A woman in Pennsylvania is being charged with the death of her 11-week-old son after authorities say methadone, amphetamine, and methamphetamine were found in the baby’s system. According to a police affidavit, the baby ingested the drugs when his mother breastfed him.
Samantha Jones, 30, is in jail on $3 million bond. She told police officers, per the affidavit, that she had been prescribed methadone because of an addiction to painkillers. She said that she had taken it during her pregnancy, and that she was taking it when her baby, R.J., died.
Jones told police that R.J. was primarily breastfed but that she switched him to formula the day before he died because she needed to “re-up her supply” of breast milk. However, she said that on April 2 at about 3 a.m., she woke to hear R.J. crying. Jones was too tired to go downstairs to make a bottle of formula, the affidavit says, so she tried to breastfeed the baby. However, Jones added, she wasn’t sure if he latched on or not. Jones says she dozed off intermittently for several hours after that.
Jones’s husband, Vincent McGovern, told police he found his wife and the baby in a separate bedroom at about 6 a.m. on April 2. The baby was crying, and Jones asked her husband to make him a bottle with formula. McGovern then left for work. Jones says she fed the baby a bottle and placed him in a bassinet at around 6:30 a.m. and fell asleep. She told police she woke up about an hour later to find the baby pale and with bloody mucus coming from his nose. Jones said she called out to her mother, who was in the house and called 911, and performed CPR under the instruction of a dispatcher.
When police arrived at 7:38 a.m., R.J. was in cardiac arrest, according to the affidavit. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Not all drugs are transferred through a mother’s breast milk, and there are a few factors that determine whether this will happen, including the size of the drug’s molecules, the amount that’s in the mother’s body, how well the drug binds with proteins, and its half-life (i.e., the period of time it takes for the concentration of the drug to be reduced by half in a person’s body), Jamie Alan, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. All of the drugs that were found in R.J.’s system could be passed through breast milk, she says.
Many other illegal drugs can be transferred to a baby through breast milk, Alan says. “Adverse effects of drugs on the breastfed infant have been reported for several drugs of abuse including amphetamine, heroin, methadone, cocaine, and PCP,” Alan says. Marijuana is also thought to be transferred through breast milk, Leigh Anne O’Connor, a board-certified lactation consultant and La Leche League leader, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Some drugs, like amphetamines, can even become more concentrated in breast milk than in a mother’s system, Danelle Fisher, MD, FAAP, chief of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Some women have nursed their babies while on methadone, but it needs to be “carefully regulated,” with a doctor monitoring how much the mom is taking and how often, Fisher says. Still, she adds, “absolutely none of it is good for the baby.”
If you’re taking any medication while breastfeeding, it’s important to talk to a doctor or pharmacist to make sure it’s safe for the baby, Alan says. “Your doctor or pharmacist may switch your medication to another safer medication, recommend formula feeding, or may advise you to ‘pump and dump,’” she says. If your doctor is unsure whether the medication you’re taking is safe, call your child’s pediatrician. “We get calls all the time from moms to make sure a medication they’re prescribed is safe to take while breastfeeding,” Fisher says.
A preliminary hearing for Jones is set for July 23.
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