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Florida campaign to protect newborns from drugs

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Diana Sprague, 28, and son Jaiden Wilding, 7 months Diana Sprague, 28, and son Jaiden Wilding, 7 months
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Florida officials are launching a new campaign aimed at convincing moms-to-be to stay off drugs for the sake of their babies.

The campaign will include billboards, commercials and a website (borndrugfreefl.com) with the slogan, "A baby's life shouldn't begin with detox." The public awareness campaign is funded by the Department of Children and Families and grew out of a statewide task force that also involves the Florida Department of Health and the state surgeon general.

According to statistics posted on the borndrugfreefl.com website, about seven in every 1,000 Florida babies born in 2011 were diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, meaning they had been exposed to drugs before they were born.

"These babies, their incubators they have to be covered in blankets, they're sensitive to light, to touch, to sound," said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who kicked off the campaign in Tampa on Friday. "They're being born into this world, these babies, just like you would see an addict who's going through the symptoms of withdrawal."

Diana Sprague said she started seeing symptoms in her baby, Jaiden Wilding, after he was born.

"It was probably two days after he was born that I started noticing him having tremors and he was sneezing a lot, and he was doing things that were worrying me a lot," she said.

Sprague said Jaiden was showing signs of withdrawal, and ended up in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit for a month.

Sprague, 28, says she was addicted to pills and using them while pregnant with her son. She says she sought help after being told by the Department of Children and Families that she could lose custody of Jaiden – once he was born – and his older sister.

When she was six months pregnant, Sprague went to the Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office, or DACCO, in Tampa. Jaiden, now seven months old, received treatment and is now healthy.

Sprague encouraged other moms in her situation to seek help, too.

"There is an answer and there is help," she said. "You just have to want it, that's all."

Officials say the campaign is also an effort to help keep babies with their mothers when those parents make healthy choices.

Sprague says she has not slipped since she started treatment at DACCO, and wants to stay clean for her kids.

"I just keep thinking in the back of my head that if I screw up, I'm going to lose my kids, and I can't do that, I can't do that to them," she said. "They're my lifeline. They need their mom."

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