I freaked out about this when my daughter was born. My MIL is a heavy smoker and I was really worried about the third-hand exposure (because she would not be smoking in our house, or in front of my daughter). I talked to my husband about it, and he pointed out to me in a fairly rational way that 1). His mother lives about a six hour drive away, so it's not like she would be a primary caregiver for our daughter; 2). Our daughter is likely to be exposed to things that are just or even more polluting that cigarette smoke leftover on clothes (like exhaust from a car); 3). It was perfectly reasonable to ask everyone who came to see the baby to wash their hands** and of course you always hand the baby over with a blanket because they could spit up or shoot poop out of their diaper at any time.

Looking at it that way made me feel better about it, and 5 years later, my daughter is as healthy and happy as a kid can be.

I have two kids now and sometimes I freak out about little things being unsafe for them (BPA? plastics? hormones in the milk??) but I really do try to focus on the things I CAN control. I can have them strapped into car seats correctly. I can make sure they wear helmets when they ride a bike or a scooter. But I cannot control everything.

You certainly can ask your FIL to do all those things, but I very much doubt he would be receptive to changing his shirt, for example. Also, I have found with my MIL that when she is visiting us she smokes less often than she does when she is home, because she has to go outside and she doesn't want my kids to know she is a smoker.

**My MIL was insulted we asked her to wash her hands, but whatever, you can't please everybody. No one else objected and washed their hands without complaint.
posted by sutel at 10:37 AM on August 22 [7 favorites]


I think your concerns are valid--as the links above show, third-hand smoke is a real thing, although we can argue about the definition and relative risks. As others have said, however, you can ask for some helpful measures to minimize exposure like washing hands and draping a blanket over his front with minimal risk of offending him. So much the better if these are requests you make of everyone, which is, like not crazy.
posted by mchorn at 10:37 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Asking him to smoke outside the house and for everyone to wash their hands and to put a clean blanket between their clothes and the baby when they hold her are both fairly reasonable requests. However:

After he goes out for a smoke, he's done holding the baby for the day unless he changes his shirt and washes his hands and face.

He's a chain smoker. If he has to wash his face/hands and change clothes between every cigarette and interacting with the baby, he is effectively not going to be able to interact with the baby very often or at all through the whole trip. You're effectively exiling him from his grandchild for being a smoker.

I think you have to weigh the benefits your child will reap from having a relationship with her grandparent against the risk of her have some limited exposure to some third-hand smoke. There's not an option where her grandparent is magically not a smoker, and he will be smoking and likely chain smoking during the visit (and always) as a physical necessity. I understand why that's not ideal, but that's the situation.

Also, how is your husband feeling about this? Because these are the people who raised him, and presumably he was exposed to second- and third-hand smoke quite a lot and has specific things he dislikes and specific things he thinks are no big deal when it comes to smoking based on that experiece. IMO he should probably be the one taking the lead on this because he's more knowledgeable/experienced in this area than you are and because these are his parents you're talking about "protecting" the baby from.
posted by rue72 at 10:42 AM on August 22 [10 favorites]


I think you've gotten a lot of good advice here; as for the blanket, you use a blanket, too, or your husband - when the baby gets handed to anyone else, not just FIL, the blanket goes too because "it smells like mom/dad and makes the baby more comfortable with new people". My kids are tw/teens but they still borrow my light jackets I wear (I rotate three or four) when they are going to new environments or meeting new people because it "makes me feel better" in their words ... I think they know it's mine so some of "me" goes with them, and my scent transfer is unconsciously supporting them.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 10:49 AM on August 22


And I fully recognize that I may be being a mite overprotective.

a mite?

Please consider this again:

Get some good health information from a doctor or other health professional and feel free to make medically-sound lifestyle decisions as a result of that. Otherwise try to find some middle ground where your child's grandparents can have some sort of relationship with your child without having to wear a scarlet S around. There has to be a middle ground.
posted by philip-random at 10:52 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


You should talk about this with your health care provider and listen to what they say. Internet strangers can't really do a whole lot for you.

If the problem really were one of overprotectiveness, then you would be talking about never letting your kid ride in a car, or ever being near a pool/beach. These things are many, many, many times more risky than exposure to clothes worn by a smoker. Instead, you're talking about theatrically exaggerated rituals for your FIL to go through. Clearly, there is some significant concern at play other than protection.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:58 AM on August 22 [13 favorites]


Both my step mother and sister smoke and when we had TinyJungle they washed hands and used a blanket and it really wasn't a big deal. They both recognize that smoking isn't appropriate around babies so they were very proactive about it and we didn't have to remind them. The real danger with THS is constant exposure so I'm sure grandpa holdings over a few days are going to be fine.

