Posted by: Admin | August 1, 2011

My Thoughts on Breastfeeding and Maternal Illicit Substance Abuse

I am sure no woman wants to enter motherhood being a substance abuser… All mothers want what is best for their babies and they know they should not be taking illicit substances during pregnancy. Who wants their baby born stoned on drugs? Usually, women holding a battle against substance abuse fight hard to stay clean and they want, just like all other mothers, a beautiful, healthy and drug-free baby.

In many cases, the sheer strength given by motherhood will allow a woman to avoid her addiction all through pregnancy and to continue being substance-free even after the birth of the child. Many mothers find the strength to do this because of their intention to breastfeed their babies. A known substance abuser’s decision to breastfeed always causes a dilemma for health care workers. Knowing the mother’s past history, they wonder if they should allow her to breastfeed.

Actually, if you were ever in that position, or are in it now, you need to know that no one can take away your right to give the best you can offer to your baby. No one can tell you that you are not allowed to breastfeed. You are the mother of the child and you have the ability, as a human being, to take decisions for your child’s best interest. No law can stop you from breastfeeding your child, but no law will allow you to put your child’s life or well-being in danger!

If you are addicted to a substance (whether you are using presently or not) you need to consider the following:

  • First and foremost, the well-being of your child has priority over everything else.
  • Your baby has the right to receive the best from you.
  • As a parent, if you choose to use a substance, your first concern should be that your baby is cared for by someone who is not using and who will give him good care for the whole time you will be under the influence of a substance.
  • You will need information on the effects drugs could have on your breastfed baby. All illicit substances pass into breastmilk and most hard drugs (heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, etc.) should not be taken while breastfeeding. They can lead to severe symptoms and put your child’s life in danger. For some drugs, but not all, you can resume breastfeeding if you took it only once and if you delay breastfeeding for a few days and express your milk until it is drug-free. You will need to consult a health care worker specialized in breastfeeding to get the correct information.
  • If a health care or social worker believes you are putting your child’s well-being in danger, they will do what they need to do to protect him or her! This usually means the child will be taken away from you for awhile.

As you can understand from this post, breastfeeding while substance abusing is not only a question of what type of drug is in breastmilk and what effect it will have on the breastfed baby. It goes way beyond that and takes root into the need for all of us to protect and care for the beautiful children of our Cree communities.

Good luck in your battle to work through your problems. And above all, do it because you know you are the best mother for your children!

Next –  Dear LC, can I smoke pot while breastfeeding?



    These extremely sad situations do happen.

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