Nurse Educator M.S.

Year Approved


First Advisor

Bredow, Timothy


Background: Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is defined as hyperactivity of the central and autonomic nervous symptoms in infants from intrauterine exposure to drugs of addiction. There is variability in how NAS is managed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for infants with NAS, more research should be conducted to discover how breastfeeding may benefit NAS infants in the NICU. Purpose: The purpose of this critical review of the literature is to determine whether neonatal abstinence symptoms of infants diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in the neonatal intensive care (NICU) differed if they were breastfed. Results: Using Meleis’s Transition Theory as the theoretical framework, 15 studies were reviewed and analyzed. The central concept of transitions closely aligns with the experiences of opioid-dependent women and their NAS infants in various types of transitions. The literature reveals that there are statistically significantly differences between formula-fed and breastfed infants in relation to the NAS scores done, length of hospital stay, and initiation of pharmacological treatment for NAS. Conclusion: The evidence from the research shows that breastfeeding may decrease NAS symptoms among infants in the NICU. Implications for Research and Practice: Further research is needed to examine tailored breastfeeding support for the substance-exposed mother and baby in randomized controlled trials to evaluate clinical benefits for breastfed infants. In the absence of breastfeeding contraindications, mothers should be encouraged and supported to breastfeed their infants by the nurses who care for them.

Degree Name

M.S. Nurse Educator

Document Type

Masterʼs thesis

Included in

Nursing Commons