Article written by
Tina MagrabiSenior Content Writer
Content reviewed by
Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
Table of contents
Marijuana use is not recommended during pregnancy and should probably be avoided while lactating and breastfeeding. Although the available data is inconclusive, the FDA advises pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to abstain from using cannabis products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD).
Cannabis may adversely affect fetal brain development and lead to issues like low birth weight while increasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Here we explain how marijuana affects breastmilk and outline the risks of using weed while breastfeeding.
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How Marijuana Affects Breastmilk
The psychoactive compound that gets you high, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), directly enters the bloodstream when you consume cannabis. Anything that passes through your bloodstream will eventually get into breastmilk. So, if you’re experiencing a psychoactive high, your breastfed baby will receive the same chemicals that you’re ingesting.
THC is stored in fat cells and doesn’t fully exit the body until nearly a week (or more) after using cannabis. This long-term storage means that you cannot pump and dump your breastmilk in the hopes that the THC will be gone.
At the same time, it’s challenging to estimate just how much THC gets into breastmilk and remains there. For one, there are no standard dosages for cannabis. In addition, each woman’s body chemistry differs, so your body may process and excrete the THC more slowly or quickly than another woman’s body would.
In addition, some research has indicated that marijuana exposure could reduce breast milk production by decreasing prolactin, the protein that enables mammals to make milk. Marijuana use may also have direct adverse effects on mammary glands, according to recent studies.
Medical Marijuana and Breastfeeding
Not all the research on medical marijuana and breastfeeding is negative. One study presented at the 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition indicated that cannabis use might not affect all breastfeeding mothers and their babies.
However, the study analyzed the medical records of 763 preterm infants, which is insufficient to determine whether or not lactating mothers should use MMJ. As there are serious potential complications with using medical marijuana while breastfeeding, it is advisable to speak with your physician before making an informed decision.
Risks of Using Marijuana While Breastfeeding
There are numerous risks associated with using marijuana while breastfeeding. From cognitive delays to issues with general mental function, the stakes are high when using weed during breastfeeding.
Cognitive delays linked to marijuana use may occur during fetal development in utero and neonates. In other words, it is possible for cannabis to affect your baby during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Attention deficits and problems with short-term memory have been reported in infants up to eighteen months old.
Emotional Regulation Issues
Aggressive behavior has been observed as more prevalent in babies whose mothers use marijuana. Symptoms of depression and anxiety have also been observed in older children exposed to marijuana in the womb. Emotional effects resulting from breastfeeding while using cannabis have not yet been studied.
Deficits in verbal, visual, and quantitative reasoning skills have been reported, starting from the age of three in babies exposed to cannabis in utero. Such deficits have been studied in affected individuals up to 22 years of age.
Breastfed babies appear to have reduced height and decreased motor development when exposed to cannabis during breastfeeding.
Effects of Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke from cannabis has been found in the lungs of nearly half of children exposed to the drug. Pot-smoking parents in Colorado participated in a study that found secondhand marijuana smoke detrimental to their children’s health.
Some of the children were hospitalized for bronchiolitis, an inflammatory lung infection usually diagnosed in childhood. However, bronchiolitis is often triggered by a virus, so there is no direct evidence that secondhand smoke led to the condition in these children.
Still, doctors strongly advise against smoking weed around children. Marijuana smoke can exacerbate existing respiratory conditions like asthma and even cause children to get high.
Using CBD While Breastfeeding
Using CBD while breastfeeding may or may not be safe. To be prudent, avoid using CBD oil and other CBD products while you are breastfeeding. It’s best to stay away from CBD products because they are unregulated, and some products do have trace amounts of THC.
Poor quality CBD products could also contain pesticides and heavy metals, which will leach into human breast milk. But even if you’re purchasing organic CBD products from a licensed dispensary, they may not be appropriate for use while you’re in the breastfeeding stage.
When Is It Safe to Use Cannabis Again?
The outward effects of THC generally wear off within 24 hours, but cannabis can be detectable in the system for much longer. THC has been detected on urine tests up to one month following cannabis consumption. In hair samples, THC has been detected for as long as 90 days after cannabis use.
So, when is it safe to use cannabis again if you’re breastfeeding? It is unsafe at any point to smoke cannabis (or nicotine) around your children. Secondhand smoke can lead to serious health consequences for children and adults, including cancer.
In terms of other consumption methods, you may resume using cannabis when your baby has been fully weaned and is no longer breastfeeding.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use medical marijuana while breastfeeding?
Currently, there is insufficient research to determine whether it is safe to use medical marijuana while breastfeeding. Exercise caution if you decide to use cannabis while breastfeeding your baby, and consult with your obstetrician.
How long does THC stay in breastmilk?
THC can stay in breastmilk anywhere from one to six weeks. If you have smoked weed within the past six weeks and breastfed your baby, there is a likelihood that your child has consumed at least trace amounts of psychoactive THC.
Can I use CBD oil while breastfeeding?
Due to inconclusive evidence and widely unregulated products, it is best not to use CBD oil or other CBD products while breastfeeding. Consult with your OB-GYN for the final word on whether medical marijuana is appropriate for you as a breastfeeding mother.
When you move beyond your pregnancy and breastfeeding season, you may find medical marijuana helpful for common conditions. The physicians at Leafwell can help you apply for a medical marijuana card quickly and easily online. Contact us today to book an appointment in our virtual clinic and get started.