Dear Annie: I love reading your column so much that I have decided to ask your opinion on a sensitive issue. I recently found out that I am expecting, which is exciting news. However, we have run into a situation with my mother-in-law, as she is a smoker. My husband has mentioned to her several times about quitting smoking and has gone as far as telling her she will not baby-sit this child if she continues to smoke. I do agree that I do not want my child around secondhand smoke, as it is dangerous to a baby’s health, not to mention stinky. At this time, my mother-in-law has made no effort to quit the habit. My question is: Where do you draw the line? I don’t want my child or mother-in-law to miss out on any time or memories together. — Fume-Free
Dear Fume-Free: The good news is that the pressure isn’t on you here; it’s on your mother-in-law. Her grandbaby or a cigarette, she has to decide which one she’d like to hold more often.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke causes “numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome.” Studies have shown that secondhand smoke can linger in a house for hours, and there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest that even tobacco residue on a smoker’s hair and clothes can be harmful to children who are in close contact. Have your husband set some ground rules with his mother that take these factors into account. For example, no holding the baby for two hours after smoking. (This would most likely mean she couldn’t baby-sit.)
He should also let her know that each cigarette takes about 11 minutes off her life which could add up to hours, weeks and months she’d never see of her granddaughter’s life. Perhaps the birth of your baby will be just the impetus she needs to kick this nasty habit once and for all.
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