Effects of marijuana while breastfeeding
After birth, your newborn gets the necessary nutrients for proper growth and development from breast milk. So, you want to make sure the milk is safe and adequate. This may not be the case if you continue smoking marijuana while breastfeeding.
Multiple research studies have provided irrefutable proof that marijuana can affect the quality and quantity of milk you produce. Moreover, these changes can adversely affect your baby’s physical and cognitive development. So, how does marijuana end up in breast milk?
The primary compound in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or simply THC. It is responsible for the ‘high’ you get from smoking weed. Besides that, research shows that THC is highly fat-soluble and embeds in fatty tissues from where it’s slowly released in a process that can take days or weeks.
Breast milk contains fat, so THC naturally attaches to it and then gets transferred from mother to baby during breastfeeding.
In a study of a mother who heavily smoked weed, the THC levels in her breast milk were eight times that in her blood. While only a small percentage of THC (roughly 2.5%) gets into breast milk, researchers think it’s enough for your baby to test positive for THC for weeks. Babies are smaller than adults, so even a small amount of THC may impact them due to low tolerance.
Beyond this, marijuana use is also known to affect milk production. It does this by suppressing the production of prolactin — the hormone that makes milk — thus reducing your milk supply. So, if you plan to breastfeed exclusively, as you should, you may have to give weed a break.
The main concern with marijuana is that it could also affect the brain’s neural receptors. These receptors play a vital role in cognitive development, so it could lead to slower developmental growth if they are affected. Considering that babies undergo rapid brain growth in their first year, marijuana use could retard this process.
Indeed, several reports reveal that perinatal marijuana use is associated with cognitive deficits (memory, learning, and attention), a smaller head circumference, low birth weight, and high impulsivity. It is also linked to poor emotional responses leading to aggression, affective disorders, and an increased risk of substance abuse.
Furthermore, critical neurobiological changes across the neurotransmission and neuromodulatory systems have been observed in mothers who consumed cannabis during and after pregnancy.
But even more worrying is the fact that breastfed babies whose mothers consumed cannabis are at a higher risk of dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This is usually attributed to secondhand smoke. While this occurrence is associated more with tobacco smoke, scientists contend that marijuana smoke may pose similar risks.
Lastly, the mother is the baby’s primary caregiver. It is believed that marijuana can potentially impair her judgment, thus rendering her less effective in offering quality care for her child.
Consequently, major organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, WHO, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discourage marijuana use during pregnancy and lactation. The CDC further advises mothers to avoid any marijuana compound in any form when pregnant and breastfeeding.
Effects of CBD on breastfeeding
Little research has been done in relation to the effects of CBD on breastfeeding. Most studies in this space have tended to focus on THC hence the absence of information regarding CBD’s impact on breastfeeding.
Thus far, scientists have shown that small amounts of THC pass from the mother to the child via breast milk. Scientists, therefore, believe that CBD may also be able to enter the newborn through the mom’s milk.
However, there’s limited research on the effects of CBD on breastfeeding. Nonetheless, the only study to have been conducted in this space showed that high CBD doses in pregnant animals caused problems to the reproductive systems of unborn male fetuses.
While nothing indicates that the findings of this study are likely to be replicated in humans, the overriding view is that it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Like THC products, we know that it’s also possible for CBD products to be contaminated by undesirable elements like heavy metals, pesticide residue, and microbial contaminants. These pose significant risks for the unborn child.
Moreover, a few clinical studies have identified potential CBD risks to humans. These include liver injury, extreme sleepiness, and uncertain interactions with other medications.
That said, many first-time mothers usually suffer from postpartum depression, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, and infant detachment. In such cases, doctors prescribe antidepressants, some of which have been noted to have significant side effects on the mother and child.
Given that existing research shows that CBD use has little to no impact on people, a lactating mother may use CBD to alleviate these symptoms and help her bond with the child.
Even then, it’s advisable to consult a cannabis expert, especially when breastfeeding.
Risks of using CBD when breastfeeding
Cannabidiol has become the go-to for various health conditions, including pain, stress, anxiety, and insomnia. While some of its purported health benefits have been proven by research, there is little on its safety while breastfeeding.
So for most breastfeeding moms, the decision to use CBD comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. They have to weigh the pros against the cons to decide whether to use CBD or not. That said, most medical experts remain wary of its use during pregnancy and lactation, citing the lack of evidence supporting its safety.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a particular concern is the potential for CBD to be contaminated with THC, among other toxic substances. This is particularly so because CBD is largely unregulated, which means FDA does not approve the products before they land on store shelves.
More importantly, it means quality and safety issues remain within the purview of the manufacturers.
A recent lab data analysis showed that up to 25 percent of CBD products are not tested. Further, a random test by the FDA found that many CBD products are mislabeled, containing either considerably less or more CBD than advertised.
In a worst-case scenario, a Minnesota Hemp Farmers and Manufacturers Association study found certain CBD products having three times the amount stated on the labels. In fact, of the 25 different CBD product brands tested, 64 percent did not meet the claims stated on their labels.
The implications of such findings are profound.
