Cannabis has so many wonderful properties and the benefits of consuming it in any form are vast.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health has found that between 2002 and 2014 the use of cannabis in pregnant women rose from 2.3% to 3.85% with 21.1% of pregnant women stating they consume cannabis daily.
However, because of its illegal classification, we do not have much in the way of scientific studies to show us whether breastmilk containing cannabis harms the health of breastfeeding infants.
What little information we do have is somewhat contradictory, varied, and inconclusive.
One study compared infants whose mothers smoked cannabis during the breastfeeding period to breastfed infants of mothers who did not. They only found a slight reduction in motor development.
Another study looking at the possible short-term effects of premature breastfed babies whose mothers’ consumed cannabis during the breastfeeding process found that there were no negative short-term effects. Any long-term effects are still unknown.
How Cannabis Affects Breastfeeding
As of right now, little is truly known about the effects cannabis has on infants through breast milk.
The CDC, the FDA, and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advise against the consumption of THC and CBD while pregnant and breastfeeding.
The reason behind this stance is that it has been proven that THC and CBD can be found in the breastmilk of mothers who smoked, vaped, or consumed cannabis in any form up to 6 days after doing so.
This is due, in part, to the fact that THC is fat-soluble and will get stored in our fat reserves to be slowly released over a period of time. Since breastmilk has high concentrations of fat it can hold onto THC almost a week after a single consumption.
The amount found in breastmilk will vary widely on what is ingested, how much is ingested, how often, and how fast your body metabolizes it.
The Do’s of Breastfeeding and Cannabis
If you decide that consuming cannabis in any form while breastfeeding is right for you and your baby, here are 7 things to keep in mind.
1. Consult with a healthcare professional or lactation consultant familiar with cannabis
Whenever you are contemplating how cannabis might affect you or your baby, it is always best to contact your healthcare provider or lactation consultant. They will provide you with the most up-to-date, trusted information and give you possible alternative treatments to replace your cannabis use while breastfeeding.
2. Only use cannabis products that are lab-tested for purity and potency
Cannabis, though legal in some states, is still widely unregulated. It’s always a smart decision to only smoke, vape, or consume cannabis products that you’ve grown yourself or that have been lab-tested for purity and potency.
3. Consume the least amount possible to achieve your desired result
Gone are the days when you can just smoke a joint being passed around or consume an edible without knowing how much THC is in it. If you find that you must continue to consume cannabis while breastfeeding, make sure you are consuming as low a THC level as possible.
4. Smoke or vape your cannabis at least 1 hour before nursing
Just like with smoking cigarettes it is recommended that you wait to hold or nurse your baby at least 1 hour after smoking or vaping. The reason for this is to limit the exposure to third-hand smoke that might be on your clothes. Third-hand smoke is the residue left behind on clothes and surfaces after smoking or vaping. It can be inhaled through the nose and mouth and absorbed through the skin.
5. Try using cannabutter or CBD oil in small amounts in cooking
Instead of smoking or vaping your cannabis, try consuming it in small amounts through cannabutter or CBD oil incorporated into your cooking. Be careful, this method could cause you to inadvertently eat something that has a high level of THC.
6. Apply topical cannabis products to your own skin
Smoking, vaping, or eating cannabis isn’t the only option. You could also absorb it through your skin in the form of topical lotions and other CBD-infused health and beauty products. Just be careful not to put any of these topical solutions on your breasts or nipples.
7. Keep a cannabis journal to track your dosage and its effects
Keep a journal to track the following:
- When you consume cannabis
- What form you consume it in
- What the THC or CBD dose was
- How your baby reacted during breastfeeding, immediately after, and hours after
By doing this you will have a better idea of how well your baby is tolerating it.
Click here to learn more tips and techniques to help make breastfeeding while high more manageable.
The Don’ts of Breastfeeding and Cannabis
Here are 5 things you absolutely should avoid doing when you consume cannabis while breastfeeding.
1. Don’t smoke or vape around your baby
This applies to all forms of smoking and vaping of any type of product. Second and third-hand smoke is just too dangerous and unhealthy for adults, let alone children and infants. If possible, smoke or vape outside in an open space away from any infants and children.
2. Don’t use cannabis products with high THC levels
During your breastfeeding journey, high THC levels are not what you want to strive for. Keep the THC and CBD levels as low as possible to limit the potential negative effects your infant or toddler will be exposed to.
3. Don’t let your baby ingest cannabis in any form
Like any drug, whether it be illicit or over the counter, do not let your baby ingest it in any form. This includes CBD-infused products. There is only one CBD product that is FDA approved and it is to treat seizures. Every other CBD product is not FDA approved, meaning it is not held to a strict quality standard and could contain ingredients not listed on the product or in higher amounts.
Tips to Use Cannabis Safely While Breastfeeding
Below are some tips to help you safely use cannabis while breastfeeding.
Cannabis tinctures are made up of cannabis extracts that are infused into alcohol. This produces a liquid extract that has a high concentration of active cannabis compounds. Cannabis tinctures are typically used for medical marijuana purposes, are fast acting, and provide a way to know precisely how much THC you are consuming.
Why it’s a safer choice: Getting your cannabis in tincture form is safer than smoking or vaping because it eliminates the danger of exposing your lungs to toxins and carcinogens.
How to use: The tincture is administered through a dropper. A certain number of droplets are then placed under the tongue causing the THC to be absorbed through the mouth.
Cannabis topicals can be a wide array of health and beauty products that are created to be administered onto the skin. The most common form of a cannabis topical is a cannabis-infused lotion or balm which can contain THC, CBD, or a combination of the two.
Why it’s a safer choice: Cannabis topicals do not enter the bloodstream and therefore do not get you high but offer relief in the form of anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits.
How to use: Place the topical wherever you need relief from inflammation, nerve pain, arthritis, muscle cramps, and even on the head for migraines.
A cannabis edible is any form of food or beverage product that is infused with THC, CBD, or a combination of the two. The food edible is usually made using canna-butter or canna-oil that is incorporated into the ingredients of the food being created. A cannabis-infused beverage is made by adding drops of cannabis extract into a liquid.
Why it’s a safer choice: Edibles are safer than smoking cannabis because it does not risk damage to your lungs or cause second or third-hand smoke from toxins and carcinogens.
How to use: You can purchase already made edibles and beverages or you can make them yourself at home. Just substitute your regular butter or oil ingredient for canna-butter or canna-oil.
Warning: Consuming edibles can be tricky. It’s very hard to get an accurate dosage amount outside of a lab and the effects usually take 20-30 minutes to kick in which could cause a beginner to accidentally consume more than they should.
Cannabis vaporizers are devices that heat up cannabis oil and then dispense it in vapor form. You can find THC, CBC, or a Hybrid oil to use in your vape device.
Why it’s a safer choice: In states where cannabis is legal, vape oils are regulated and can not include any heavy metals, pesticides, or other harmful ingredients. This limits the possibility of inhaling any toxins and since it’s vapor and not smoke there are no carcinogens.
How to use: When you suck in on a vaporizer device the cannabis oil turns into an aerosol that you will inhale. The effects of the high will be felt immediately.
Consuming cannabis in any form while breastfeeding is considered unsafe and the CDC, FDA, and AAP, among many other health professionals and organizations, advise against it.
If you are considering breastfeeding while high or would like to know more about the potential effects it might have on your baby, please contact a trusted health care provider or lactation consultant. In the end, the decision is yours to make. It’s always best to be careful and get as much information about it as possible.