(Closed) How to deal with effects of MIL smoking on baby?

posted 3 years ago in Babies
Post # 46
1206 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2015

Perfectionist :  You are completely right to want to protect your baby.  I’m currently 38 weeks pregnant and while no one in my family smokes, I do have a couple of friends that smoke.  I will absolutely not let those friends hold my baby if they’ve been smoking.  Call me paranoid but I’d rather protect my child than risk hurting someone’s feelings.  It’s frightening to see that there are still people who are uneducated about the effects of 2nd and 3rd hand smoke.  Just because someone isn’t smoking directly near the baby doens’t mean that there won’t be harmful effects from the smoke.  And the problem is that as a child they may seem fine but may grow up to develop issues so you just don’t know.  

Post # 47
44 posts
  • Wedding: January 2017

Perfectionist :  

I have friends (a couple) who smoke- and have a baby.

At least when I’m around- they go outside for a smoke. They have a spot in the garage with their smoke jackets and shoes. They take them off and put them on in the same spot every time (again- at least when I’m over there).

When they come back- and after washing their hands and arms- I can still smell it. No matter how careful they are- I can still smell it. It lingers in their hair and in their clothes. I’ve held their baby and I can smell the faint smell of cigarettes on her. The mother got upset when she saw me wrinkle my nose once and asked what the issue was. I told her that I could smell smoke on her. Her response- well I don’t smell anything! (I left soon after- she was really upset).

I worry about that baby- if I can smell it just the few times I’m over- how is the baby doing when she goes thru this daily?

Personally- I would be worried about your Mother-In-Law and talk to your husband on how to approach it.

Post # 48
751 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: November 2015

OP I’ve only read the first page of responses and let me just say. I’m not a mom yet and neither set of (future) grandparents are smokers. However MY grandparents were heavvvvvy smokers. Like, several packs a day. They smoked outside too if they were at other people’s houses but they smoked inside at their home. 

My dad always made us go stay for a few days at a time to spend time with our grandparents (and they were a lot like your ILs, “Oh you don’t want to deprive us of time with our grandchildren do you? Don’t force your kids to never see us…”). It SUCKED. Even if they smoked outside they’d still come in smelling like it, the cars smelled like it and by the time we left WE smelled like it. Not to mention it was just suffocating. I hated it and I don’t have very happy memories of my time over there.

Do not do that to your kids. If you feel strongly about it, stand your ground. Be an advocate for your kids, especially since you’re lucky that your husband (I assume) backs you up on it. You don’t have to be ugly or evasive about it.

Just tell them straight up that you’re not comfortable with the smoke, and that while they are welcome to visit their grandchild at your home, you will need them to not smoke before interacting with your child, and that additionally you do not feel comfortable bringing your child into a smoke-friendly home so there will not be any visits to their home. Then reassure them that you know that’s not what they were expecting to hear but it’s out of love for their grandchild that you set these boundaries. I’d also let them know they’re welcome to arrange visits in your home, or you guys can go out, but that the smoking rules are finite for your child.

Good luck bee. I know it’s gotta be hard. It was hard on my mom when she stood up to my dad/grandparents on our behalf but we were so grateful for her doing that AND it didn’t damage anything in the long run. They still saw us (they just had to put the effort in to do so) and we didn’t dread our visits anymore. Plus, I can’t imagine how she could win a debate over whether smoke (in any form, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd hand) is harmful to kids. Like…it’s been proven so there’s not much to argue. I’m sure she’ll get her feelings hurt but she’ll just have to get over it.


Post # 49
283 posts
Helper bee



Here are a couple of articles (from peer reviewed journals) talking about the dangers of children being around people who smoke. It is correlated with respiratory diseases and children can be exposed even when someone is not smoking in their immediate vicinity. I would definitely put your foot down about having the baby stay at your ILs. After that, it’s up to you to decide how much contact you want your Mother-In-Law to have. The fact is all babies will be exposed to things that are bad for them, you just have to decide the risk you are willing to take on yourself. But I definitely agree that you need to get your husband on board before you start trying to establish these boundaries. 

Post # 50
1122 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

Perfectionist :  i can totally empathize with your situation. My Mother-In-Law doesn’t smoke, however, she is severely overweight with very very weak knees. She can barely stand up for 20 minutes straight. Also, her reflexes are super slow. I am not pregnant yet (soon hopefully!), but I know that she is not capable of watching a baby (or even a toddler) on her own. She just doesn’t have the physical capabilities. So I know there is no way she will be able to babysit my child. Not only is it unsafe for my child, but it is unsafe for her as well. But I know this will cause alot of tension. She too is super senstive. And very VERY vocal as well. (And to make matters worse, my mother will be watching our future child in lieu of daycare. So this will cause ALOT of problems). I’ve spoken to Darling Husband about this upcoming problem and he’s never even  considered it (MEN are clueless), but at least agrees with me.

I don’t have a ton of advice but I just wanted to let you know you are not the only one with Mother-In-Law problems concerning the health of your baby. But at the end of the day, your child’s health and safety come first. And while I do not advocate rudeness, I do believe you need to stand your ground, particularly when it comes to extended stays. It’s one thing for her to hold your child in your home, even if she has smoked in the backyard; it’s another for your child to stay in a home with smokers regardless if she “only does it outside”, because truth be told smoking is a dangerous activity and at the very least you need to be there to monitor it around your child.

Post # 51
9639 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: August 2012

 waterg :  did you even read any of the articles about third hand smoke? The child doesn’t have to be directly in contact with the actual smoke coming out of the cigarette to be affected. It’s on your hands, your hair, your clothes (even if you wear a coat, you think there’s no transfer?), your shoes. They may be perfectly fine right now, but will they possibly develop cancer when they’re 40 because they were exposed to that for 20 years? You don’t know. And you may think you don’t smell, but I assure you a non-smoker can absolutely tell (and I say this as a person who used to smoke).

