How to Care for Infants of Drug Addicted Mothers
A baby who has been exposed to addictive drugs or alcohol in the womb is a life that has been damaged before it's even begun. Babies of drug-addicted mothers may suffer from withdrawal, sleep disturbances, irritability, developmental delays, poor motor skills, and various other defects. However, in many cases, babies in this situation can be nurtured and healed by a responsible and patient caregiver. By offering care and love to a drug-exposed baby, you can restore hope to this newborn life.
Provide a calm, dimly-lit environment. According to ArchRespite.org, a relaxing, quiet atmosphere can be very soothing to a drug-exposed infant. It's also advisable to use soft, quiet voices, and move calmly from one activity to another. Parenting.com also suggests a white noise machine to simulate the soothing atmosphere of the womb.
Swaddle your baby. By wrapping a drug-exposed baby securely in a swaddling blanket, you can provide comfortable, womb-like boundaries and support shaking or jerking limbs. This may prevent your baby from becoming upset or frightened by tremors. Parenting.com recommends the use of a small blanket to swaddle your baby, or a blanket designed specifically for this purpose 1. You can also cuddle or rock the baby as much as possible, Parenting.com suggests.
Give the baby a warm, soapy bath when she becomes agitated or upset, suggests Parenting.com. Fill the tub with enough water to cover the baby, and get in the bathtub with the baby. Parenting.com also suggests washing a baby exposed to drugs with lavender wash, both to calm the baby and to wash away impurities. Parenting.com cautions against leaving a baby unattended in a bathtub or allowing her head to go under water.
Elevate the baby's head during sleep to facilitate healthy breathing and digestion. Parenting.com suggests using one of any number of special baby head-positioning wedges, or beds specially designed for this purpose.
Recognize the signs that lead to distress states. According to ArchRespite.org, full-blown anxiety or major distress in drug-exposed babies is often preceded by several signs. Among these signs of mounting discomfort or anxiety are increased yawns, hiccups, sneezing, muscle rigidity or jerking limbs, sucking, or crying. If you recognize these signs, prepare to soothe your baby or, if needed, call a doctor.
Seek the necessary medical help. Your baby will need to be attended to by a doctor or possibly a drug rehabilitation specialist. According to Parenting.com, your child's well-being ultimately depends on a cooperative approach between parents, doctors and educators.
Try an air purifier for allergies or breathing problems. Parenting.com reports that this may minimize contaminants in the air.
Avoid breast milk from a drug-addicted mother, recommends Parenting.com. Opt instead for a quality infant formula administered every two to three hours.
- newborn image by jodi mcgee from Fotolia.com