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Smoking & Pets Risk Baby's Health & Safety

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

My husband and I have been married for a little over four years, and have a five-month-old boy. The problem is that my husband has threatened our relationship if I don't let his mother baby-sit while I'm at school.

I do not want his mother to baby-sit because I don't trust her. If it were up to my mother-in-law, we wouldn't be married at all. Also, she and her husband smoke heavily and own dogs. Not only am I uncomfortable with the environment our son would be placed in, but I honestly feel that she would deliberately do a poor job of caring for my son, because he's mine. Please help.



Dear Desperate,

Second-hand tobacco smoke and pets are two very good reasons to be concerned about your in-laws baby-sitting your son.

To ensure the health and safety of your child, you must set rules. If your in-laws are going to baby-sit, they cannot smoke in their home while the baby is there. The dangers of second-hand tobacco smoke are well documented. Millions of children fall ill each year from exposure to second-hand smoke. Babies are at an even greater risk because of their immature immune systems. Second-hand smoke has links with lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases.

Dogs who are not used to babies or children can pose a threat as well. If your mother-in-law wants to baby-sit at her home, then they can never leave the baby unattended with their dogs. Even if they think their dogs can to be trusted, they must closely supervise at all times. Accidents such as suffocation or unintentional injuries from curiosity are possible. Their dogs need to be gradually introduced to the new baby.

You are worried that your mother-in-law will not care well for your son because he's your baby. But, she must be aware that the child is your husband's son, too. Her lack of babysitting skills may not be due to malice, but ignorance, especially if she cannot see the dangers of her smoking around the baby or leaving the baby unattended with the dogs.

If your husband is not concerned the health and safety of his son, then you need the support of a professional such as your pediatrician. You can tell your husband and in-laws that the pediatrician says the baby must not be around dangerous cigarette smoke and cannot be left unattended with the dogs. If necessary, ask the pediatrician to speak directly with your husband.