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Cannabis and Breastfeeding

Cannabis and Breastfeeding

As Canada tries to understand the legislation, safety and guidelines around the use of cannabis, many expectant and new parents are wondering how cannabis affects the breastfed baby and if it is safe to use during breastfeeding.

Firstly, most experts agree, more research needs to be done. There are very few studies done on the long-term use of cannabis in human milk and its affect on the baby.

The latest research: 

A study, which was published April 6, 2018 in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecologyconcluded that mothers should not smoke marijuana while breastfeeding because it is not known what amounts are safe. 

Senior study author Thomas Hale, Director of Infant Risk Center at Texas Tech says, “This study is just a start to see if marijuana transferred into breast milk. Levels in milk were quite low." Read more here.

Study co-author and co-director of the Infant Risk Center at Texas Tech University School of Medicine, Dr. Teresa Baker, says, "There is concern for the developing brain exposed to THC, which is the active component in marijuana.”

The study authors noted that they didn't know if the levels of the drug in breast milk would increase the more a woman smokes.

Lactmed is the gold standard for mother’s milk and medications. Their website says, “The LactMed® database contains information on drugs and other chemicals to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed. It includes information on the levels of such substances in breast milk and infant blood, and the possible adverse effects in the nursing infant. Suggested therapeutic alternatives to those drugs are provided, where appropriate. All data are derived from the scientific literature and fully referenced.“ Lactmed is updated monthly.

What Lactmed says about Cannabis:

“Although published data are limited, it appears that main psychoactive component of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is excreted into breastmilk in small quantities.”

Jack Newman is a Canadian Pediatrician and breastfeeding expert. His wildly familiar book Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding states "If a mother is using marijuana occasionally, and is capable of taking good care of the baby, there is no reason to advise formula,"  and goes on to write, "There is no evidence that the small amounts present in the milk will harm the baby." His website states “… if the mother is so impaired that she cannot make a good judgment about what her baby needs, that is potentially dangerous for the baby.”

Making informed decisions and weighing all the information we currently have is important.  

Some highlights:

If you are going to use cannabis, don’t do it alone, use only small amounts and infrequently, as some THC is excreted into breastmilk; be aware we don’t know enough about the impact, avoid usage in babies under 1 month old (earlier studies showed these young infants had decreased motor skills at one year of age.

Many women are concerned about the usage of CBD for anxiety and depression support. There are positive stories about how CBD can reduce anxiety and depression. While we must once again acknowledge the lack of research, here is what the experts write:  

Jack Newman writes this about CBD oil:

“Cannabidiol (CBD), is now used widely as treatment for various medical disorders (medical marijuana) and thus not really a drug of recreation. It has low oral absorption, less than 20% of the orally taken dose, is absorbed.”

Dr Thomas Hale writes this about CBD: 

“As for Cannabidol (CBD), while it appears to be somewhat safer than delta-9-THC, which produces psychological effects, Cannabidiol seems to be somewhat safer.”

Stay tuned as we continue to share the latest research that will continue to emerge about Cannabis and Breastfeeding.

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