Caring For The Drug Effected Infant
By: Tabitha Rimmer
Conservative estimates suggest that at least 11 percent of all newborns in the United States today were exposed in the womb to one or more illicit drugs. The number is higher in urban areas...
When a pregnant woman takes a hit of crack cocaine, the fetus loses sufficient blood and air-- and suffocates briefly. For the mother the drug's euphoric effect lasts for 20 minutes. For the growing fetus, the cocaine stays in its system for more than two weeks. In the womb the child is often re-exposed because the cocaine does not pass through the placenta to the mother but remains in the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby." (focuspress.com)
Fetuses exposed to methamphetamines, experience the same effects as the mothers--increased pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and temperature for 72 hours after the mother's high is gone. All of this at a time when the fetus is just developing. The effects are devastating.
- Prematurity and all the problems associated with that
- Birth defects-- spina bifida, club foot, strawberry patches or cleft palate
- Low birth weight, height, and head size
- More likely to have STD's or HIV
Problems After Birth:
- Withdrawal-- jitters, tremors, and/or seizures; sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea,
- Methamphedamine addicted infants may sleep and be difficult to wake for feedings for several weeks, then cry inconsolably for the next 6 months.
- Crying-- The drug-addicted baby's cry is ear-piercing. They cry for long periods and are inconsolable.
- Poor temperature control--fevers
- Muscle stiffness
- Reflexes-- some may be missing altogether or more intense than normal
- Feeding difficulties--They may have problems with nipple recognition or with coordinating the suck-swallow-breathe process.
- Digestive disorders which could lead to failure to thrive
- Allergies-- Respiratory problems
- Sleep disorders
- Bonding difficulties-- They pull away from touch because they are hypersensitive and in pain.
- At greater risk for SIDs
- Behavioral disorders-- hyperactivity and aggression
- Developmental delays
- Neurological abnormalities
- Methamphetamine addicted infants may smell foul from the toxins being purged from their systems.
Non-medical Care for Recovering Infants:
- Nutrition--Breast feeding by an addicted mom is not suggested. The breast milk of a using mother contains highly concentrated doses of the drug being used and can be an overdose for the infant. A high quality infant formula fed in small amounts at 2-3 hour intervals helps.
- Use bottles that prevent air from entering the stomach. Dr. Brown's bottles are designed for this.
- Give the infant a pacifier.
- Provide a quiet, calm, dimly lit atmosphere.
- Touch the side of the mouth with the nipple to stimulate the infant to latch on.
- Warm, soapy baths in enough water to cover the baby. We get in the tub with the infant for better support. Never leave an infant in water unattended or allow his head to slip under water.
- Lavender wash-- We used lavender baby wash to relax the infants and remove the stench of the toxins.
- Bouncing motion-- A bouncing movement is calming since it simulates the womb. Walking or rocking and bouncing works but can be very tiring. When a rest is needed, the Amby Baby Hammock provides the bounce the the infant craves. Maya Slings will also give you some freedom while bouncing the baby.
- Swaddling-- Wrap the baby snuggly in a large blanket or swaddle blanket like the SwaddleMe Blanket. This prevents the flailing arms from stimulating the crying again. It simulates the close environment of the womb and gives support to trembling limbs.
- Elevate the head during sleep for better digestion and breathing. The Amby Motion bed does this naturally and can be adjusted for more incline if needed. For more severe digestive or respiratory problems, the Pedicraft Reflux Wedge can be used.
- Cuddling-- Hold the baby as much as he/she will tolerate. This stimulates brain development and aids in bonding. The Maya Wrap enables you to do with your hands free.
- Put 1 teaspoon of dark corn syrup in water and mix well. Give the baby about 1 ounce of this when crying persists.
- Occupational and physical therapy may be needed to overcome stiffness and aid in development.
- Provide the infant with white noise to simulate the noises he heard in the womb. The Slumber Bear has uterine noises recorded directly from the womb. The sound disc can be removed so the bear is washable and the sound disc can be used without the bear. Both the bear and the sound disc have hook and loop tape so they can be hung on the babies bed.
- For Allergies and respiratory problems try an air cleaner to eliminate airborne contaminants. Ionic Breeze Quadra Silent Air Purifier is a silent air cleaner with no filter to replace.
These children can lead normal happy lives if given the nurture and nutrition that they need. Be an advocate for them with doctors, educators and friends.
Tabitha Rimmer is a medical foster mother and webmaster of http://www.sleepingbabe.com/.