New mom quits smoking with Baby & Me

PHOTO BY VICKI JOHNSON Baby & Me — Tobacco Free program facilitators (from left) Tonya Harris, Kate Doepker and Samantha Dible pose with a plaque and balloons for a celebration with the first woman to complete the entire program.

“Marie” is the first young mother to graduate from Seneca County General Health District’s Baby & Me — Tobacco Free smoking cessation program designed to improve the health of mothers and their babies.

Marie chooses to be identified by her middle name because some of her family members never knew she’d been smoking since she was 12.

“It was really hard, but being in the program helped,” she said. “I had support and someone else to quit for. It wasn’t just me. My choices affect a different person now, the person who means the most to me.”

“It takes a lot of courage to walk in that door and say I want to quit. I need help,” said Samantha Dible, one of the program facilitators.

Part of the health department’s nursing division, Baby & Me — Tobacco Free allows women to earn up to $650 in free diapers if they stop smoking while they’re pregnant and during the first year of their baby’s life.

“It’s the No. 1 most important thing they can do for their health and the health of their baby,” said Kate Doepker, one of the program facilitators.

Pregnant smokers, or women who are pregnant and have stopped smoking within the past three months, are eligible to enroll. There are no age or income requirements.

In addition, another person who quits smoking with her can take part in the program as well.

“If they have a support partner, somebody that lives with them, who also quits they can double their voucher,” said program facilitator Tonya Harris. “It doesn’t have to be a husband or boyfriend. It could be mom or grandma, as long as they live with the baby and mother.”

Smoking cessation is measured by breathing into a carbon monoxide detector to determine if CO2 levels have a decreased or increased.

“People get positive reinforcement when they see that number going down,” Harris said.

Carbon monoxide is only part of the story.

“There are 7,000 chemicals in a cigarette,” Harris said.

Funded by the Ohio Department of Health, women can earn $25 diaper vouchers at each appointment they remain smoke free. That can be doubled to $50 a month if her support partner also continues not to smoke.

“We’re really trying to get more participants and get the word out about it,” Harris said.

The health department must apply annually for a grant to take part in the program, and getting the grant depends on the number of people participating.

“We’ve had some moms who quit smoking, but haven’t quit for a whole year,” Harris said.

“It’s very hard to quit, even though these moms have a good reason for wanting to quit,” Doepker said. “That’s what we’re here for — giving one-on-one counseling.”

The facilitators said participants can be residents of Seneca County or any neighboring county that doesn’t have a Baby & Me grant.

Marie said she saw the program posted on Facebook by one of her friends. Her friend had recently given birth and wanted her friends to know about the possibility of free diapers.

“I asked about it at WIC (Women Infants and Children program), and they set me up with Tonya,” Marie said. “I found out it was legit.”

Marie enrolled in July 2017, which was early in her pregnancy, and quit smoking in August after gradually reducing the number of cigarettes she smoked each day.

“My thing was I didn’t want to keep smoking when I knew I was pregnant,” she said. “Once you feel the baby kicking, that’s a whole different part of your pregnancy. I was bonding with my baby and didn’t want to smoke after that point.

“This program helped me a lot because not only was I doing it for my baby, but I was setting myself up with an incentive of free diapers,” Marie said.

Other than those incentives, Marie said having someone to talk to helped a lot.

She met with the nurses four times during her pregnancy and once a month after the baby was born. Her baby, who is about a year old, is healthy, she said. He was born at the right time, and not early as sometimes happens with smokers.

“He doesn’t have asthma or any other breathing issues,” Marie said.

She said her baby also hasn’t been exposed to second-hand smoke, which is important to her.

In addition, Marie said her focus on health meant she ate healthier food.

“I was just trying to do the right thing,” she said. “The first couple months were the hardest. And stressful situations are still challenges.”

Harris said part of the program is to teach participants alternative ways of dealing with stress such as exercise, deep breathing, taking part in hobbies, eating healthy snacks, drinking enough water and calling support people.

“I would call my mom because she used to smoke,” Marie said.

Support is important, she said, and it’s nice when people notice she has conquered smoking.

“It’s good to have a pat on the back,” she said.

Marie said she smoked for more than 10 years.

As a child, she said she can remember emulating her mother’s smoking habit by pretending to smoke one of her cigarettes. And she remembers TV commercials that made smoking seem glamorous.

“I smoked a pack a day before I got pregnant, and then I slowly went down,” she said. “That’s how I quit.”

She admits to a slip-up or two in the early days, but after a while it got easier.

“It didn’t appeal to me like it once did,” she said.

Marie said saving money also became an incentive for quitting. The program showed her how much money she could save.

If cigarettes cost $7 a pack, smoking a pack a day added up to almost $50 every week.

With some of her savings, Marie treated herself to a meal out once in a while and to Amazon Prime.

Another incentive was providing a good example for her son.

“I didn’t want him to ever see me smoke,” she said.

Now that she has quit, Marie has no intention of every starting to smoke again.

“I just keep going on with my life and just be happy I finished this,” she said. “It’s a good feeling. I’m not a quitter, but I am, and I didn’t quit this program.

Marie notices now how much better food tastes. She notices how much better she smells and she breathes better.

Now, she wonders why she ever smoked.

“I don’t have time to smoke,” she said. “I really don’t.”

She remembers her world revolving around when she would have her next cigarette.

“It’s miserable,” she said. “I would be planning my next smoking break. You’re constantly planning when you’re going to smoke again.”

And now she no longer has to stand outside in the cold smoking.

“This program really helps,” she said. “I wish there was a way to let more people know about it.”

To enroll in the program or for more information, contact the health department’s nursing division at (419) 447-3691, ext. 352, or stop at the office, 71 S. Washington St., Suite 1102.

Find more information online at www.senecahealthdept.org/smoking-cessation.

CDC says smoking most preventable

cause of pregnancy, baby problems

According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking during pregnancy remains the most common preventable cause of pregnancy complications, and of illness and death among infants. Women who quit smoking before or during pregnancy reduce their risk for poor pregnancy outcomes.

The CDC says compared with nonsmokers, women who smoke before pregnancy are about twice as likely to experience conception and infertility problems, ectopic (or tubal) pregnancy, premature rupture of the membranes (water breaking too early) and issues with the placenta.

Compared to babies born to nonsmokers, babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to:

• Be premature.

• Have low birth weight.

• Be small for gestational age or have fetal growth restricted.

• Be born with a cleft lip or cleft palate, or both.

• Die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.