Addicted Babies – A Growing Problem with Tough Solutions


Addicted babies are becoming more and more common. Sadly, neonatal abstinence syndrome is becoming a bigger issue than many hospitals are equipped to deal with. While many states are making it a criminal offense for mothers to abuse substances while pregnant, some experts feel that not enough of these tests are being done.

When you add that to the fact that many mothers who are addicted to opioids do try to get help when they discover that they are pregnant wind up having babies that are addicted to opioids, we have a significant, painful issue on our hands.

Ask anyone who’s dealt with a newborn struggling with withdrawal symptoms how painful and terrible it must be for these babies, and you’ll likely hear how miserable these poor babies really are. But, unfortunately, that often doesn’t keep women from using opioids and other substances.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

When a baby is born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, she can go through withdrawal symptoms almost right away. It is the condition of being born addicted to substances and the set of symptoms that accompany withdrawing from these drugs.

When a woman takes any kind of drug and is pregnant, there is a good chance that her baby will be exposed to these substances, as well. Many drugs, even those that are prescribed, can penetrate the placenta and directly affect a baby’s overall development.

In the case of opioids, babies often develop normally, but they also are born with painful opioid addictions. While most healthcare professionals can and do diagnose NAS almost immediately after a baby is born, there are symptoms that anyone can see.

  • Excessive, high pitched crying and fussing
  • Shaking uncontrollably, twitching and excessively tight muscles
  • An inability to feed and slow weight gain
  • Rapid breathing
  • Throwing up and diarrhea
  • Sleeping problems and excessive yawning
  • Splotchy skin, fever, and sweating

While many women believe that their babies will not be harmed if they take opioids while they are pregnant, new research couldn’t be further from the truth. Even mothers who are taking opioids exactly as directed and prescribed are finding that their babies are developing NAS.

How NAS is Treated and Much Needed Mothers

Addicted babies have to be treated in some way, and since their little systems are so sensitive, it takes some serious care to help our smallest citizens get through the withdrawal symptoms that opioids can cause. In some serious cases, mothers leave their babies to the care of a hospital, in some cases, the parents are there and seeing their baby born so sick changes their lives and determination forever.

For mothers working to overcome their addictions at the time of their baby’s birth, the interaction, and the connection is essential. Many have said that they have been treated for their opioid addiction and are taking medications like Subutex, only to find that their babies are still born addicted.

This is causing many hospitals to take note of the causes of NAS, as well as the way the treat this condition. For a long time, babies born with NAS have been transported to other hospitals and removed from their mothers for treatment, but now research has found that many times, babies really need the connection with their mothers to begin the difficult healing process from their addiction to opioids.

Studies have shown that babies going through Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome benefit from holding and cuddling. In fact, many hospitals are enlisting the help of volunteers to cuddle the babies they have that are recovering from NAS, because it seems to be so helpful to them.

At this time, a baby with NAS is given tiny doses of morphine so that he can heal and eat and sleep comfortably. Over the course of about 12 weeks, the baby is then weaned off this opioid. In most cases, these tiny little opioid victims do quite well, but there is still the issue of the cost of treatment and the lack of available treatment in many rural areas.

The Question of Custody

Not only do many women who have addicted babies struggle with the guilt of what has happened to their children, and not only do these addicted babies struggle with withdrawal symptoms that often last well into their first couple months of life, but there is also the question of who gets custody of these children.

In some cases, even mothers who are working to overcome their addictions are losing their children, and that’s disheartening for many. Recovery experts feel that this can set back a mother’s progress because, for the time that she is pregnant, a mother often focuses on the health and caring for her baby. When that’s taken away, many mothers struggle with relapse.

However, there is no denying that babies with NAS are a significant problem because some parents who are addicted have discovered how to mask a baby’s dependence on opioids as soon as it is born. In fact, one couple in Utah went so far to try to mask the symptoms of their baby’s opioid dependence by putting crushed up Suboxone on her gums as soon as she was born.

While most parents who give birth to NAS babies won’t take such drastic measures, there is concern over the effects of their addictions on their unborn babies. When babies are taken from their mothers, especially those who have good intentions and are working to get clean, experts worry about the effects on both the baby and the mother.

Not only that but for many babies born with this condition, finding someone to care for them during the hardest part of their newest journey is really difficult. Unfortunately, caring for a baby with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a very exhausting, and often, very long endeavor. Foster parents or family members of the baby who take these children on are often worn down very quickly and might not be able to offer as much of the care as these little ones need.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

We have known that we have a significant opioid problem in the United States for some time now, but the numbers of addicted babies being born don’t lie. Unfortunately, couples who struggle with addictions often don’t practice safe sex. Worse, they believe that they are in a healthy enough place to have a baby and care for it.

According to the CDC, the number of babies addicted to opioids has tripled in the last 15 years, and the cost of caring for them is taking a toll on taxpayers, hospitals, and families all across the country.

What needs to be done

While there are many things that experts and lawmakers feel needs to be done, the best thing we can do is prevent drug abuse in any way we can. By finding new ways to treat pain, working to educate the public about the risks of addiction, dependence and abuse of well-meaning prescription drugs, and finding ways to keep them out of the hands of those who don’t need them, many addiction experts feel that we can go a long way in helping to beat the opioid crisis in the United States.

Not only that, but some lawmakers are taking steps to encourage more long lasting forms of birth control to be given at low to no cost to women who struggle with addictions in an effort to reduce the risk of becoming pregnant before an addiction has been kicked.

Also, treatment for women that struggle with an addiction and are pregnant might seem like too little too late, but many doctors still feel that even medically assisted recovery is better than nothing, and it does reduce the severity of NAS in babies born to women working on living clean and sober.

If you’re struggling with an addiction and you’re pregnant, it’s time to get clean. Your baby needs you to, but you need you to, as well. We can help you find a treatment program that will meet your needs, work with your health and the health of your baby and help you to get the best start of being a mom that you can.

Being a mom is hard and it’s stressful, and nobody wants their joyous day to be ruined by a problem for your baby that you could have prevented. Don’t do this to yourself and your baby. Your insurance might even pay for your recovery.

Your baby will live and grow into a child, and then an adult. Don’t let your addiction affect how his life goes forever. Seek treatment, let us help you, and know that you’re doing something essential to give your baby a fighting chance. Call today and get started overcoming your addiction now.