OP, I would strongly suggest getting your Darling Husband on board to tell his mother. This will only be the first of many boundaries you’ll need to enforce for your child’s well being, and your Darling Husband is going to have to grow some balls if you don’t want to be miserable. If she has a nursery already, she’s obviously not considering that a baby shouldn’t be in a smoker’s house.

Post # 52
84 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: January 2013

My husband’s mom smoked outside and washed her hands etc etc and he seemed fine growing up. He’s in his mid twenties and his sense of smell and his hearing are really deteriorated and he has a permanent cough which the Dr says is from secondary smoke inhalation. The same with my dad whose father only smoked outside and washed his hands and changed clothes when we were there and I hated staying there because my breathing became bad my throat burned and my eyes watered! My dad was deaf before 40 due to secondary smoke. 

On a positive note, my uncles mil used to smoke and struggled to give up but when they told her that she wouldn’t be allowed to hold their baby she stopped smoking cold turkey and while she still misses smoking she is so glad she stopped 🙂

Post # 53
1936 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2015

You just need to speak up. To a non smoker (and proably even more so to a baby) the lingering smell is quite strong.

I don’t let me in-laws bring their coats inside. Seriosuly. They leave them outside or in their cars. The smell comes with them and i can’t handle it. If they don’t respect that rule they’re free to not come over.

Post # 54
1336 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2016 - Painswick Church and the Falcon Hotel

Westwood :  I have no worries what so ever I shower twice a day so it’s not in my hair and hands for long it’s not ever on my clothes because I wear long thick coat when I smoke outside and it stays outside I brush my teeth regularly through the day too. As I said it depends on individual’s my dad grew up around smoke 24/7 and he is fit as a fiddle. My kids are fine and if they become ill it won’t be to do with smoke 

Post # 55
2542 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: August 2012

This is really tough. I’m a former smoker and quit when we got pregnant with baby #1 and it’s incredible how much smoke smell bothers me now. Basically as a general rule, I never took baby to my Mom’s house, who is a major smoker, Mom always has to come to my house. I explained it in the beginning and Mom understood. Now, that’s not to say you won’t get major backlash from your IL’s who sound pretty involved (read: overbearing). But it’s ok for you to express your concern and maybe they would even have their own idea of a solution. Smokers DO NOT realize just much of an affect it has and how much the smell sticks. When we started ttc #2, I told Mom we were trying and asked her if she could open the windows before I came over to at least ventilate a little bit and she never smokes while I’m there. It helps a lot.

Post # 56
1541 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

Perfectionist :  I think PPs have covered the ground on this but I would add that I wouldn’t assume your Mother-In-Law knows that second third hand smoke can harm the baby. When she was raising children that kind of thinking didn’t exist – at best the advice was not to smoke around children. 

I personally would get out ahead on this issue. Tough one, but you are right to put baby first and your husband will have to get on board. 

Post # 57
386 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2018

waterg :  It is hilarious that you think your hair, fingers, clothes and car doesn’t smell like cigarettes. Listen it’s your life, your kids, your rules. But I guarantee you that your clothes and hair smells. No matter what you wear or how often you brush your teeth or hair or wash your hands. It doesn’t matter if you go outside in a coat, it stains your hair and nails and teeth and you can’t wash it away.

My mom smoked outside only – so don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. Unlike some other PP, I don’t have health issues from it, maybe I’m lucky, maybe it’s the norm. I’m not telling you how to live your life or raise your family. Just don’t be delusional. The smell lingers. Always. I promise you. You can’t smell it because you’re accustomed to it, but if you ask a non-smoker, I promise they can smell it.

Look I don’t care maybe your kids will be fine, maybe not, not my family to judge. But stop saying you don’t smell. It’s literally impossible. 


Sorry for the rant; OP- you’ve gotten lots of good advice. Stay strong. Your LO is your responsibility and no one has his/her best interests at heart as much as you do.

Post # 58
9094 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: December 2012

Wow. A few posters really think this isn’t your place?

Look, if a smoker wants to ruin their health, that’s fine. You’re a grown adult and can make grown adult choices.


But, as a grown adult, I will not let you risk my child’s health just because you picked up an addiction.

My “grandmother” (TL;DR story — She’s an evil woman and I despise her) smokes like a freight train. She wanted to see my daughter, and I absolutely, 100% refused it. I told her straight up if she were to full on shower with a set of clothing that did not smell like cigarette smoke and she didn’t smoke before holding my daughter, fine.

Those were my requirements. She is my child and she will have to jump through my hoops, because I am my daughter’s advocate. She can’t speak for herself yet and ultimately, I am solely responsible for her health.

I’m not going to risk that, and if that hurts the fee fees of a smoker, too bad. You made your choice, I made mine. We all have to deal with the consequences of our actions.


Edit for clarity: OP, definitely stand your ground. This isn’t something you can really compromise on directly. She’ll either need to full force work with you, or deal with not seeing the child. It’s not “keeping the baby from her”, it’s ensuring your baby doesn’t get exposed to things that can harm it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

You WILL be met with resistance and guilt tripping, but my advice is to learn to be immune to guilt. Guilt is a weak attempt to get somebody to do something for you, so I merely ignore it. If she tries to guilt you, reaffirm your conditions (whatever they may be) and go about your day.

Post # 59
1336 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2016 - Painswick Church and the Falcon Hotel

BeeLovesMTB :  I disagree with you! I have never smoked in my car either

Post # 60
104 posts
Blushing bee

waterg :  wow. What world are you living in? Denial at its finest 

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