Ohio Teen Using Baby Blankets to Fight Infant Heroin Addiction
Sidney Depp is a 16-year-old sophomore cheerleader at Springboro High School in Springboro, Ohio. For the past two years she has been running a non-profit called The Love Project. The mission of her campaign is to help fight infant heroin addiction, which has increased drastically in the past few years due to the opioid epidemic.
The Love Project
In the two years since Sidney started The Love Project there have been over 2,000 baby blankets decorated and donated to hospitals throughout the state of Ohio. The blankets are made to swaddle babies born with drug addiction. The Love Project uses new donated receiving blankets along with blankets sold to her by a local Walmart for $1 each. Sidney Depp irons patches on the comforters reading “You Are Loved. Jeremiah 29:11” and distributes boxes of the blankets to area hospitals. When talking about her efforts in an interview with PEOPLE, Sidney states,
“I want not only the baby as it grows, but the mother to be reminded that God still has a plan and a future, and you should never lose hope.”
The Ohio teen delivers hundreds of blankets to mothers of drug-addicted babies in person. Currently, the campaign operates on donations and monetary contributions.
While there is no website, you can visit the GoFundMe page or Facebook page to get more information.
A Mission of Love
Sidney says she was only 14 when she learned infant heroin addiction was such a prevalent issue. When she found out that every 19 minutes a child is born addicted to opioids in America, she was shocked, which sparked a desire to help.
Sidney told PEOPLE that a friend of her family had been certified to take in foster children, and their very first week they were called to care for a baby born with infant heroin addiction. Sidney said,
“I had no idea that it was such a big problem, and as soon as I saw that baby, I wanted to do something to help.”
Doctors told her that one of the best ways to comfort these children was to wrap them in receiving blankets when they were going through opioid withdrawals, she said:
“I thought that’s something I can do to make a difference where I live,”
Ohio has been a state at the heart of the opioid crisis for some time. Dayton, not too far from where Sidney lives, was recently named the number one city in the country for drug overdoses. In fact, two other Ohio towns made the top 10.
During her interview, Sidney talked about how most people believe addiction is a problem for big cities. However, she knows that this big problem has a huge impact in small towns. So when she found a way to help, she took the opportunity and learned about infant heroin addiction.
“When I first started doing this, it broke my heart to find out that most of these babies are left alone to go through withdrawal because their mothers aren’t able to see them,”
“Nurses can’t spend enough time with them and hospitals need more volunteers. But with a blanket, at least these babies can feel some comfort and relief. And when the blanket goes home with them, they’ll always have a reminder that they are loved.”
Likewise, Sidney tries to use her campaign as an opportunity to support the mothers of babies with infant heroin addiction.
Making a Difference
Throughout this process, Sidney has made connections with mothers like Nichole Potts, a 33-year-old who was devastated to discover her son, Christian, was born with infant heroin addiction. In fact, the now two-year-old boy Christian was one of the first to receive a swaddling blanket from The Love Project. Potts told PEOPLE:
“When I met Sidney [at the hospital], she treated us like any other mother and new baby. Instead of making me feel like a terrible person. For once, I didn’t feel judged, just loved. It made me feel really special, getting that blanket. Ever since, I’ve been clean and sober, and Christian is now healthy and happy. It’s wonderful to know there are people like Sidney who care.”
Sidney’s parents were also saddened to hear about the impact of the opioid epidemic, but are proud of the work their daughter is doing. Her mother, Virginia, states:
“I love that she’s been able to take this current drug epidemic and give people a new perspective on some of the victims. Sidney is teaching us that everyone can do their part to make a difference in the world.”
And it is truly amazing to see someone so young doing something so courageous and making a difference. Not only does this campaign bring comfort to babies born into very real suffering, it also brings hope to their parents who may have otherwise been hopeless. It is without question a touching and compassionate effort to make the lives of victims of the opioid crisis better.
Infant Heroin Addiction
The technical term for the symptoms and issues babies experience when withdrawing due to exposure to narcotics is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).
According to Stanford Children’s Health, nearly every drug a mother ingests passes from the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta and to the fetus. Therefore, if a mother is using illicit and addictive substances while pregnant, it also causes the fetus to become addicted to the substance. So, the infant is born with a drug dependence. However, because that substance is no longer present, the baby’s central nervous system will become overstimulated, causing withdrawal symptoms. Some symptoms include:
- Tremors (trembling)
- Irritability (excessive crying)
- Sleep problems
- Tight muscle tone
- Hyperactive reflexes
- Stuffy nose and sneezing
- Poor feeding
- Fever or unstable temperature
Typically, heroin and other opioid drugs cause withdrawal in over half of the babies prenatally exposed to them. So when a mother uses illicit substances like heroin, she places her unborn child at a high risk for many health problems.
But infant heroin addiction and neonatal abstinence syndrome don’t only lead to withdrawals. Other complications the baby may experience include:
- Poor intrauterine growth
- Premature birth
- Birth defects
Furthermore, symptoms of infant heroin addiction can last as long as six months. Sadly, a mother using drugs is also less likely to seek prenatal care, which only increases the risks for both her and the baby.
However, there are specific treatments for NAS. Speaking with your baby’s doctor is the best way to determine a course of action.