Every baby cries when they are hungry or need to be changed, butbabies with mothers who smoke, either during or after pregnancy areat a high risk of developing colic, distressful crying spells thatlast for long periods of time. Classic colic occurs at least threehours a day, three times a week, for at least three weeks andbegins to fade after about three or four months.
Colic affects about 20 percent of babiesduring the first couple of months after birth. Edmond Shenassa anepidemiologist at Brown University told the Associated Press thatnicotine, which increases levels of a gut protein involved indigestion, is most likely the cause of the cry spells. Based onstudies in adults, this increase could result in painful cramping,which in turn causes babies to cry.
A study on more than 12,000 babies along withseveral other studies reviewed by Shenassa and Harvard Universityresearcher Mary-Jean Brown, concluded that mothers who smokedduring pregnancy face almost double the risk of having infants withcolic. Second hand smoke is also suspected to increase the risk ofcolic in infants, but more research must be done before it can besaid how much of an increased risk second hand smoke causes.” If, as we suspect, exposure to cigarette smoke increasesthe risk of colic, then this would provide additional incentives toparents to abstain from smoking,” Shenassa and Brown toldAP.
In 2001, 25 percent of mothers reported havingsmoked during pregnancy. Of those mothers who smoke 8.8 percentwere black and 2 percent had some college education. Only 18percent of women who smoke quit once they become pregnant.
In addition to colic, babies born to motherswho smoke tend to have lower birth rates, are three times morelikely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), haveincreased heart rates, reduced lung size and other respiratoryproblems. Mothers who are exposed to large amounts of second handsmoke run the same risks as those who smoke, though to what degreeis still unknown.
Colic is not only found in babies with smokingmothers. Other studies have found that an inability to properlydigest milk proteins or fruit-juice sugars may also cause colic inbabies. Dr. Ronald Burr, a University of British Columbiapediatrics professor felt that since a sizeable number of babiesborn to nonsmokers had colic, that smoking would not cause colic ininfants who aren’t already predisposed.