Finally, now that those 9 months of pregnancy “hell” are over, you’ve delivered your now-healthy baby and are taking proper care of them from outside your belly and not inside for a change, it’s time to relax and chill out a bit.
Or so you tell yourself.
After months on end of following doctor’s orders to the T, depriving yourself from specific foods that are bad for baby during pregnancy, staying away from any alcohol if that’s your thing and possibly even abstaining from using marijuana, you think that this all comes to and end after delivery and you can get your life back just the way it was before – but you’re wrong.
For all of you breastfeeding mothers wondering whether it’d be safe to use marijuana for recreational purposes after giving birth to your baby, think again – there’s also a ton of potential risks associated with using this substance during breastfeeding phases.
Is It Safe For Breastfeeding Moms To Use Marijuana?
The short answer to this question is NO – it’s not safe nor advised for breastfeeding moms to use marijuana without the permission and supervision of a doctor at the very least.
Pot, hash, hashish, dope, Mary Jane, etc .. Whatever you call it, it’s all off limits for breastfeeding mothers.
Just because using marijuana may be legal in the state or city you currently live in does not mean it’s safe for just about anyone out there to use.
Both the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advise nursing mothers not to use marijuana during their breastfeeding phase for different reasons we’ll be discussing in detail throughout this article.
The American Academy of Pediatrics even goes as far as putting cannabis and other drugs like cocaine in the same list of off-limit substances for a breastfeeding mother, adding that cannabis can have long term effects on a baby’s neural and neurobehavioral development.
The Lack Of Substantial Research
Before we begin talking about the potential reasons why mothers using marijuana during breastfeeding periods is bad, it should be clearly noted that there isn’t much substantial research about the effects of marijuana on breastfed babies in the long term.
For obvious reasons, there aren’t many people willing risk testing having babies get exposed to weed to determine whether or not adverse long term effects exist, and there aren’t many parents willing to do this either.
If neither professionals in the medical field nor parents are willing to test these potential risks and effects, then there’s a lack of substantial data to rely and help give a definite answer.
And the scarce studies that are performed on the effects of mother’s consumption of marijuana during breastfeeding on baby’s development often lack the necessary future followup with the subjects being tested, which means we only get a sense of the short term effects at best and are left guessing about the long term effects.
Why Is It Bad To Smoke Weed While Breastfeeding
Mental Abilities And Judgement: When discussing the topic of marijuana and breastfeeding, it’s not just whether or not the quality of your breast milk will take a hit for the worse and become lower in quality that you have to worry about.
If you’re smoking weed while breastfeeding, you also have to think about the implications this has on your brain and whether or not you’ll still be able to fulfill all your responsibilities as a parent when you’re high on marijuana.
When you’re high on marijuana, no matter how small the amount you think you’ve used, you’re just not fit enough to take care of a baby at that specific time.
Supposing you’re carrying your baby in your arms while feeding them from a bottle, you risk choking them from feeding too much or not holding them in the right position because you’re not sober.
Or, if you’re changing their diapers on a changing table, there’s no guaranteeing you won’t have them fall off of it without intentionally meaning to.
Not to mention the fact that marijuana is known to cause mood swings in people who use it, which also affects your ability of properly taking care of your helpless and dependent baby.
Baby’s Brain Development: During this crucial phase of a baby’s life where their brain is developing, the last thing you’ll want to expose them to is something like marijuana (whether through second hand smoking or transfer through breast milk) which could harm their brain cells.
Altering the metabolism of brain cells this way during this very critical developmental phase in a baby, especially during their first month in life, can cause all sorts of problems both in the short run and in the long run.
Problems like speech difficulty and delayed motor development when compared to other children their age are a possibility.
Some studies, even though somewhat limited in scope and done in the 1990’s, did find that the earlier a baby gets exposed to THC in their lives (especially the first month of their lives), the higher the risk of delayed motor skills and lack of proper movement & coordination skills.
