February 23rd, 2007
Posted By:
Categories: Drug Withdrawals

screaming baby
You just brought home your beautiful baby from the hospital. You have great expectations for what it is going to be like having a newborn in the house. You’ve purchased the perfect outfits, all the right equipment, toys and music. You want to be the perfect parents. But are you prepared for a baby that has been exposed to crack cocaine or heroine or crystal methamphetamine in Utero. Tremors are to be expected and while they can look very scary they are usually part of the withdrawal process. Sometimes the screaming goes on and on and it seems like nothing you can do with soothe this poor innocent victim whose every nerve is raw, and every muscle taunt with pain. And while you’re filled with empathy, your nerves are fried. You haven’t slept for more than two hours at a time in well over a month and you’re not sure you can take much more. This isn’t what having your dream come true was supposed to be like.


There are a few things you can do from day one to help soothe your little one. First dim the lights or keep them off. Bright lights can be very painful and over stimulating. Get rid of the noise. Speak in whispers, lower the ringer volume on your telephone; keep the television and radio off. If you have other children don’t let them play in the same room or area as your drug exposed baby. Have a nurse in the newborn nursery show you how to swaddle a baby and then keep your baby swaddled. The baby feels safer when swaddled and those sensitive body parts are protected from your painful direct touch.

Avoid eye contact with your new baby. I know this is going to be very difficult for you and goes against every parenting instinct you have. Obviously, you’re anxious to bond with your baby and creating and maintaining good eye contact is so important with a newborn, but you’re going to have to wait. Direct eye contact tends to be very upsetting to drug addicted newborn. Try not to take your drug addicted baby into public where all the things you are trying to avoid are like bright lights and lots of noise. While it’s natural for you to want to show off your beautiful new baby, that too needs to wait.

Make sure your baby is eating. Drug exposed babies are usually smaller and have a lower birth weight. The drug exposed babies we have parented have all been less than five pounds at birth. They start off not eating much at a time, sometime between half an ounce and a full ounce can be enough to fill their tummies so they need to eat approximately every two hours. For some reason my pediatricians have given me my babies to withdraw cold turkey, but some of my friends have been given prescription medications to assist with withdrawals like Phenobarbital. Stay in contact with your pediatrician and check frequently for weight gain.

If you need a break, have someone take your baby for a day so you can rest. You didn’t cause the baby’s pain and you’ll be a better parent if you are rested. If you’re loosing your cool don’t be afraid to place your baby safely in the crib and walk away. The baby will probably scream if you’re in the room or not in the room anyway, so take twenty minutes to regroup if you need to.

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5 Responses to “Caring for Your Drug Addicted Baby”

  1. shannon says:

    What are your sources for these recommendations?

    “Drug-exposed” is a very broad category. All of these recommendations will not fit all children born drug-exposed. Many children exposed to drugs in utereo have few effects if any. It GREATLY depends on what drug and how much. Cigarettes are turning out to prove more harmful than many “street” drugs in real medical studies.

    “Crack” cocaine is an especially misunderstood drug re: its effects on fetuses and babies. Please look at the most recent data on these issues.

    I would beg any adoptive parent NOT to avoid looking into her new baby’s eyes. I cannot fathom how that could possibly be good for a baby. As for “screaming” that goes on and on, you are describing many, many perfectly (not drug-exposed) healthy newborns, for whom swaddling is also recommended.

    I have a post myself with links to several medical studies on the subject of drug exposure and its effects (or lack thereof) on children:


  2. Julia Fuller says:

    Hi Shannon, I added some links. Thank you for the suggestions.

  3. gayleeepooh says:

    Help I’m so confused.
    We are adopting an infant that tested positive for cocaine. We got him when he was 6 weeks old and now he’s 12 weeks.
    I think I’m suffering from informaiton overload. I don’t know if his crying, gas and constipation is because of the drugs/alchol or colic?
    He’s normally a happy baby always smiling, he loves to be cuddled sleeps through the night but lately @ 3:00 PM for the past 3 days he starts to scream, arch his back pull one knee to his tummy.
    When I pick him up and sush him, give him a pacifer he stops.

  4. momoffourtx says:


    I wish I could send you video of my two meth babies. So then you could say lack of effects from drug exposure. My son we are told will one day be a vegetable and my daughter will never be older mentally than 2. And it is proven it is from the damage caused to their brains by mom’s meth use in utero. And yes avoiding eye contact is a good thing. When my son is raging all we can do is hold him down so he doesn’t hurt himself and doing it backwards so he can’t not see me. Dark quiet rooms are wonderful also. He can now as to be held tight which is swaddled with his blanket.

  5. utaota.mydarlingweb.com…

    Caring for Your Drug Addicted Baby – Parenting Children with…

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