Breastfeeding rates among mothers of infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome

Breastfeed Med. 2010 Aug;5(4):159-64. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2009.0079.


Background: Woman who struggle with drug addiction during pregnancy are perhaps the most vulnerable of new mothers. The opioid substitution medications methadone and buprenorphine are both compatible with breastfeeding. The objective of this study is to determine breastfeeding rates among opioid-dependent women giving birth in a Baby-Friendly Hospital.

Methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of all infants born at Boston Medical Center (Boston, MA) between July 2003 and January 2009 with a diagnosis of neonatal abstinence syndrome. Feeding information was obtained, as well as baseline medical information about the mother-infant pairs. Breastfeeding eligibility was determined by a negative urine toxicology screen on admission, no illicit drug use in the third trimester, and a negative human immunodeficiency virus status.

Results: Two hundred seventy-six mother-infant pairs were identified. Forty percent of the mothers carried one or more psychiatric diagnoses; 24% were taking two or more psychiatric medications. Sixty-eight percent of the mothers were eligible to breastfeed; of those, 24% breastfed to some extent during their infant's hospitalization. Sixty-percent of those who initiated stopped breastfeeding after an average of 5.88 days (SD 6.51).

Conclusions: Breastfeeding rates among opioid-dependent women were low, with three-quarters of those eligible electing not to breastfeed. Of the minority of women who did choose to breastfeed, more than half stopped within 1 week.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / epidemiology*
  • Buprenorphine / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Methadone / administration & dosage
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / complications*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone