Marijuana and Breastfeeding

Are smoking marijuana and breastfeeding compatible?

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in modern society. A recent survey found that over 70 million Americans over the age of 12 have tried marijuana at least once. They also estimated that five million Americans smoke marijuana at least once a week.

In an ideal world, children would not come into contact with alcohol, cigarette smoke, or recreational drug use, directly, or through breast milk and second-hand smoke. All illegal drug-use, including amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, PCP or angel dust, and marijuana, are contraindicated during breastfeeding. Marijuana is in a different category from cocaine, heroin, and PCP which put babies in extreme danger of serious side effects, addiction, and even death. Mothers who use cocaine, heroine or PCP should not breastfeed. Preferably, a baby will be cared for by a mother who in the best possible health, and protected from harm that alcohol or drugs might cause, but the reality is that many mothers are going to use drugs regardless.

The question is whether the risk of taking the drug outweighs the risk of not breastfeeding.

While the use of marijuana can decrease milk supply, and produce sedation and growth delays when used in large doses, there have not been reports of health problems in babies that were caused solely by use of marijuana and breastfeeding. Due to inconclusive reports, the current recommendations for mothers who smoke marijuana are very similar to those regarding smoking cigarettes - continue to breastfeed and cut down on the amount smoked and do NOT expose babies to second-hand smoke.

Marijuana is categorized by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs as a drug that is contraindicated for breastfeeding mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics published an article providing data on drugs including marijuana and breastfeeding.

Medication while breastfeeding.

Marijuana can cause lowered milk production by lowering levels of the hormone, prolactin, in a woman’s body. Marijuana and breastfeeding leads to babies who show signs of sedation, weakness and poor feeding patterns. The combination of decreased milk supply and a weak, lethargic baby are cause for concern on behalf of the well-being and growth of the baby.

Beyond the health risk of the actual drug for the baby, mothers who smoke marijuana enter a hallucinogenic state, impairing her ability to care for her baby. After the high wears off, deep sleep may further prevent the mother from caring for her baby.

Babies exposed to second-hand smoke, and marijuana in breast milk, are at a higher risk of SIDS or Cot Death.

Babies exposed to marijuana through breast milk will test positive in urine tests for two to three weeks.

Breastfeeding and marijuana use often ends in double exposure for the baby – through second-hand smoke AND in the breast milk.

The affects of marijuana may damage brain cells and genetic material, (DNA and RNA).

Marijuana and other street drugs are often impure, and may be laced with other drugs or substances that can also be damaging to babies.

The analysis of breast milk in habitual heavy marijuana users shows an eightfold buildup in breast milk. The active ingredient of marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is fat soluble and is quickly circulated into brain and fatty tissue. Breastfeeding babies of mothers who use pot absorb and metabolize THC at a critical time of major brain growth and one of the fears is that marijuana alters brain cells.

Studies that link marijuana use with negative side effects in babies

A number of studies have been done on marijuana and breastfeeding. One study showed that babies who were exposed to marijuana via breast milk at one month of age had delayed motor development at 12 months of age. The same study showed structural changes in the brain cells of newborn animals exposed to marijuana through their mother's milk. Alterations to DNA and RNA were also observed. Though the long-term effects of early exposure to marijuana, especially on brain are still unknown, results observed in humans suggest serious and long lasting effects.

The possible dangers for your baby that come with smoking marijuana are far and beyond any risks associated with drinking alcohol. If you choose to have an occasional glass of wine or beer while breastfeeding, knowing the risks, it's up to you. Using marijuana and breastfeeding are two choices. Feeding your baby with breast milk is the most healthy choice of nutrition available however if it is contaminated with drugs it can be very dangerous. Your baby cannot make the choice but you can.

I'm ready to quit smoking... but how?

No one can make you do anything that you don’t want to do. Any method that you use to quit will fail if you don’t actually want, on some level, to become a non-smoker.