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How to Care for Infants of Drug Addicted Mothers

author image Jennifer Byrne
Jennifer Byrne is a freelance writer and editor specializing in topics related to health care, fitness, science and more. She attended Rutgers University. Her writing has been published by,, Primary Care Optometry News, and EyeWorld Magazine. She was awarded the Gold Award from the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (ASHPE), 2007, and the Apex Award for Publication Excellence.
How to Care for Infants of Drug Addicted Mothers
Close up of newborn baby.

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.

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Step 1

Provide a calm, dimly-lit environment. According to, 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. also suggests a white noise machine to simulate the soothing atmosphere of the womb.

Step 2

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. recommends the use of a small blanket to swaddle your baby, or a blanket designed specifically for this purpose. You can also cuddle or rock the baby as much as possible, suggests.

Step 3

Give the baby a warm, soapy bath when she becomes agitated or upset, suggests Fill the tub with enough water to cover the baby, and get in the bathtub with the baby. also suggests washing a baby exposed to drugs with lavender wash, both to calm the baby and to wash away impurities. cautions against leaving a baby unattended in a bathtub or allowing her head to go under water.

Step 4

Elevate the baby's head during sleep to facilitate healthy breathing and digestion. suggests using one of any number of special baby head-positioning wedges, or beds specially designed for this purpose.

Step 5

Recognize the signs that lead to distress states. According to, 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.

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