Doctors around the world recommend breastfeeding infants if at all possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding until 6 months of age with breastfeeding and appropriate foods continuing for 12 months or longer. They cite the increased nutritional value, increased immune protection, and many other health benefits including a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
In recent years, we have seen more mothers choosing to breastfeed vs. formula feeding. The CDC’s annual Breastfeeding Report Card found that 84% of women choose to breastfeed as of 2021 with more than half (58%) still breastfeeding at 6 months and about one-third (35%) still breastfeeding at 12 months.
With the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis in many states, there is a potential rise in the number of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. These women are using cannabis either socially, medically, or regularly. Currently, research on the topic of breastfeeding and cannabis is limited, but the increasing number of cannabis-breastfeeding mothers calls for further research to be conducted—quickly.
There are many questions in regard to breastfeeding and cannabis. How much THC transfers into breast milk? Does it matter what form of cannabis you use? Will cannabis breastfeeding cause short-term or long-term effects on the baby? Is there mandated reporting on those who use cannabis and breastfeed? Unfortunately, not all of them have definitive answers.
THC, CBD, and Breastmilk
There is plenty of data to prove that Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly referred to as THC, transfers from blood to breast milk. And, that is regardless of whether you eat edibles, use oils or other concentrates, or smoke cannabis. The research seems to show that only small amounts are transferred, but THC can stay in breast milk for days to weeks after consumption.
The transfer of THC and the potential effects on motor, neurological, and nervous system development leads the FDA and doctors to strongly advise against the use of cannabis while breastfeeding.
That advisory includes no-THC CBD products. Though there is almost no research on the effects of CBD on breast milk, there are other risks to consider with CBD.
Cannabis Breastfeeding Research or Lack Thereof
Unfortunately, there’s a lack of evidence on the subject of cannabis and breastfeeding safety due to a lack of peer-reviewed research. There are studies available that don’t find any harmful effects from cannabis breastfeeding, while others find a delay in motor development.
One 2008 study found that “socially relevant” doses of THC could raise plasma cortisol levels, but frequent users had lower baseline prolactin levels. So, there is no conclusive answer on the impact of cannabis use and length of lactation either.
Cannabis and Breastfeeding: Is it Safe to Partake?
There is simply not enough research to determine one way or the other. While there are studies that show a limited impact on the infant’s development with regular use, there are no existing studies about the long-term effects.
For that smoking cannabis, there are other risk factors to consider. Smoke exposure, other contaminants present in unregulated cannabis, and other risks can impact infant health. Secondary smoke is known to cause issues with an infant’s lungs and brain in the short term with other long-term effects impacting them lifelong. So, if you are going to partake in cannabis use, you shouldn’t smoke while the baby is present.
A secondary issue for mothers who test positive for THC is the potential for denied benefits. Mothers who test positive for THC may be denied access to lactation consultants, breast pumps, or other assistance due to the legalities and perceived danger. No-THC CBD is legal in many states, even those with limited or no legal cannabis. While most CBD products do not contain THC, there can be trace amounts leaving a small chance of a positive test result.
While recreational cannabis use is legal in 19 states, it is still illegal at the federal level. The Child Abuse and Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) does require states to have reporting policies and procedures in place for infants and children who are being exposed to illegal substances. You will need to check your state’s policies to determine if there is mandated reporting on cannabis.
With the lack of research, medical professionals will always err on the side of caution. Still, if you are planning to partake in cannabis use while actively breastfeeding, you should consult a doctor.
Heally’s nationwide network of licensed physicians and specialists is at your disposal. We can arrange telehealth or in-office visits with holistic medicine doctors well-versed in cannabis use. Talk to a doctor today.