Breastfeeding is an important way for mothers to bond with their newborns, while providing essential nutrients for their growth and development. However, for women who use cannabis, questions arise regarding the potential impact on their child’s health. In this article, we will explore the effects of cannabis use during breastfeeding and what nursing mothers need to know.
Cannabis and Breast Milk
Breast milk is the primary source of nutrition for newborns, and studies have shown that THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) can be transferred to breast milk in varying concentrations. This can potentially impact the infant’s development and behavior, as THC can affect brain development and function.
The Risks of Cannabis Use While Breastfeeding
While research on the long-term effects of cannabis use during breastfeeding is limited, studies have suggested that exposure to THC through breast milk can lead to reduced motor development, increased agitation, and changes in sleep patterns in infants. A 2018 study published in Pediatrics found that THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, was detectable in breast milk up to six days after maternal cannabis use. The study suggests that cannabis use during breastfeeding may result in long-term neurobehavioral effects on the infant.
Mothers who use cannabis while breastfeeding may also experience a decrease in milk production and impaired let-down reflex.
Alternatives for Nursing Mothers
For nursing mothers who use cannabis for medicinal purposes, there are alternative methods of consumption that can minimize the risks of exposing their child to THC through breast milk. These include using non-psychoactive CBD products, topical creams, and tinctures. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider and a qualified cannabis professional to determine the best approach for individual needs.
Legalities and Precautions
It is important for nursing mothers who use cannabis to be aware of the legalities surrounding cannabis use and breastfeeding in their state or country. While some states have legalized cannabis for medicinal or recreational use, there may be laws prohibiting its use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Additionally, mothers who use cannabis while breastfeeding may face legal repercussions if their child tests positive for THC. To avoid potential legal issues and involvement with child protective services, nursing mothers should remain current with local and federal legislation regarding cannabis use and breastfeeding.
In addition, nursing mothers who use cannabis should take precautions to minimize the risks of exposing their child to THC through breast milk. This includes using cannabis products with low THC concentrations, waiting at least two hours after consuming cannabis before breastfeeding, and avoiding smoking or vaping cannabis. It is also important to remain discreet about cannabis use and not post about it on social media, as this could potentially result in legal issues or involvement with child protective services.
Breastfeeding is a precious and important time for mothers and their infants, and cannabis use during this time requires careful consideration of both the potential risks and benefits. By staying involved and current with local and federal legislation, taking precautions to minimize the risks of exposing their child to THC, and remaining discreet about their cannabis use, nursing mothers can make informed decisions that prioritize the health and well-being of their child while still benefiting from the potential medicinal properties of cannabis.
The Need for Continued Research on Cannabis and Its Effects
Despite the growing interest in the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, there remains a lack of comprehensive research on its effects. Research on cannabis only began in the 1980s, and much of it has been conducted using small, biased studies. This has led to a lack of consensus on the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use, particularly in sensitive populations such as pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. To fully understand the effects of cannabis, it is crucial to continue pushing for research and to stay up-to-date with the latest clinical journals. Only then can we make informed decisions about the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
- The use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes during pregnancy and breastfeeding: A review of the clinical evidence. (2021). Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/cannabis/research-data/therapeutic-use-pregnancy-breastfeeding.html
- Russo, E. B. (2016). Cannabis and Cannabinoids in Breast Milk: A Critical Review. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1(1), 5-15. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2015.0002
- Westfall, R. E., Janssen, P. A., Lucas, P., & Capler, R. (2006). Survey of medicinal cannabis use among childbearing women: Patterns of its use in pregnancy and retroactive self-assessment of its efficacy against ‘morning sickness’. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 12(1), 27-33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2005.10.004
- Davis, N. (2021). Potential impacts of THC-positive mothers breastfeeding their preterm infants: Initial findings. Presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference, Fall 2021