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.