Having a baby is terrifying and as parents we try to mitigate every risk we can which I'm pretty sure is what you're trying to do here but just remember babies are wee tiny and adorable and amazingly resilient, it will be okay.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 11:10 AM on August 22


I would be worried if Grandpa were going to be a regular caregiver (i.e. Grandpa comes over to babysit 3 afternoons a week) or if you were staying in their home, but it's over the top to be so worried about such a brief visit. What happens if you take your baby outside the home, someone on the sidewalk happens to be smoking, and baby gets a whiff? Surely you're not going to become shut-ins. As some other folks have mentioned, driving your child in a car, ever, is way more dangerous than some brief contact with a smoker (which is not even smoking at the time). My understanding of the third-hand smoke danger -- which is real -- is that it's about long-term exposure, not a one-off situation.

I think basic rules that EVERYONE follows are fine, but please keep in mind that it's really important for kids to bond with their grandparents! Isn't a good relationship here the most important thing?
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:23 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


Well, I had these rules for my FIL when my daughter was born. And my FIL respected them - he showered and changed before holding her for almost a year. But my daughter was a micropreemie, on oxygen, with chronic lung disease of prematurity, and we had the full backing of a pediatric pulmonologist on our side. I think these steps for a healthy term newborn are a little unrealistic. You can certainly request (and enforce) handwashing before he holds the baby (frankly, that's a good rule for EVERYONE) and maybe even a blanket or robe over his chest if he's not going to change clothes after each smoke. But beyond that, I think your husband is right that this will actually get his parents to not interact with their grandchild as much. You and he need to be on the same page, though, and HE needs to be the one to give his parents the rules and enforce them.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:34 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


How can we approach this with my father-in-law in a compassionate way?

You do say "we" but I get the feeling that this might be more "I". This really should not be your job. It really should be your husband's job to set boundaries with his parents. If you try to do it, it will not come off the same way potentially and could lead to very hard feelings and a rift that your husband will be caught in the middle of. So, what this means IMO is that you and your husband must come to some kind of agreement/compromise about what reasonable requests are regarding smoke and the baby. And then he needs to communicate and enforce whatever the two of you decide. That is his job.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 11:45 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


To put it in context, my mom (and millions of others) smoked when she was pregnant with me and when I was a small baby and for the following 10 years or so, inside the house. My dad too.

Not to downplay the risks, and I would absolutely emphasize that he only smoke outside and always wash his hands before handling the baby, but there is no scientific basis for precautions beyond that for someone who is only staying with you for a short time.
posted by latkes at 11:52 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


My parents are super rabid anti-smokers who wouldn't even let my smoker grandfather light up in the backyard when he came to visit (he had to walk down the street so no smell would come in through the windows), but even they never made him change his clothes before interacting with us kids. I think that's a little nutty-- I mean, good God, how did anyone survive to adulthood in the days of indoor smoking? You don't have to like smoking but we still live in a world where some people smoke and you need to deal with it in a reasonable way.
posted by noxperpetua at 11:58 AM on August 22 [4 favorites]


Those first two links at the top from Scientific American and the Mayo Clinic are crap, particularly the theatrical mention of chemical weapons, but grouse's link to a full-text PubMed article is really amazingly well-written and informative. The focus, as he mentions, is more on concerns related to being in an environment where people have been smoking, but it makes a good case for why there needs to be a thorough investigation of THS.
posted by XMLicious at 12:23 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]


If you want to look up the health effects on children, look up the phrase "exposure to ETS" and some word like infant, children, et cetera. ETS is Environmental Tobacco Smoke - public health/research/science terminology for exposure to smoked tobacco other than direct smoking.
posted by entropone at 12:50 PM on August 22


Yeah, you're really being kind of crazy here.

Tobacco smoke isn't really worse for you than any other plant smoke.

It causes cancer because you inhale it into your lungs, and smoke (of any kind) is not a good thing to have in your lungs. It's also addictive, so people end up spending a significant amount of time each day, over a period of years, breathing smoke deep into their lungs.

So smoking is undoubtedly bad for you, but merely smelling tobacco smoke on someone's clothes isn't measurably more dangerous than smelling wood smoke on someone's clothes.

I mean, exactly what is the mechanism here that you imagine will bring harm to your child? It doesn't make any sense. Your baby will be fine, and you'll be doing yourself and everyone else a favor to relax about this.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:56 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


"You should talk about this with your health care provider and listen to what they say. Internet strangers can't really do a whole lot for you."

