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Drug addiction, Neonatal abstinence syndrome, Neonatal intensive care unit, Substance-related disorder/nursing.



  1. Cleveland, Lisa M. PhD, RN, CPNP, IBCLC
  2. Gill, Sara L. PhD, RN, IBCLC


Purpose: To describe the hospital experiences of mothers who give birth to substance-exposed infants.


Study Design and Methods: Secondary analysis of data from a larger study that was focused on the experiences of Mexican-American mothers in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was conducted. Semistructured interviews with five women who were recovering addicts on methadone were analyzed. Each of their infants spent time in an NICU following birth. The transcribed interviews were analyzed using qualitative content analysis.


Results: Four themes were identified: (a) "try not to judge," (b) "scoring" the baby, (c) "share with me," and (d) "I'm the mother here!"


Clinical Implications: The quality of the relationship between the mothers and the nurses in the NICU was a crucial aspect of the mothers' experiences and may have an effect on long-term outcomes. Women with addictions often have other significant risk factors that may further jeopardize their ability to mother; therefore, it is essential to develop a strong support network. Nurses can be instrumental in organizing resources for this population of women. Judging behaviors may have a detrimental effect on women with addictions. Maternal adaptation to the mothering role can be enhanced by making reasonable efforts to include the mother in the care of the infant.