Lately, a lot has been said about marijuana. When it comes to breastfeeding, what are the implications, and what are the risks? According t the American Academy of Peadiatrics Commitee on Drugs (2001)concludes that Using marijuana while breastfeeding can allow harmful chemicals to pass from the mother to the infant through breast milk or secondhand smoke exposure. To limit potential risk to the infant, breastfeeding mothers should be advised not to use marijuana or products containing cannabidiol (CBD) in any form while breastfeeding.
Separate from the direct, chemical effects of marijuana on a baby, use of marijuana may affect a mother’s ability to be able to properly care for her baby. Maternal judgment. This brings on added safety concerns of whether the mother is competent. As you are aware, when addiction is present, so is irresponsibility. The drug can take priority over the baby.
Is It Safe For A Mother To Breastfeed While On Marijuana?
There presently is no data to conclude yes or no. However what we do know is chemicals from marijuana in any form (including edibles, oils, or other concentrates) can be passed from a mother to her infant through breast milk. These chemicals have the potential to affect a variety of neurodevelopmental processes in the infant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active component of marijuana, is stored in body fat and slowly released over time, meaning an infant could be exposed to an unknown amount and for an extended period of time. In addition, some products, including cannabidiol (CBD) products, may contain other contaminants (e.g., pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, and fungus) that could be dangerous to a mother and her infant.
What Effects Could Marijuana Have On A Baby?
Research also showed marijuana use could have longer-term effects: Babies exposed to THC in breast milk had poorer scores on motor development tests — which assess a baby’s movements and responses to his environment — at age 1. The studies on marijuana and breastfeeding have lots of warnings.
Can Second Hand Smoke Affect The Baby?
Yes it can. Any secondhand smoke the baby is exposed to increases the amount of the drug your baby receives. Also, because street drugs are rarely pure, marijuana may be laced with other drugs or substances that can also be harmful to the breastfeeding baby. Prevention is better than cure.
The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, will be stored in mom’s fat tissues for long periods (weeks to months) and will build up in the body with continued use.
What Other Effects Can Marijuana Have On The Baby?
- Small to moderate secretion into breastmilk has been documented, and THC is concentrated in human milk. According to Hale, analysis of breastmilk from chronic heavy users indicated an eight-fold concentration in milk compared to mom’s blood plasma, however the dose received by baby was insufficient to produce significant side effects. Marijuana is not safe for mother or baby. Here are some reasons why:
2. Marijuana no doubt does affect a baby’s metabolism. Studies have shown significant absorption and metabolism in infants, although long term effects have not been shown.
3. Marijuana can cause sleepiness in the baby, which can lead to slow weight gain and possibly slow overall development in the baby long term. In addition, babies whose mothers smoke marijuana regularly have a higher risk of SIDS.
4. Hale reports a possibility of decreased milk production. In animals, THC decreases the amount of milk produced by suppressing the production of prolactin and, possibly, by a direct action on the mammary glands.
5. An alteration of brain cells. There is significant brain growth occurring during a baby’s first months of life; marijuana may alter brain cells. Animal studies (on babies whose mothers’ milk contained THC) have shown that DNA and RNA metabolism may also be affected and the proteins needed for proper growth and development impaired.
6. After a breastfeeding mother uses marijuana, THC is evident in her baby’s urine and stools (Perez-Reyes and Wall, 1982). Infants exposed to marijuana via breast milk will test positive in urine screens for long periods (2-3 weeks).
7. Decreased motor development. One study (Astley and Little, 1990) found that exposure to marijuana through their mother’s milk during the first month of life resulted in decreased motor development at one year of age. In another study of 27 infants evaluated at 1 year of age who were exposed to marijuana via breastmilk (compared to 35unexposed infants), no significant differences were found in terms of age at weaning, growth, and mental or motor development. Follow-up of these infants has been limited.
8. A decrease in brain function. Another study (Baker, Datta, et al 2018) sampled milk from eight mothers who regularly consumed cannabis, finding concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) such that breastfeeding infants would receive 2.5% of the maternal dose. The study cautions: “The long-term neurobehavioral effect of exposure to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the developing brain is unclear. Mothers should be cautious using cannabis during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
What Is Second Hand Smoking?
Read more to learn about the dangers of secondhand smoke and how to create a smoke-free environment for your children.
Secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke) is the smoke a smoker breathes out and that comes from the tip of burning cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. It contains about 4,000 chemicals. Many of these chemicals are dangerous; more than 50 are known to cause cancer. Anytime children breathe in secondhand smoke they are exposed to these chemicals.
The American Academy Pediatrics (AAP) has conducted research on the effects of thirdhand smoke and found that it is also harmful. Thirdhand smoke is the smoke left behind—the harmful toxins that remain in places where people have smoked previously. Thirdhand smoke can be found in the walls of a bar, upholstery on the seats of a car, or even a child’s hair after a caregiver smokes near the child.
What Are The Dangers Of Second Hand Smoke?
Did you know, even if you don’t smoke, breathing in someone else’s smoke can be deadly too? Secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 deaths from lung cancer and tens of thousands of deaths from heart disease to nonsmoking adults in the United States each year.
