Healthier alternatives to substance addiction for nursing mothers

Substance use is the continual misuse of drugs, thus leading to a gross dependence on them for satisfaction and enjoyment.

With the continual increase in the drug abuse rate, medical professionals have been researching ways by which it can be controlled. Rehabilitation has been the best option, but there is a need for other alternatives.

With our primary focus on nursing mothers, we see a significant setback as substance use abuse is detrimental to the health of the mother and that of the baby. It can adversely affect the normal maternal behavior of the mother and make breastfeeding more harmful than good.

It has sponsored the quest for necessary solutions as well as step-by-step instructions on what to do. There are few alternatives to substance addiction for nursing mothers. For now, let’s address the most important of all. 

  • Working with midwives

Midwives play an important role during pregnancy since they are often the first people she sees when she is pregnant.

Booking a maternity appointment is the first time a woman contacts the department. As part of the medical history, the midwife generally asks about the nursing mom’s social and medical history. 

 To build a successful relationship with the woman, it is very crucial to ask the right questions in a way that don’t seem threatening. Midwives must be willing to re-examine issues and recognize their own biases. In their role as health care providers, midwives must be on the side of addicted clients as well as at their side.

The midwives of communities must acknowledge the inter-relationships among illicit drug use, domestic violence, and mental illness to provide comprehensive assessment and care to women with these conditions. 

We encourage pregnant women to visit their midwife more often, even weekly, since the good relationships formed between women and midwives enable us to practice case management.

In addition to working closely with the social worker, midwives should also become thoroughly informed about these topics by having continuing professional development opportunities, attending study days, or listening to guest speakers from treatment centers.

How to help an addicted nursing mother

The term “drug abuse” describes the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, such as alcohol, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, cannabis, etc.

When a psychoactive substance is misused, it can lead to dependence syndrome – a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological symptoms.

Typically, these include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulty controlling the use of the drug, persisting in the use despite adverse consequences, prioritizing drug use over obligations and other activities, increased tolerance, and possibly physical withdrawal.

It is a known fact that breastfeeding is essential for public health because of its well-known benefits, such as a reduction in the rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), childhood infections,  and postpartum depression.

It is recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) that an infant be fed only breastmilk for the first six months of his/her life.

The rights and desires of women with substance use (SU) or addiction (SUD) are the same as those of any other woman regarding unbiased counsel and making informed choices about breastfeeding.

It is not possible for a medical or governmental authority to control a bodily function like lactation. It does not matter what kind of lifestyle choices the nursing mother makes, as long as the child remains with her mother, she will be able to breastfeed her child.

However, women suffering from brain dysregulation as a result of chronic drug use may find breastfeeding difficult. A situation such as this can disrupt maternal behavior.

Stress is heightened by neonatal behavior instead of what is normally rewarding for mothers without SUD.  Thus, breastfeeding could be more damaging than helpful.

In cases like this, the government and the system should assist nursing mothers.

A rehab team consisting of lawyers, obstetricians, nurses, social workers, drug workers should work together to provide social and counseling support. Also, local hospitals should offer detoxification services, and a shelter for women in need must always be available.

Women who are pregnant and dependent on healthcare need to receive priority for treatment.

As part of the service, women should receive prenatal and drug treatment services quickly, be stabilized on oral methadone therapy, and care should also be provided with other health and social care services. The main goal of treatment should be the stabilization of drug use.

Most of the time, women are encouraged to take oral methadone during pregnancy. Women can usually choose to detoxify after the first trimester either as an inpatient or as an outpatient, but it should not be pushed upon them.

The most important thing is to have trained staff that are sympathetic and non-judgmental who can assist pregnant women who are drug or alcohol users.

Mother’s Alcohol Consumption on Baby’s Wellbeing

Most of what is consumed by an expectant mother is passed along to her growing baby. While some things are essential and good for the baby, others can be harmful.

Alcohol and illegal drugs are known to be particularly dangerous for a developing fetus. Even small quantities of these substances are considered to be unsafe during pregnancy. Stopping the use of alcohol and drugs before the pregnancy is ideal, but stopping at any point during pregnancy will also benefit the baby.

How Does Drug Use During Pregnancy Affect the Baby?

The mother and her baby are connected by the placenta and umbilical cord. Nearly everything that enters the woman’s body will be shared with her baby.

A growing fetus is sensitive to the exposure of drugs and is not capable of eliminating the drugs as efficiently as adults can. As a result, there will be a build of the harmful chemicals in the baby’s blood and other tissues and cause devastating damage that can’t be reversed.

The risks of drug and alcohol use during pregnancy depend on several factors, including:

  • Type of drug used
  • Point during pregnancy at which the drug was used
  • Number of times the drug was used

In terms of consequences, using drugs during pregnancy can lead to:

Low birth weight which places the baby at a higher risk for illness, intellectual disability, and even death.

Premature baby increases the risk of having lung and eye problems as well as learning issues in the infant.

Birth defects could include seizure, stroke, and intellectual disabilities.

Drug dependency – since the fetuses can become dependent on the drug(s) coming through the mother, the baby may experience withdrawal symptoms after delivery.

  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

After pregnancy, many drugs can pass through breast milk and harm the baby.

Affect of Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy on the Baby

Just as nutrients from food eaten by the mother reach the baby she is carrying, so does alcohol.

Alcohol can have very negative effects on the developing fetus. Since the fetus can’t metabolize alcohol the same way as an adult, the alcohol gets more concentrated in a fetus and can inhibit enough amounts of nutrients and oxygen from reaching the blood and vital organs.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause abnormal fetal development and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS is a congenital condition characterized by mental and physical defects. Infants with FAS may experience withdrawal symptoms of jitteriness, irritability, and poor feeding within 12 hours after delivery.

