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.