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New study backs smoking-SIDS concerns

Babies born to smoking mums find it harder to rouse from sleep, say Australian researchers who have probed the link between cigarettes and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

南宁桑拿

The Melbourne-based study found babies in homes where the mother smoked up to 20 cigarettes daily, during and after the pregnancy, performed poorer on arousal tests.

Associate Professor Rosemary Horne said the research shed new light on why smoking was emerging as a leading SIDS cause.

“With maternal smoking, even though these babies appeared perfectly well and healthy and normal, they did not have the same arousal patterns as those babies whose mums didn’t smoke,” said Prof Horne, scientific director of the Ritchie Centre for Baby Health Research at Monash University.

“They wake up less, and more of the arousals they do have don’t go right up to the cortex, so they don’t wake up.”

Prof Horne restricted her study to full-term babies of smoking mums who also reached a normal birth weight to prevent premature birth or low birth weight factors from confusing the results.

She recruited 12 mums who smoked routinely throughout and after their pregnancies, and monitored their babies at intervals from two weeks old to six months.

The babies’ urine was checked and traces of cotinine, a by-product of nicotine, were found confirming their ongoing exposure to second-hand smoke.

“It was apparent in the babies even though most of the parents said they smoked outside,” Prof Horne said.

No cotinine was found in the urine of 13 babies from non-smoking households, who were used as a control group.

All of the babies were put through a series of tests to see what would wake them up and this involved a puff of air, in rising pressure, shot at the nostrils of the sleeping infants.

“Their overall arousal was depressed,” Prof Horne said of the smoke-exposed babies.

“We know that nicotine does bind to receptors in the brain and it binds to receptors associated with arousal.”

Prof Horne said studies had indicated up to 70 per cent of children who die from SIDS have exposure to maternal smoking.

“If your face is covered by the bedding … either under a doona or face down, you can move. The babies who die from SIDS don’t appear to have done this,” she said.

“Arousal is crucial, and in these babies whose mums smoked between three and 20 cigarettes a day, it was modifying the arousal process in the brain.”

Prof Horne’s study is published in the journal SLEEP.

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