Premature Babies: If your baby was born prematurely, the risk on their brain development with you using marijuana during breastfeeding is higher.
Premature babies already have higher risks of neurological problems than babies born according to schedule, so exposing them to THC (especially during the first month of their lives) will only lead to the increase of an already high risk.
Transfer of THC Through Breast Milk: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the active ingredient in the drug marijuana that’s responsible for getting you high, and has been scientifically proven to transfer to babies through a mother’s breast milk.
When a nursing mother smokes weed, THC has been found to be stored in fat tissues for months on end, as well as areas and organs in the body that receive a good supply of blood, such as the heart and the breasts.
THC is fat soluble in nature, and all fat soluble active ingredients easily get into wherever there’s fat in your body and are stored there for significant periods of time.
Since breast milk has a lot of fat in it by nature, due to fat being one of the most important macro nutrients a developing baby needs to get from their diet, THC easily makes its way there.
The more marijuana smoked, the more THC buildup in these fat tissues there is, and the more that will be passed on to your baby during breastfeeding.
Even though these scientific studies found that the dosages of THC passed on to a nursing baby from its mother’s breast milk were not high enough to cause significant harm, it’s common sense that a baby’s threshold to these substances is much lower than an adult’s threshold, and it doesn’t take the same amount to cause problems in babies as it does in adults.
Studies have still not found that enough THC passes to the baby from the mother’s breast milk to make the baby high.
If you ask me, though, there’s just no reason for you to take the risk at a developmental stage this crucial.
For all we know, no negative side effects made themselves apparent in the short run, but they could make an appearance in the long run when little baby is all grown up years from now.
Many scientific studies and tests have been conducted on urine and stool samples of different babies with nursing mothers that smoke marijuana, and these samples have been found to contain varying amounts of THC depending on the amount of marijuana used by the mother.
A baby being breastfed from a mother that’s smoking marijuana throughout this phase can test positive for this drug in their urine for almost up to 3 weeks.
Baby & Second Hand Smoke: Has the thought of your baby second hand smoking marijuana ever crossed your mind? If not, you know about it now.
Babies should never, ever be subjected to any dose of the marijuana drug – and the only instance this could possibly be called for is for medical reasons under the supervision of a doctor.
Substances You Don’t Know About: Depending on who you’re buying your marijuana from and supposing you’re not growing it yourself, you can never be too sure that you’re getting 100% pure marijuana without other harmful substances included in it.
Without you actually being aware of it, the stuff you may be smoking could very well have other harmful drugs and substances that will significantly harm you when they enter your body, and will harm your baby when transferred to them through your breast milk.
Contamination: The weed you may be smoking during breastfeeding may also be contaminated with harmful herbicides without you actually knowing so, and these herbicides will also be passing on to your baby through your breast milk and putting their tiny body at all sorts of health risks.
Improper Feeding Schedule: Whether through the transfer of marijuana’s active ingredient through breast milk or second hand smoking, this drug can make your baby excessively sleepy throughout the day, which may result in an improper feeding schedule if you try to nurse them and all they want to do instead is sleep.
Even if your baby is awake during a breastfeeding session, if there’s enough THC in their system they may be a bit sedated and may not be able to suck properly, which will make for an inefficient session as well.
A study conducted in 2005 found that there is a correlation between a breastfeeding mother’s marijuana usage and a decrease in the nursing baby’s breastfeeding session duration and frequency.
Not only will this cause inconveniences for you as the nursing mother, it will also lead to developmental problems in the baby and them probably being underweight because they’re not meeting their nutritional requirements for the day.
SIDS: SIDS, which stands for sudden infant death syndrome, has been shown to have higher chances of developing in children who’s mothers smoke weed during their breastfeeding phase or have smoked weed during their pregnancy phase.
Any form of second hand smoke increases the risk of SIDS in your baby, be that cigarette smoke (tobacco) or marijuana.
