Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome


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What is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) consists of signs of drug withdrawal that occur in infants exposed to opioids and other drugs during pregnancy. NAS usually appears within 48 to 72 hours, but it can occur up until seven days after birth. Babies with NAS experience symptoms with their central nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, and body temperature control.

What happens to babies experiencing NAS?

Treatment, including calming methods, are used to help babies experiencing NAS. If calming methods aren’t successful, use of medications (morphine, phenobarbital) may be required. Medication dosages are adjusted based on a baby’s withdrawal signs and NAS scores. When symptoms are controlled, the medication will slowly be decreased.

Can babies experiencing NAS be breastfed?

Supplying breast milk may be a great benefit to a baby experiencing NAS, but it needs to be discussed with the baby’s pediatrician. There’s always a concern that additional drugs may pass through breast milk to the baby. To ensure breast milk is safe, it may be screened.

What happens when a baby who experienced NAS is discharged?

Routine appointments with the baby’s pediatrician and developmental pediatrician are important. Some babies go home on phenobarbital, which is a drug to help stabilize the nervous system. The dose is slowly tapered over a few months.

Taking care of a baby with NAS.

If you have questions about NAS or need help finding a provider, call our behavioral health team toll-free at 1-800-873-2246, TTY 711.