Millions of children are breathing in secondhand smoke in their own homes. Secondhand smoke can be especially harmful to your children’s health because their lungs still are developing. If you smoke around your children or they are exposed to secondhand smoke in other places, they may be in more danger than you realize. Children whose parents smoke only outside are still exposed to the chemicals in secondhand smoke. The best way to eliminate this exposure is to quit. Your Developing Baby and Smoke
If you smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke when you’re pregnant, your baby is exposed to harmful chemicals too. This may lead to many serious health problems, including:
- Premature birth (born not fully developed)
- Lower birth weight than expected (possibly meaning a less healthy baby)
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Learning problems and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
The health risks go up the longer the pregnant woman smokes or is exposed to smoke. Quitting anytime during pregnancy helps—of course, the sooner the better. All pregnant women should stay away from secondhand smoke and ask smokers not to smoke around them.
Secondhand Smoke and Your Children’s Health
Infants have a higher risk of SIDS if they are exposed to secondhand smoke. Children have a higher risk of serious health problems, or problems may become worse. Children who breathe secondhand smoke can have more:
- Ear infections
- Coughs and colds
- Respiratory problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia
- Tooth decay
Children of smokers cough and wheeze more and have a harder time getting over colds. They miss many more school days too. Secondhand smoke can cause other symptoms including stuffy nose, headache, sore throat, eye irritation, and hoarseness.
Children with asthma are especially sensitive to secondhand smoke. It may cause more asthma attacks and the attacks may be more severe, requiring trips to the hospital.
What Are The Long-Term Effects of Secondhand Smoke
Children who grow up with parents who smoke are themselves more likely to smoke. Children and teens who smoke are affected by the same health problems that affect adults. Secondhand smoke may cause problems for children later in life including:
- Poor lung development (meaning that their lungs never grow to their full potential)
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
- Cataracts (an eye disease)
Secondhand Smoke is Everywhere
Children can be exposed to secondhand smoke in many places. Even if there are no smokers in your home, your children can still be exposed to secondhand smoke. Places include:
- In a car or on a bus
- At child care or school
- At a babysitter’s house
- At a friend’s or relative’s house
- In a restaurant
- At the mall
- At sporting events or concerts
- In parks or playgrounds
Changing the Environment: Smoke-Free
Here are some helpful tips to protect you children from second hand smoke:
- Be an example. If you smoke, quit today! If your children see you smoking, they may want to try it, and they may grow up smoking as well. If there are cigarettes at home, children are more likely to experiment with smoking—the first step in becoming addicted.
- Remove your children from places where smoking is allowed, even if no one is smoking while you are there. Chemicals from smoke can be found on surfaces in rooms days after the smoking occurred.
- Make your home smoke free. Until you can quit, don’t smoke inside your home and don’t smoke anywhere near your children, even if you are outside. Don’t put out any ashtrays. Remember, air flows throughout a house, so smoking in even one room allows smoke to go everywhere.
- Make your car smoke free. Until you can quit, don’t smoke inside your car. Opening windows isn’t enough to clear the air and can actually blow smoke back into the faces of passengers in the back seat.
- Choose a babysitter who doesn’t smoke. Even if the babysitter smokes outside, your children are exposed. Consider changing babysitters to find a smoke-free environment for your children.
- Encourage tobacco-free child care and schools. Help your children’s child care or school, including outdoor areas and teachers’ lounges, become tobacco free. Get your children involved in the effort to make schools tobacco free!
Children Should Not Suffer: Get Help
If you smoke, one of the most important things you can do for your own health and the health of your children is to stop smoking. Quitting is the best way to prevent your children from being exposed to secondhand smoke.
It may be hard to quit. Talk with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician if you need help. There are over-the-counter and prescription medicines that may help you quit. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to be connected to your state quitline- they can refer you to local resources and help you quit.
Parents need to make every effort to keep their children away from smokers and secondhand smoke. Parents who smoke should quit for their health and the health of their children.
Additional Information & Resources:
- Why are Smoke-free Environments a Big Deal?
- Smoke-free Housing
- How Parents Can Prevent Exposure to Thirdhand Smoke
- How to Quit: When the Smoker is You
- Secondhand Smoke & Children Fact Sheet (PDF)
- Cardiovascular Dangers Caused by Exposure to Secondhand Smoke (CDC.gov) – Note that these effects apply to anyone exposed to secondhand smoke (not just children), but that the effects are worse in children, whose bodies are still developing.
Marijuana does not seem to be safe for baby during breastfeeding. Since the drugs can be passed on even with second hand smoke, mothers whose partners or relatives should stay away from baby to avoid complications of second hand smoke.
Children should not have to suffer because of adults bad habits. I am sure you agree. I encourage you to try to do all within your power to keep your environment safe for you and your children. God loves you. He will fight for you if you ask Him to help you.
Thank you for stopping by today. If you are someone reading this, and you are addictive to marijuana, I hope you seek help AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Ask God to help you as you also seek professional help. I wish you every success on your breastfeeding journey. May yours be a happy, healthy and safe one for many years to come. What are some of your views about marijuana and breastfeeding? You can leave a comment below. For more details, you can check out the resources below.
Here is a great video on breastfeeding and marijuana. Enjoy!
Marijuana Use During Breastfeeding by Susan Condon, IBCLC, CLE, CLC
Social Drugs and Breastfeeding: Handling an issue that isn’t black and white by Denise Fisher, BN, RN, RM, IBCLC. Discusses nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, heroin, and methadone.
Marijuana from National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
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Hale TW, Rowe HE. Medications and Mothers Milk. 17th Edition. New York, New York: Springer Publishing Company; 2017: 146-48.
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Mohrbacher N. Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple. Amarillo, Texas: Hale Publishing, 2010: 543.
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