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Marijuana and Breastfeeding

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Cannabis (also called marijuana) is the most commonly used drug during pregnancy. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there were 78,000 pregnant women who reported using marijuana in the past month 1. While many feel that this smoking is completely safe, using cannabis during pregnancy or while nursing may potentially 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 need to take caution in using any substances during this delicate period. Clinical data do suggest 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 those 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 may 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. Give us a call today at and speak to a qualified rehab placement specialist who can help you find the best treatment center to meet your needs.

Could My Breast Milk Harm the Baby?

If you are using or planning to use marijuana while nursing, consider that 2:

  • An infant exposed to THC during lactation will excrete it in their urine for as long as 2-3 weeks.
  • Marijuana may produce sedation and growth delays in your baby.
  • Your baby may exhibit poor sucking/feeding.

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.

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 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.

Addicted to Marijuana or Other Drugs?

If you find yourself unable to stop using marijuana, you may need help for your addiction. There are a number of options for treatment based on your preference 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 newborn while getting healthy.

Call us today at to learn about what treatment options are available to you. A friendly and qualified rehab placement specialist is available to speak confidentially with you 24/7.

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Lauren worked as a Web Content Writer at Recovery Brands. Before working at Recovery Brand, she served as the Program Director for a community-based HIV/AIDS and cancer non-profit in San Francisco.

Lauren holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley.

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