For starters, they mean that you cannot be sure of the dosage of CBD you’re getting from the product. While CBD vendors always advise their customers to start with lower doses, such efforts may not help much if the CBD content is inaccurate.
CBD is largely unregulated
The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill was a huge step toward legalizing CBD products in the U.S. CBD is essentially legal in all 50 states but with varying riders. These riders touch on THC content and FDA approval.
One of the risks associated with CBD use is regulation or lack thereof. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration agency does not regulate CBD products. In other words, there is no way of telling if the products' contents are as stated on the labels.
It also means that assurances on safety and quality are subjective because they are done by the manufacturers.
As mentioned earlier, there are attendant dangers associated with this practice. Besides being incapable of knowing the actual content of the CBD product, you’re also likely to encounter other toxic substances. This is particularly alarming if you’re using CBD products while breastfeeding.
As the availability and popularity of CBD continue to increase, there is some sense of false confidence regarding CBD. This originates from the view that CBD is regulated by the FDA, while in actual sense, it is not.
According to a survey by the US-based Grocery Manufacturers Association survey, roughly 76 percent of Americans believe that the FDA regulates CBD.
While the FDA is committed to giving customers the information they need to make intelligent choices on CBD use, it could take up to five years before such regulations are formalized.
More research is needed
The main underlying issue affecting CBD use seems to be a lack of in-depth knowledge. Existing studies on marijuana in the U.S. majorly focused on establishing the harmful effects of cannabis compounds.
It was only until recently that objective research on these compounds started. So medical experts don’t have much to base their opinions on, hence the need “to err on the side of caution.”
Given the burgeoning CBD products market, the FDA has been forced to play catch-up on educating the public on the risks of marijuana products. There is consensus that more research is needed to address safety concerns and the potential benefits of marijuana products.
To this end, FDA has ramped up efforts to study CBD from different angles, notably:
- The effects of sustained long-term use of CBD
- CBD’s sedative effects
- Pharmacokinetics and transdermal penetration of CBD
- The impact of varying administration routes on CBD’s safety profile
- CBD’s safety in food-producing animals and pets
- The processes underpinning the extraction of broad- and full-spectrum CBD extracts, their content, and how these compare to CBD isolates.
Evidently, only high-quality, relevant, and reliable data will help bridge the knowledge gap between CBD’s potential health benefits and risks.
Topical vs. ingestible CBD when breastfeeding
There are four ways of using CBD: ingesting, inhaling, topical application, and orally. These methods have varying efficacy levels because, in each case, the amount of CBD that enters your systemic circulation is different.
Nonetheless, the question of whether topical CBD can affect breastfeeding continues to pop up in various user forums.
Topical CBD products comprise mainly creams, lotions, and salves applied to the skin. They are used primarily to calm, soothe, and nourish the skin and treat skin conditions like acne and eczema. When applied topically, CBD penetrates the upper layer of the skin (epidermis) and connects with skin receptors.
However, topical CBD does not enter the systemic circulation. So ideally, it should not find its way into a mother’s milk. Thus, we can presume that a breastfeeding mom can use CBD topicals with almost zero effects on the newborn baby.
However, Medicine and Healthcare Regulatory Agencies (MHRAs) like FDA typically advise against using CBD in any form during pregnancy.
In any case, transdermal CBD products have been shown to penetrate the skin deep enough to enter the bloodstream. This means it can eventually enter into a mother’s milk. However, its bioavailability may not be as high compared to ingestible CBD that directly enters the bloodstream.
CBD products like capsules, oils, tinctures, and edibles deliver high quantities of CBD directly into your bloodstream. If the carrier element is MCT oil, then the amount of CBD entering your bloodstream is significantly higher. This is because MCT oil bypasses the “first pass” process, thereby allowing more CBD to get into the bloodstream.
From a lactating mother’s point of view, this implies more CBD may end up in her milk. Thus far, CBD hasn’t been shown to have the same effects on a child as THC. However, the point here is to determine whether ingestible CBD delivers more or less CBD into the bloodstream.
CBD oil while breastfeeding
CBD oil is one of the popular CBD products today. It’s taken sublingually (under the tongue), after which its effects are typically felt in 15-30 minutes. So whether you’re suffering from insomnia, stress, anxiety, or inflammation, CBD oil has properties that can offer relief.
However, we at FOCL reiterate the advice of MHRAs like the FDA for breastfeeding mothers to avoid using CBD in any form.
At the same time, we understand that sometimes a baby can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time mom, causing you sleepless nights and worry. So, if you’re not breastfeeding, we recommend trying our high-quality, FDA-approved CBD products.
Our Premium Sleep Drops combine the sedative powers of premium hemp CBD and CBN to give you a perfect night’s sleep. We have used MCT oil as the carrier element to increase the bioavailability of this product. This ensures you get the highest possible quantity of CBD and CBN into your bloodstream to help you relax, recover and fall asleep quicker.
Women are usually susceptible to skin conditions like eczema, acne, psoriasis, etcetera. But in FOCL Relief Cream, you have the ideal solution to help you get quick relief. This product combines the soothing properties of CBD and potent botanicalsto eradicate pains and aches quicklys. It also nourishes your skin, leaving it feeling cooler and reinvigorated.
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