Signs and symptoms of drug-addicted babies

Updated February 21, 2017

The signs and symptoms of a drug-addicted baby can vary individually, as each infant is different. The symptoms a newborn baby experiences, as well as the duration, depend upon the amount of narcotics a mother consumed and how much the baby had remaining in the bloodstream at the time of birth. This article attempts to provide basic information on the signs and symptoms of a baby suffering from drug withdrawal, while also providing solutions on how to care for these special little ones.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug-Addicted Babies

When a woman is pregnant, almost everything she consumes passes into the baby's bloodstream. From caffeine to nicotine, artificial stimulants can make an impact on both the appearance and behaviour of a newborn baby. For a mother who uses narcotics, this impact is even stronger, and can cause a condition in an infant known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is the official medical term for the issues a baby experiences while coming off of the drugs that have entered their tiny systems. NAS causes the exact same reaction in an infant as a drug-using adult if they stop taking their narcotic of choice. However, with a very young and small baby, the effects can be much more traumatic and serious.

One of the first signs and symptoms of a drug-addicted baby evident at birth is a low birth weight. Although many factors can cause this, if the mother is a known drug user, narcotics are almost always taken into consideration. Low birth weight babies can be of special concern not just because of their size and appearance, but because of their inability to ward off infection and common germs found in every hospital. The smaller the infant, the more susceptible he or she is to falling ill, especially when the body is already fighting off the effects of drugs.

Further Symptoms

Drug-addicted babies can also be extremely irritable. They may frustrate easily, have a short temper or be startled at the simplest sound. They often struggle with an irregular sleep pattern, and can be very hyperactive despite the lack of rest they manage to get. Due to these extreme personality traits in such a young baby, medical staffers and caretakers must have endless patience with these infants as the drug works its way out of the baby's system.

Long-Term Symptoms

A drug-addicted baby may also experience repercussions later in life. These include motor skill delays and the inability to interact and socialise with peers properly. Many babies born addicted to drugs go on to struggle with behaviour issues once they are school-aged. The ability to sit still, focus and maintain personal boundaries are sometimes great feats for these individuals, and these problems are often resolved only with therapy, a modified educational plan and/or prescription medication.

Helping with Healing

If you are a foster parent or relative of a drug-addicted baby, there are things you can do to try to comfort the infant as they come off of their narcotics addiction. Swaddling a baby tightly in a blanket can bring comfort and security to a little one. This also helps prevent overstimulation, which can further aggravate the infant. Some caretakers also find it helpful to learn infant massage or practice a lot of rocking and soothing sounds with these babies.

Learning the Ropes

Overall, the best way to comfort and assist a drug-addicted baby is to get to know the signs and symptoms unique to that particular infant. From darting eyes to sudden limb movement, when you learn the signs your baby is about to go over the edge, you can begin to respond quickly and appropriately.

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