Low Milk Production: The one thing you’ll want to fight against tooth and nail during breastfeeding if you plan on making a successful phase out of it is low milk supply.
Even though there’s no definitive answer as to whether or not smoking marijuana decreases milk production in a breastfeeding mother and this still needs further studies to be clarified, the possibility is certainly there because of the potential negative effects of THC on mammary glands and their functionality.
Smoking marijuana is believed to be linked to decreased levels of prolactin in women, with prolactin being a hormone responsible for producing breast milk.
Legal Trouble: If all of the aforementioned potential risks you could be exposing your baby to didn’t make you reconsider, then the fact that you could get into legal trouble might.
Depending on which state you currently reside in and the laws there, you can still face child abuse charges even if marijuana use is legalized where you’re at.
You could very well face abuse charges from child protection agencies or be given jail time from state health organizations if you pass THC to your infant.
This is why when you give birth to your baby at the hospital, some doctors will not allow you to breastfeed them before you sign a paper where you acknowledge the potential risks associated with marijuana usage during breastfeeding.
Regardless of whether the amount of THC proven to be found in your baby’s urine or stool is negligible or significant, you could face the same charges if it’s considered to be an act of child abuse and willingly endangering your baby’s health.
Is This Only Related To Smoking Marijuana?
You may be asking yourself whether all these potential negative side effects (both for you and baby) exist when smoking marijuana, and don’t exist when consuming marijuana in other forms such as marijuana edibles or marijuana oil.
Unfortunately, the negative effects are the same for breastfeeding mothers that consume marijuana in any of the forms it’s available in.
As a matter of fact, marijuana that’s not smoked but consumed in the form of edibles or oil may even contain higher amounts of THC than its smokable counterpart, which ends up hurting your baby even more.
So, regardless of how you consume marijuana, be that through smoking in a rolled cigarette, eaten as part of food you’re having by mixing the two together, swallowing it in a tablet form, brewing it with a beverage you’re having such as tea or whatever else means there are to consuming marijuana – it should all be off limits for you as a breastfeeding mother.
Wrapping Up The Dilemma About Marijuana & Breastfeeding Your Baby
For the sake of transparency, allow us to repeat that the scientific studies that have been performed so far to determine the possible side effects on babies breastfeeding from a mother that smokes marijuana are quite limited.
And, those that do cover this subject have had very little follow up on the long term with the babies that were tested, so data on the long term effects of a marijuana smoking breastfeeding mother on the baby is quite limited as well.
But, when it comes to anything related to your baby’s health, sticking to “safety first” is always going to be your best choice.
For me personally, if it’s going to be a choice between either doing something that risks hampering the development of my baby or refraining from it altogether to remove this risk, I’ll stop doing it altogether and wouldn’t ever risk my baby’s well being no matter how small the risk may be.
At the end of the day, however, this is a personal choice for you to make. If you’re adamant on doing it no matter what, then the least we would ask you to do is to get your doctor’s “OK” before going ahead with this, both for your safety and that of your baby.
Yes, there are a bunch of benefits you could benefit from by putting marijuana to medicinal use (such as reducing anxiety or nausea).
However, the only way you can be sure you’re doing this safely is under the proper supervision of a doctor who knows what they’re doing, the risks they’ll be putting you and your baby up against, and whether or not these risks are worth taking to achieve the ultimate goal in mind.
At the end of the day, doctors approach this on a case by case basis and permit occasional use of marijuana in breastfeeding mothers if it makes sense to from a medical standpoint.
Last but not least, you can also consider shifting to feeding your baby formula milk instead of breast milk if you’re not planning to stop your marijuana use anytime soon. That would be you practicing the saying “better safe than sorry” to the fullest.
Yes, your baby will miss out on the many benefits of breastfeeding, but at this day and age there’s a wide variety of high quality baby milk formulas you can choose from that will surely meet their nutritional needs.