That may also help answer your original question: "How can we approach this with my father-in-law in a compassionate way?"

If you can say "our pediatrician recommended X, Y, and Z", then it's more likely to come across as "oh well, this is the way they do things these days" as opposed to "my daughter in law wants to keep me away from my grandkid".
posted by bfields at 1:36 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


I sympathize -- I can't handle the smell of cigarette smoke at all, and my dad smoked until I was 12. I agree with the others that basic hygiene is reasonable (or all guests) but changing clothes may not be. It isn't ideal, but it won't be the last suboptimal situation you'll deal with, and learning to rein in your overprotective instinct sometimes is a good skill to have (says the mom who let her kid have chocolate ice cream at breakfast).
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:55 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


I'm 51 years old...so I was brought up during the time where it was quite common for folks to smoke.

In our extended family, there were any number of smokers who passed me around, made over me, infused my life with joy as they shared their gifts (wish that musicality had taken!).

I dare say my life would have been a lot less colorful, joyful, and happy, had my parents chosen to delete these relatives from my life on the basis of their addiction.

Now, I realize that smoking is much less common now, but seriously - do you want to take such a hard line here that your child never gets to know Grandaddy?

Everyone wash their hands - here's the babe!
posted by PlantGoddess at 3:18 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]


If he's a lifelong smoker, he will reek of smoke. He could literally strip down naked in your backyard, have a shower from your garden hose, burn all his clothing, and wear freshly purchased, hermetically sealed clothes direct from the factory before entering your home, and he will still reek of smoke to you.

What will this do to your child? Nothing. Not a damned thing. My parents were both lifelong smokers, and they knew the rules when they visited my smoke-free house even before the kids were born. If they wanted to smoke, they went outside. Yes, they smelled. Yes, my infants smelled after they were held for a while. But as for SIDS, cancer, emphysema? Those are ridiculously overblown concerns.

Look, you're a new parent, and you're naturally overprotective. But if a mere hint of exposure to third-hand smoke is enough to kill infants, then humanity would never have survived being raised by chainsmoking parents for most of the 20th century. Ask him to smoke outside, and after he leaves wash any baby clothing he was in contact with, and relax.

You're vastly over-reacting. Smoke is a concern with long-term exposure, not meeting the in-laws for a week or two. A greater concern would be any respiratory illness, because that only requires a short-term exposure. Keep the sneezing people away from your infant, and don't worry about the smokers.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:52 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]


When my mom came to visit when my kid was tiny, she kept her cigarettes and an overshirt in the trunk of the car. She'd go out, put on the shirt, smoke, and put it all back in the trunk, and come in and wash her hands and she was good to go. It really doesn't have to be too complicated and it's not an insulting suggestion; you can make it as easy for him as possible, just like that.
posted by lemniskate at 7:33 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


As someone stated above, don't confuse the effect of smoke itself with the smell of cigarettes when trying to keep your baby free from cigarette smoke - the smell itself is not a threat to your little one's health.

I agree that you're going way overboard with your father-in-law and hope you drop your requirements a bit - I think a little blanket between the baby and Gramps is fine and I agree that he should smoke outdoors only.

But here's the thing: Do you use air fresheners in your house? Febreze? Do you live near any sort of garage or gas station? Do you live near a busy highway or next to a stoplight where automobiles sit at idle waiting for lights to change? Do you use hairspray? Plastic bottles? Or if you nurse, are you prepared to be diligent with everything you eat and every medicine you take, to be certain of what is carried in your breast milk and what isn't? Do you have a cat or a dog or birds? Do you use cookware with nonstick coating? There are a lot of toxins and toxic chemicals surrounding your living space and your baby's going to be exposed to them sooner or later, at your home or someone else's.

Newborn babies are born with a good jolt of Mom's antibodies to all sorts of allergens and other evil things - all the things you've been exposed to throughout your life and subsequently formed antibodies against - you share all that with your baby. The idea is that those antibodies protect the little one for awhile - until he or she begins to form his own antibodies, which he can only do if he's exposed to things in the first place. These antibodies are to allergens, of course, not toxic substances as I listed above, but the idea still holds. Your baby will be born with a certain tolerance for exposure to second-hand smoke because you passed that on. That does NOT mean the baby should be around someone who's actively smoking at all - but if that happens someday, don't panic.

Lucky baby to have parents who are so concerned for his health - but be kinder to Gramps if you possibly can and don't demand such a high level of restriction just so he can hold his precious grandbaby. His love will overrule any damage from the smoke smell.

And congratulations to you all.
posted by aryma at 11:43 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


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