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.

The Effects of Addiction on Children

addiction childrenAddiction is traumatic for children when it is introduced into their lives. Ideally, children would never be exposed to addiction, but this is far from the case. Children all over the world are raised by parents or guardians who struggle with addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, the internet or some other addictive substance or process. The relationships that children have with their addicted parents typically cause psychological damage to the child that, in some cases, never heals. This is a tragedy, but circulating information on the damage that addiction does to children is the only way to raise awareness about it.

Being exposed to addiction makes children feel insecure and afraid. Children have brains like sponges, and though they are innocent, they are very aware. They depend on their parent to have things under control and protect them from the world, and they are able to sense if their parent is unable to do so. Parents who are consumed by addiction are not devoting the time, energy or attention to their child that they should be. The child is aware that their parent is mentally absent and it robs the child of the security they should feel in their parent.

This tends to make the child withdrawn and mistrusting of others, particularly when they are very young because they do not know how to express their feelings to others. They know their parent is dysfunctional and they know that other children do not have this problem. They can sense how they are different and less fortunate but they do not know who they can open up to about it, or even if they should. Anti-social behavior is observed in many children of addicted parents.

As the child grows and matures, they are much more likely than other children to develop addictions and mental disorders of their own. The thought and behavior patterns that children form in their early years are ones they will carry with them for their entire lives. If the foundation of a person’s childhood includes parents who are addicted and therefore less available, the child is likely to develop mental problems of their own as a direct result.

Struggling With Addiction When Pregnant

pregnant addictedAddiction is a big problem for those who have no plans of parenting, but for soon-to-be parents, it is devastating. In a perfect world, impending parenthood would be motivation enough for anyone to recover from their addiction, but this is not the case. Many babies are born to parents who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food, tobacco or any number of things, and are deeply affected by their parent’s choices. Expecting a baby is a very exciting time in a person’s life, but for someone who is afflicted with addiction or planning to co-parent with someone who is afflicted with addiction, the joy is strained.

Addiction is a type of disease that requires treatment, and letting it go unchecked while raising a child is highly irresponsible. When either parent is still immersed in addiction after the child is born, the child is being exposed to an unhealthy environment. Sadly, it is not uncommon. One in five children is raised by a parent who is addicted for some amount of time. This does not mean that the household will be completely dysfunctional. There are many addicts who raise very functional children, however, this area of the family’s life will always be problematic unless the issue is addressed.

A very tragic form of addiction in parents-to-be is a substance addicted mother who is abusing substances while pregnant. This almost unavoidably causes complications for the unborn baby, either in the form of birth defects, health problems or a dependence on the substance being used. This type of addiction in a parent-to-be is the most dangerous to an unborn fetus, but it is not the only one that poses a threat to the child.

In the case of a substance abusing mother-to-be, an intervention should be held immediately for the sake of the fetus’s health. Bringing a baby into an addicted household is a decision that a parent will regret for the rest of their lives. Children of addicted parents are far more likely to become addicted themselves because of the psychological exposure to addiction as a way of life. If you are addicted and expecting a baby, please do not hesitate to reach out to an addiction treatment professional to learn about the treatment options that are available to you. The best thing an addicted parent-to-be can do is to bring their addiction under control before the baby is born.

Substance Abuse During Pregnancy

pregnancy substance abuseSubstance abuse during pregnancy is a sad but common reality. Carrying a child is not reason enough for some women to stop drinking, smoking or mismanaging their diet. This tends to happen when the mother is a struggling addict or when the pregnancy was unwanted and therefore uncared for. In a perfect world, the health of every unborn child would be of great concern to its mother, but some women are not able to meet this expectation. The most abused substances by mothers-to-be are, not surprisingly, alcohol and marijuana.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant can have disasterous consequences on the unborn child’s health. These health risks have been aptly grouped under the heading Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It is a small percentage of the population that is affected by this disorder, an approximate 1-percent, but it still creates a grave outlook for those affected. Women who engage in alcohol consumption while pregnant are likely to give birth to a child who will exhibit problems learning, memorizing and socializing. Often, their facial features will have a different appearance as well.
Marijuana use during pregnancy can also be very detrimental to an unborn child’s health. Research in this area is not very advanced, but what research we do have would suggest that heavy marijuana use during pregnancy frequently results in developmental disabilities, learning problems and distorted facial features.
Tragically, a women’s use of alcohol and drugs can create a chemical dependency within the unborn fetus. When the baby is born, it may experience withdrawal symptoms for the substance. Later in life, the individual will be far more likely to have addiction problems of their own due to their exposure at an early age. These are problems that critically need to be addressed in North America, but progress in finding a solution is being made very slowly.

Helping Families with Addiction

family addiction helpNot all cases of addicted parents raising children have a tragic ending. Some addicted parents still provide a lot of love and security to their children on many levels. Some parents only struggle with addiction briefly during a certain phase of their child’s life. And some parents simply find the addiction treatment they need and improve their lives for the good of themselves and their family. Treatment and counseling is always recommended for a struggling addict, but when the addict is a parent, counseling is recommended for the whole family.

The reason that addiction counseling should be extended to the entire family unit is because children in particular need help processing their parent’s behavior. Children are highly perceptive and have surely noticed their parent’s addictive behavior, but cannot relate to it or process it. Child psychologists and family addiction counselers are well equipped for helping children understand what their family is going through. They are able to get children talking about it so that it does not remain misinterpreted in their minds, or remain an emotional burden on their hearts.

The spouses or partners of addicts also need counseling. As adults, we have a better understanding of what addiction is, but to a non-addict, addictive behavior can still be hard to understand and can be emotionally scarring. The non-addicted partner has spent time having their needs neglected while their partner is lost in their addiction, and may have been frequently abused or mistreated as well. Not everyone’s relationship can survive this kind of turmoil. It is not uncommon for marriages and relationships with addicts to end in divorce or separation. But many are also willing to go through counseling and lend their sympathy to their partner, knowing that they are afflicted with a disease and need compassion. For those families who are willing to undergo recovery together, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Residents of the United States and Canada who are parents struggling with addiction may not know where to turn for help, but resources are available to them. Parents or soon-to-be parents who are ready to confront their addiction problems can turn to an addiction treatment facility United States or an addiction rehab Canada for direction in their recovery.