Comforting a baby (1831)

Key points below

What is happening to my baby? 

When a baby is exposed to drugs or alcohol before being born, it may affect them after birth. Babies may:

These signs are caused by the effects of drugs or alcohol on the baby’s brain.  It means that the baby is very sensitive to seeing, hearing or feeling things. 

What can I do to help my baby?

Do not let your baby reach a frantic cry state.

1. Watch for early signs that your baby needs care.  You baby may:
Yawn or sneeze more than normal.
Shiver or seem jumpy. 
Have a change in skin color.
Frown or cry.
2. Stop what you are doing if your baby shows signs of upset when you are giving care.
3. When your baby seems upset, give your baby a little time to settle down.

If your baby does reach a frantic cry state and cannot calm down:

1. Wrap your baby snuggly in a light blanket.
2. Hold your baby snuggly in an upright position.  Put one hand on your baby’s bottom and the other on their chest. Move your baby up and down and gently rock them.
3. When your baby calms down, offer a pacifier.
4. Once calm, unwrap your baby. If your baby begins to become frantic, re-wrap your baby in the light blanket again.

Babies need stimulation, but you must be careful when you stimulate your baby.

1. Use one kind of stimulation at a time. Smile and make eye contact or smile and talk softly.
2. Watch for signs of distress.  Your baby might turn their head away, cry or cough, fuss, squirm or kick, spit up or arch their back. If any of these things happen give your baby time to settle down.
3. Play with your baby when the baby is ready - not when you want to.

Add to the amount of interaction with your baby a little bit at a time.

Talk, sing, smile, rock or move your baby’s arms and legs very gently. Watch your baby for signs.  If your baby seems to like what you’re doing, you can keep it up.  If your baby is getting upset, stop and try something else.   

Do all babies who have been exposed to drugs act this way?

Not all babies will show these signs. For those that do, the hardest time is until a baby is two to three months old. 

Remember:  Be patient, your tender loving care is important to your baby.  At times, it may be hard to care for a baby who has been exposed to drugs.  Never shake your baby.  If you cannot comfort your baby, and you feel tense or angry, put the baby in a safe place.  Give yourself a time out, ask for help or call someone. 

Adapted from information provided by the National Association for Perinatal Addiction Research and Education.


Call your child’s doctor, nurse, or clinic if you have any questions or concerns or if your child has special health care needs that were not covered by this information.