Mother Sentenced for Killing Her Infant by Breastfeeding While on Drugs

PHOTO: This undated photo provided by the Spartanburg County Prosecutors office shows Stephanie Greene.
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A South Carolina mother was sentenced to 20 years in prison today for killing her 6-week-old baby by breastfeeding her while taking narcotics.

Stephanie Greene, 39, was convicted Thursday of homicide by child abuse, involuntary manslaughter and unlawful conduct toward a child. Her baby died on Nov. 13, 2010, of respiratory failure, and tests later revealed toxic levels of drugs including morphine and Klonopin in her blood, Barry Barnette, South Carolina’s 7th Judicial Circuit Solicitor, told ABCNews.com.

“There’s no other way it could get there but breast milk,” Barnette said.

The baby, whose name was Alexis, was 46 days old, he said.

Though the baby had gained weight in her first two weeks of life, records show that she lost nearly half a pound in the month before she died, he said.

“That’s consistent with a morphine overdose over an extended period of time,” Barnette said. “I think that was the clincher for the jury.”

Greene's defense attorney did not respond to calls by ABC News seeking comment.

Breastfeeding Mother Charged in Infant's Death

Greene is a former nurse who lost her license in 2003 after being convicted of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, Barnette said. She hid her pregnancy from two doctors who were giving her drugs for an ailment stemming from a 1998 car wreck, he said. Neither the doctors nor the OB/GYN knew how many drugs she was taking until the investigation into her daughter’s death, he said.

“She’s a nurse so she knows how to work it,” Barnette said.

Once she was obviously pregnant, she would miss appointments with the doctors who were giving her narcotics and send her husband to pick up prescriptions instead, he said.

The morning Alexis died, Greene’s husband called 911 and handed the phone to her.

“At that time, she was just patting the back of the child, not doing CPR,” Barnette said. “You can hear her voice is slurred.”

Greene had already lost custody of her two older children in 2003, when she was convicted of child negligence the first time, Barnette said. She has one other child with her current husband.

When Greene received her sentence this morning, she showed no emotion, Barnette said.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, mothers taking morphine or codeine drugs while breastfeeding should do so with extreme caution because their babies could overdose.

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