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Effects of Marijuana on Breast Milk and Smoking Weed While Breastfeeding

Cannabis (also called marijuana or ‘weed’) is the most commonly used drug during pregnancy. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 78,000 pregnant women reported past-month marijuana use.1 While many feel that smoking weed while pregnant or breastfeeding is completely safe, using cannabis during pregnancy or while nursing may harm the child. The active substance in cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and some studies have found that post-natal exposure to THC could decrease motor development in a child at one year of age.2 Additionally, both human and animal studies have found that early exposure to cannabis may produce adverse effects, such as impaired cognition and mood changes.3 For this reason, women are usually advised to avoid cannabis while pregnant and breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding mothers may feel more at ease using marijuana due to the fact that it is increasingly used for medicinal purposes. However, mothers should avoid using any substances during this delicate period. Clinical data suggests that marijuana use during lactation poses certain dangers to children and may also inhibit a mother’s milk production.2

Does Marijuana Transfer to Breast Milk?

Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a baby. Breast milk provides benefits to infants due to its perfect nutritional balance (the right amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etc.) to support healthy growth, as well as antibodies to protect against infections. In addition, breastfeeding helps a mother and her baby to bond.2

However, if the mother is using drugs, her breastmilk may pass these harmful substances on to her child. Marijuana has been found to pass into a mother’s breast milk in moderate amounts.3 Over the course of just one feeding, a baby could consume as much as 0.8% of the mother’s dose.2 When a mother uses cannabis chronically, her breastmilk may contain high concentrations of THC, which can affect brain development and healthy growth.4

In addition, cannabis may change the quality and quantity of a mother’s breast milk. Animal studies have found that marijuana inhibits the production of the hormone prolactin, reducing the amount of breast milk that the mammary glands produce.2

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and are unable to stop using marijuana, give your child the best possible start to life by taking the necessary steps to treat your addiction. Please give American Addiction Centers (AAC) a call today free at and speak with a qualified rehab placement specialist who can help you find the best addiction treatment center to meet your needs.

Could My Breast Milk Harm the Baby?

There are few studies to determine the effects of cannabis during lactation and the harm it can cause to a baby. Most studies to date have focused on the adverse effects of cannabis exposure during pregnancy. Given that THC can accumulate in breast milk in high concentrations, however, there is a high likelihood that babies will be exposed to marijuana during feeding. This is a concern due to the fact that during the first few months of life, a baby’s brain goes through extremely important phases of growth and, theoretically, THC could adversely affect brain development.4

One study demonstrated a decrease in infant motor development at 1 year of age among babies who were exposed to cannabis through their mother’s breast milk during the first month following birth.2 Babies who were exposed to cannabis for more than 50% of the days during the 1st month of breastfeeding scored much lower on psychomotor development tests than babies who were not exposed to cannabis.2

However, these study findings do not establish a clear cause and effect relationship between marijuana exposure during lactation and a decrease in motor development. There are other factors that may have influenced the findings, such as marijuana exposure during pregnancy, secondhand exposure to smoke in the home, or the type of relationship between the mother and her child. Unfortunately, there are no human studies that have investigated the long-term effects of drug exposure through a mother’s breast milk.2 It is better to be safe than sorry.

Can I Safely Smoke While Breastfeeding?

Despite the relative lack of studies investigating the direct post-natal effects of marijuana in breastmilk, it’s clear that smoking while breastfeeding may negatively affect a mother’s ability to nurse and care for her child. Marijuana can alter a person’s mood and judgment, increasing the risk that the baby will be placed in a potentially harmful situation.

In addition, if a mother or father smokes around the baby, the smoke could adversely affect the child’s health. For example, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is associated with maternal and paternal smoking during and after pregnancy.5

Based on the available research and recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics in Breastfeeding Mothers, using marijuana while breastfeeding should be avoided.2 There is no consensus in the medical community regarding the amount of marijuana that is safe to use during lactation, and the opinions of medical professionals vary significantly. If you are smoking and breastfeeding, disclose this to your doctor. They can provide the most appropriate recommendations for treatment.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment Programs

If you find yourself unable to stop using marijuana, you may need help for your addiction. There are a number of options for the treatment of marijuana addiction based on your preferences and situation. These options include (but are not limited to):

Woman in treatment for Marijuana use while breastfeeding
  • Residential inpatient treatment: Inpatient programs require that you live at the center for the duration of your treatment. During your program, you will attend therapy sessions that will help you learn to cope with your addiction and address any underlying stressors that contribute to your continued marijuana use. Certain programs offer childcare options, so if this will be a requirement, ask about availability of childcare before picking a center.
  • Outpatient treatment, outside of a facility: Outpatient programs require that you visit the treatment facility for a set number of hours per week to work on your treatment goals. This is a great option for new parents who must attend to the needs of their newborns while getting healthy.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading treatment provider and has trusted rehab programs across the country. Please call us today free at to learn about what treatment options are available to you. A friendly and qualified rehab placement specialist can speak confidentially with you 24/7.

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