I always thought that singling out secondhand smoke as a possible cause for SIDS was out of line – even in the overblown world of potential dangers of secondhand smoke.
Doctors really don’t know what causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but they’ve come up with “risk factors” that seem to be associated with some cases.
The SIDS-Network says it well. Their site is easy to understand and written in Comic sans, a type style associated with all things childlike:
The site’s number one recommendation is to put your baby to sleep on his or her back. (See “back-to-sleep campaign.) While this seems counter-intuitive to me, it is widely recommended by pediatricians and may be helpful in reducing SIDS (they also mention things to do to prevent flattening the baby’s head from all this back-sleeping). And they make a number of other recommendations, as well.
Smoking does get a special mention (although there’s nothing about paint fumes or exterminator bug bombs or off-gassing carpets):
Other sites also mention heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine (illegal drugs that are routinely libeled). No mentions of the effects on SIDS of barbiturates, muscle relaxers, pain killers, anti-depressants or other prescription drugs. (Well, duh, Mr. so-called Sensible Smoker!)
The list of “bad things” (and I have to say again that the SIDS-Network treats the risk issue credibly) usually describe a “bad parent,” who probably lives in a “bad neighborhood,” and whose substandard housing suffers from “bad housekeeping.”
Here’s some compassionate advice from SIDS-Network:
It is important that, since the causes of SIDS remain unknown, SIDS parents refrain from concluding that their child care practices may have caused their baby’s death.
Nobody knows what causes SIDS. I’ve always thought the best explanation is “For some reason, the Lord decided to take this one back.” And I don’t even believe in God.
Less reticent are my local anti-smoking warriors, who put out a recent health pamphlet warning:
Third-hand smoke: What’s going in your baby’s mouth could be more dangerous than you think!
Since babies put literally everything in their mouths, that’s a pretty SCARY HEADLINE!
“Third-hand smoke” – the residue left behind by secondhand smoke – is the newest front on the War on Tobacco. You (and your baby), they say, may not be safe, even if you and your family are not actually smoking and don’t smell any smoke –just from the residue on the carpet and kid’s binky from Smoking Past. Smokers should change their clothes before holding small children, even if they smoke outside. Whew!
But this local group comes right out and says that Third-hand smoke:
“Can put your children at increased risk for cancer and sudden infant death syndrome.”
I wish they’d read the paragraph from the SIDS Network about how most SIDS deaths don’t experience any of the risk factors. And that the vast, vast majority of kids exposed to multiple risk factors do not die of SIDS.
Parents who have experienced SIDS have much bigger things to process than wondering if they should have washed their carpet after Aunt Bessie’s visit. People always ask themselves what they might have done that killed their kid – I think they do this in any case. To add to their misery is heartless. It’s cruel.