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The Effects of Smoking on Babies

We all know smoking isn’t good for you; it turns out it’s just as harmful, if not more so, for a developing baby. Low birth weight, a greater risk of SIDS and an increased risk of childhood asthma are just a few of the health problems faced by babies who are exposed to nicotine in the womb. Give your baby a better chance at a healthy, happy infancy by cutting out cigarettes and staying away from second hand smoke.

Low Birth Weight

Smoking during pregnancy essentially creates a smoke-filled environment for the growing baby, making it difficult for the baby to grow and put on weight. A March of Dimes report states that smoking almost doubles the chances of a woman giving birth to a low birth weight baby. Low birth weight can affect a baby’s development and growth, and since smoking during pregnancy also increases the chances of having preterm labor, babies born to mothers who smoke are more likely to be premature with serious health problems which often result in chronic health conditions.

Birth Defects

Smoking while pregnant has been linked to several types of birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among the defects linked to smoking: cleft lip, cleft palate, clubfoot, gastroschisis and heart defects.


A report by Sleep Review Magazine states that babies exposed to nicotine in the womb have an increased risk of succumbing to SIDS. Babies have an instinctive response to oxygen deprivation, normally; if a baby is lying face down, it will sense the lack of oxygen and turn its head. However, prenatal nicotine exposure appears to impair this response, making the baby vulnerable. Exposure to second hand smoke after birth also increases the risk of SIDS.

Respiratory Diseases

A study from the Channing Laboratory of Brigham and Women’s Hospital concludes that prenatal maternal smoking resulted in reduced lung functioning in otherwise healthy infants; the doctors who performed the study speculate that this impaired lung development may predispose those babies to having respiratory and wheezing diseases later in life. A study by Dr. Frank Gilliland found that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy had a chance 1.5 times higher of developing asthma, as compared to children whose mothers never smoked while pregnant.


Brief lapses in breathing while asleep, or sleep apnea, is much more common in premature babies and in babies with underdeveloped lung capacity, both of which are more common in babies born to mothers who smoke while pregnant. Exposure to second-hand smoke even after birth may also increase a baby’s risk of developing sleep apnea.

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