To protect the baby from alcohol-related danger, the mother should avoid drinking any alcohol during her pregnancy. Alcohol consumption during the first three months of pregnancy is especially dangerous because it is the period when important organs develop.

Risks Faced by Children When Parents Abuse Substances

According to experts, substance use disorders rank among the most common psychiatric disorders beginning in young adulthood posting a significant public health concern. Some people are genetically predisposed to be more susceptible to addiction to alcohol and drugs. Despite the assumption that addiction is a choice, decades of research show that drug addiction runs in families.

Unfortunately, for children born into families where parents have a history of drug or alcohol addiction the odds are stacked against them.

In studies of community samples, children of parents with addiction problems are more than twice as likely to have an alcohol and/or drug use disorder themselves compared to their peers.

Additionally, children of addicted parents are at risk for a wide variety of other negative issues, including emotional, social, and behavioral adjustment problems as well as challenges in cognitive and school performance.

Risk for poor emotional and behavioral outcomes are reported in children as young as 2 to 3 years age who live with one or both parents with an addiction problem.

The risk factors that children of parents who suffer from drug addiction face fall into two categories: genetic and environmental.

In a scientific review, researchers considered the potential service needs of children of substance abusing parents based on available information about the risk outcomes faced by these children.

The review considered the complex inter-related risk factors that often co-occur with risks connected with substance abuse of parents.

Prenatal alcohol exposure is considered to cause deficiencies in the central nervous system of the fetus that can include intellectual delays and learning disabilities in children. Though children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may have problems with acquiring and learning new information, it is fortunate that their ability to remember learned information may not be as deficient as previously assumed.

The review summarized that parental substance abuse is generally associated with poorer academic and cognitive functioning. The extent of risk could depend on family situation, child age, recovery status of the parent, and the timing and type of drug abused.

Findings from the study are expected to help public programs understand the potential service needs of children of substance abusing parents based on what we know about the risk outcomes faced by these children and the parenting deficits often present in these families. It is also important to recognize that some children, despite all obstacles in their path, overcome the odds and live a life free of addiction.

Reference: Understanding the Diverse Needs of Children whose Parents Abuse Substances (


Addiction can be regarded as a disease which is no respecter of persons, culture, age, gender and the likes. An old man is likely to be susceptible to any form of addiction, in the same way a child could be.

There are various forms of addiction, with the commonest being substance abuse, which is drug and alcohol addiction. Now, as a parent, it is necessary that you play an essential role in ensuring that your children are not caught up in the web of addiction at a tender age, so that they do not grow with it.

Hence, you have to give all it takes to prevent it from happening. Preventing addiction in children is no easy task, and the points below should serve as a guideline for you:

  • Be a good role model: The first step to achieving this, is to ensure that you are a good role model to your children. Ensure that you do not partake in substance abuse, or any form of addiction. When your children see you doing this, they are bound to pick up the habit and learn from you. Hence, make sure that they only emulate good habits.
  • Advise against the ills: Also, as a parent, ensure you let your children understand the concept of addiction, and how it affects them. Do not be the type of parent who would not want their children to know how addiction looks like, or the various forms of addiction. Ensure that you sit them down, and teach them all they need to know.
  • Prevent exposure and friends they keep: One of the factors which affect children, is the type of company they keep. Children who get addicted to one thing or the other, picked up the habit from their peers, and it is usually very hard for children to defeat addiction. Hence, you need to be careful of the kind of friends they keep
  • Give them a chance to confide in you: Always remind your children that they can always trust you. Also inform them that, whenever they are at crossroads or they need someone to discuss with, especially when they are pressurized, they can always confide in you.



Addiction is a compulsive and obsessive attraction to an item or act, caused by neurological distortions in the brain. In adults, it is usually in form of addictions to substances and other behavioral addictions, which they have no choice but to do, even with the knowledge that the end result could be disastrous.

Some of the outcomes of addiction may include mental disorder, health disorder, sudden death, truncated relationships, and broken families amongst others. Knowing the dangers that come with addiction, it would be very traumatic for children of tender ages to fall victim of the experience or the act.

How does it happen?

Under normal circumstances, children are not likely to have a part in the experience of what addiction seems like. However, some children one way or the other get into it via different means, the most potent of such means is through their parents and guardians. When children are raise by people who struggle with addiction, it tends to rob off on the children in the long-run.

Other neighbors, friends, and family who are saddled with the responsibility of taking care of children could be struggling with addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, talking, gambling, or some other addiction practices and substances.

Scientists have proven that the brains of children are receptive to whatever is being given, i.e. if all a child gets to feed his or brain with everyday are addictive processes and substances, in no time the child would tend to trying it out, and the moment t persists, the child becomes roped in to addiction.

Societal factors could also be considered as one of the cause of addiction for children. The friends they keep in the school they attend and in the community they live, could also influence addiction. Aside from personal contacts, the things they get to see and hear could also be of influence.

The outcome of addictions in children

Children in their tender ages depend on their parents for provision and protection, and at the moment that they can no longer get that from their parents they become insecure and frightened. Some children develop low self-esteem via bad parenting, and might have to live with it for the rest of their lives.

Addicted parents will definitely not always be able to devote time, energy, and resources to grooming their wards in the best way they should, and as such, children in such situations end up not having the training and education that they should, which leads to illiteracy and unemployment in the nation.