The benefits of both, reducing an infant’s exposure to second-hand smoke and breastfeeding through the early weeks and months of life, are well documented and accepted. New research, presented at the 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, has found that systematic encouragement, tools and intervention help prevent new mothers from returning to their old smoking habits and extend the time they spend breastfeeding.
More than 50% of women who quit smoking before or during pregnancy will pick up a pack of cigarettes again within the first eight weeks after delivery. When a woman starts smoking, she often stops breastfeeding; a double negative for the infant.
Researchers at Loma Linda University in California conducted a prospective controlled trial, with a group of new mothers whose babies had been admitted to the neonatal ICU. The mothers were randomly placed in two groups.
The first group was called Standard of Care. These mothers were given weekly encouragement to refrain from smoking and were offered routine breast-feeding support.
The second group of mothers were placed in the Relapse Prevention group. They received the same encouragement to refrain from smoking and the same breast-feeding support, as the first group but they were given additional tools. This group of women received handouts, videos and booklets about the behavioural cues of newborns and ways to develop a strong attachment to their baby. They were also encouraged to have frequent skin-to-skin contact with their newborn.
Researchers checked in on the mothers every two weeks for the first eight weeks after delivery. They found that noticeably more mothers in the Relapse Prevention group were smoke-free and continued to breastfeed over the number of mothers doing the same in the Standard of Care group.
At the end of the eight-week trial, 81% of the women in the Relapse Prevention group continued to be non-smokers and 86% were still breastfeeding their infants. Conversely, 54% of the mothers in the Standard of Care group had returned to their prior smoking habits and only 21% continued to breastfeed.
Lead researcher, Raylene M. Phillips concluded that,
“By decreasing second-hand smoking exposure and increasing breastfeeding duration, both of which have well-documented short-and long-term benefits, this intervention can make a significant contribution to the health of infants and their mothers.”
– Jen R, Staff Writer
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