Breastfeeding reduces the need for withdrawal treatment in opioid-exposed infants

Acta Paediatr. 2013 Nov;102(11):1060-6. doi: 10.1111/apa.12378. Epub 2013 Sep 2.


Aim: To examine the rate and duration of breastfeeding in a cohort of women in opioid maintenance treatment (OMT) in Norway, as well as the effect of breastfeeding on the incidence and duration of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

Methods: A national cohort of 124 women treated with either methadone or buprenorphine during pregnancy, and their neonates born between 1999 and 2009, was evaluated in three study parts. A standardized questionnaire was administered, and medical information from the hospitals and municipalities were collected to confirm self-reported data.

Results: There were high initiation rates of breastfeeding (77%) for women in OMT, but also high rates of early cessation of breastfeeding. Breastfed neonates exposed to methadone prenatally had significantly lower incidence of NAS requiring pharmacotherapy (53% vs. 80%), and both the whole group of infants and the methadone-exposed neonates needed shorter pharmacological treatment of NAS (p < 0.05) than neonates who were not breastfed.

Conclusion: Breastfed neonates exposed to OMT medication prenatally, and methadone-exposed newborns in particular, have lower incidence of NAS and require shorter pharmacotherapy for NAS than infants who are not breastfed. The results add to the evidence regarding the benefits of breastfeeding for neonates prenatally exposed to OMT medications.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Buprenorphine; Methadone; NAS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Buprenorphine / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Methadone / adverse effects*
  • Narcotics / adverse effects*
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / etiology
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome / therapy*
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*


  • Narcotics
  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone