An example of a hamper which would be given to a pregnant woman who smokes.

Jan 17th 2021

A baby shower of home truths for smokers

At first glance, it appears to be a cute image of the kind of gift basket seen in baby showers up down the country.

But a closer inspection of the “newborn essentials” reveals a needle, antibiotics and other medical items that no new parent would expect to receive alongside their little bundle of joy.

This is the thought-provoking image that will be used by the Black Country and West Birmingham Local Neonatal and Maternity System (LNMS) to launch its 2021 campaign aimed at encouraging smoking households to quit for the sake of the babies and children who share their homes.

Diane Osbourne, Interim Commissioning Manager (maternity, children and young people), Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “No parent or grandparent hopes they will be spending time in a special care baby unit, watching nurses and doctors set up an intravenous tube to give medicine and fluid to a poorly, premature baby or being told at just a few months old that their child will need to use an inhaler, or has hearing, sight, behavioural or speech problems. Yet all of these scenarios are much more likely if babies are born to smoking parents, or in households where other family or friends smoke.  

“The reality is that a shiny new pram or adorable little booties will be way down on the list of things that a baby born in these circumstances is likely to need.

“One of the best things anyone can do to give their baby a healthy start in life is to protect them from tobacco smoke. The chemicals in smoke stay on our clothes so even if you smoke outside, your baby will still breathe these chemicals in when a smoker cuddles them.

“Our campaign is aimed at any smokers who are part of the household where a pregnant woman lives; this is a collective responsibility. We had a really difficult year in 2020 due to the pandemic but we all hope that 2021 will be better as the mass vaccination gets underway. Families can now take some time to concentrate on the things they can do themselves to improve their health – quitting smoking being something that will make such a positive impact.”

Esther Higdon, Senior Programme Development and Commissioning Manager Walsall Public Health, explained that the LMNS had carried out an anonymous survey among mums-to-be, their partners and families prior to the campaign, seeking their views about smoking from across the Black Country and West Birmingham.

“It was very clear from people’s responses that the effect of smoke from mum or other family members while the baby is in the womb tends not to be thought of as causing harm,” she said.

“Our campaign aims to get people thinking more about the actions they can take before baby arrives to protect the baby and hopefully avoid health complications and problems when they are born. We are showing some of the medical items likely to be needed when a baby is born into a smoking household such as a kit which contains a tube attached to a needle for blood transfusions or fluids, the Volumatic device and inhaler as babies of smokers, or babies exposed to second hand smoke are more likely to need oxygen and develop asthma or bronchitis.

“We took the image of a baby gift hamper or baby shower, a typically happy occasion, to try and show that instead of a cause for celebration the focus is more likely to be on baby’s health issues if they have been exposed to smoke. We hope this will strike a chord with any smokers in the same household as a pregnant women, as well as any mums-to be who smoke.

“We want to use the image as a talking point with the women who are supported by our maternity services and they can take a leaflet home to share with their partners, grandparents-to-be or others in the household who smoke. Support is available for those who want to quit.”

Liz Punter, Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust Public Health Midwife, added: “We think the image being used in this campaign is hard-hitting but valid; it’s an uncomfortable truth that a smoking household can really influence the health of a baby.

“It certainly makes you stop and think about the impact of smoking and it is shocking to be confronted with the medical items that a newborn baby may well need if they have been exposed to second hand smoke in this way.”


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