Breastfeeding Mother Charged in Infant's Death

Police say morphine in the mother's milk killed a 6-week-old child.

June 27, 2011— -- A South Carolina mother has been charged with murdering her 6-week-old daughter after traces of morphine were discovered in the mother's breast milk.

The six month investigation concluded that Stephanie Greene had been abusing painkillers prior to her daughter's death, according to police.

"She had been 'doctor shopping,' visiting different doctors, each not knowing about the other," said Master Deputy Tony Ivey of the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office. "She was taking those drugs in such high quantities that, as a result, the daughter ingested it."

Greene appeared in court Friday according to police at the sheriff's office and has been charged with murder or homicide by child abuse or neglect, as well as 38 counts of violating state drug distribution laws. She was denied bond and Ivey said he expects her to appear in court again today or Tuesday in front of a circuit judge.

Police responded to an emergency call on Nov. 13 at a home in northern Spartanburg County where they found a 6-week-old child who was pronounced already deceased as law enforcement arrived on the scene.

Mother Charged With Infant Through Tainted Breast Milk

"We didn't know why at the time," said Ivey, who confirmed that test results revealed the cause of death to be an injection of high levels of prescription drugs which caused the baby to stop breathing.

Investigators spent a number of months tracking down enough evidence to arrest Greene which Ivey said involved a series of questionings as well as a long wait for toxicology results to be finalized by the state's lab in Columbia, S.C. placed repeated calls to the residence where Greene lived, but there was no answer at that time.

Although morphine was the drug found in the infant's system, police discovered during the course of the investigation that Greene was abusing other painkillers as well, including oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Ivey said that the coroner suggested that the lethal dose killing the infant came either through the breast milk or from intentionally placing it in the child's mouth.

"We're assuming it was through breast feeding," he said, adding that this is the first case of its kind he has ever seen.

Diana West, a spokeswoman for La Leche League International, an organization that promotes breastfeeding, said that although it is possible for babies to die from medications taken by their mothers, death is unlikely in most cases if the mother is taking a prescribed amount of a drug.

"It could lead to a baby being sedated and not able to breath clearly, but is unlikely … It depends how much of the drug she was taking," said West, referring to morphine. "Prescribed amounts of morphine are considered compatible with breastfeeding. Women shouldn't be frightened from this if they are complying with their doctor's prescription."