All parents love their children. Everything that parents consciously do as they raise a child is based upon this: from eating well when pregnant, to picking out a toy they know their child will love, to watching out for the safety of the young child, to providing good food.
When a woman is pregnant, her blood stream carries nutrients to her unborn child which pass through the placenta into the blood stream of her baby. The placenta does not discriminate. The poisons in the mother’s body from smoking, alcohol, and other drugs also pass through the placenta to her baby. The observable effects of these poisons are reduced brain size and reduced body weight in the newborn. What does this mean? It means this mother's newborn begins life with less brainpower and a body that will not be as strong as if the mother did not smoke or drink.
In the next few columns we will look at two hypothetical children, one who lives with a family that smokes and one who does not. If we could see the divergent paths of these two babies as they grow up, we would see one child struggling with learning, frequently ill and the other excelling in school with robust health.
Watch a mother nurture her newborn. She surrounds the baby with soft comfortable clothing and gently changes the diaper. She places her baby carefully in a crib or infant seat. She is careful to secure the harness of a car seat. However, if she allows second hand smoke to be in the air the baby breathes, it is as if she dressed the newborn in burlap or tossed him roughly into the car. The newborn’s respiratory system is delicate. Second hand smoke does very serious damage to these tender organs. The effects of this damage are long term health problems and difficulty in hearing. Any difficulty in hearing will create difficulty in school. The paths of our hypothetical babies are diverging. We see one child with chronic colds, ear infections, and problems in school and the other healthy and bright.
We all love our children and with the awareness of the dangers and subsequent health and learning disabilities of secondhand smoke, we need to change our habits and behaviors to protect them. Next week we will look more specifically at the effects of second hand smoke and the outcomes of this exposure in how children learn.
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