Can You Smoke Weed While Breastfeeding?

Written by Rohit Garoo Experience: 9 years
Last Updated on

Rolling a joint is perhaps the last thing you want to do when you are breastfeeding. In fact, most new mothers don’t even have the time or luxury to think about weed. But for some, keeping weed at bay is an everyday struggle. And some others keep it close for medical purposes.

No matter what the reason is, marijuana and breastfeeding is a bad combination. Here, MomJunction tells you about the risks of using marijuana while breastfeeding, how the drug can affect the infant, and ways to keep away from it.

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Is It Safe To Smoke Weed When Breastfeeding?

No. Consuming marijuana when breastfeeding is not good for you or your infant. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that women who are breastfeeding should avoid using marijuana (1). Whether you smoke pot or mix it with food, the drug is harmful to your baby and must be avoided.

Marijuana is on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ list of narcotics to be avoided by a breastfeeding mother (2). “The Committee on Drugs strongly believes that nursing mothers should not ingest drugs of abuse,” states the academy.

Also, note that marijuana is known by several street names such as pot, weed, joint, dope, and blunt. Make sure you stay away from all these substances since they are essentially cannabis.

How Does Marijuana Affect Breast Milk?

Marijuana is derived from the Cannabis plant, which contains psychoactive compounds called cannabinoids. Psychoactive substances interfere with the normal functions of the brain to alter the person’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Marijuana has over 150 psychoactive compounds, but the primary one is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The compound gets quickly absorbed into the blood. It paasses into the breast milk and remains there because marijuana is stored in fat cells and the body uses fat to make milk. Chronic use of marijuana increases the concentration of this compound in the breast milk. So when you smoke weed or consume it in any other way while breastfeeding, you are indirectly giving narcotics to your baby!

[ Read: Alcohol While Breastfeeding ]

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How Much Marijuana Will The Baby Get Through Breast Milk?

The quantity of cannabis compounds in the breast milk depends on the amount of marijuana you consumed, your weight, and the baby’s age. Experts state that on an average, the baby would receive about 0.8% of maternal dose per kilogram of mother’s weight (2). For instance, if the mother weighs 60kg and has 60mg of marijuana, then the baby will get 0.8% of 60, which is 0.48mg. Heavy users of cannabis may have about eight times more THC in their breast milk than in blood (3).

Exposure to THC early in life can affect the baby’s overall development. Keep reading to know how.

How Does THC In Breast Milk Affect The Baby?

Marijuana consumption by a breastfeeding mom can affect the child in the following ways:

  1. Poor motor development: Infants who were repeatedly exposed to cannabis through breast milk have poor motor development. The effects are most acute when the exposure is during the first month of the life.
  2. Growth delay: Along with cognitive delay, the baby’s physical development milestones may also be delayed. There will be a delay in the overall physical growth of the baby.
    Reduced sucking reflex: Sucking reflex becomes weak due to the psychotic effects of marijuana. It means lesser time spent on feeding, which eventually means that the baby gets poor nutrition.
  3. A decrease in milk supply: Marijuana diminishes the amount of milk produced in your body. THC affects the secretion of prolactin, which stimulates the production of breast milk.
  4.  Drowsiness and sedation: The baby gets drowsy after a feed due to the sedative effects of marijuana. In the long run, it could damage the child’s neurological functions.
  5. Impaired mother-baby relationship: Cannabis affects judgment and influences mood. It could interfere with the mother’s ability to nurture her baby better. In the long-term, there is poor bonding between the mother and the infant, the effects of which could last a lifetime.

The above conditions are only some of the few documented health effects of marijuana on breastfeeding infants, due to limited research.

Marijuana’s effects can go beyond immediate consumption since THC can stay in your breast milk for long. The urine and stool of the baby would contain THC for two to three weeks after consuming THC-laden breast milk.

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How Long Do Marijuana Compounds Stay In Breast Milk?

The average half-life of marijuana compounds is about two to three days. Half-life is the time taken by the liver to process half of the marijuana compounds in the body. It can take almost a week for the body to rid itself of cannabis entirely. In case of regular users, it can take the body eight or more days to completely process marijuana.

Do note that marijuana is lipophilic, which means it attracts to fat. Even after the body is rid of most THC, some of it may remain in your body’s fat tissue, sometimes for months together. Because of this, your breast milk may still receive THC from the fat tissue.

[ Read: Drugs During Breastfeeding ]

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Does Occasional Marijuana Use Also Affect The Baby?

Yes. Even an occasional, recreational puff of marijuana could harm the breastfeeding baby. Medical experts state that there is no safe amount of marijuana for a breastfeeding mother and the baby (4). Marijuana in any form or dosage is harmful, whether you smoke it or mix a pinch of it in the cookie dough.

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What If You Need Medicinal Marijuana?

Medical experts state that the use of medicinal marijuana should only be an option when its benefits to the mother outweigh the detrimental effects to the breastfeeding baby (5). Medicinal marijuana is often used to increase appetite and reduce nausea. It may also find use in the treatment of inflammation and improvement in neurological problems like muscle control (6).

However, there are alternative medicines that you can always try. If your doctor had prescribed medicinal marijuana before you got pregnant, then discuss other options soon as you conceive.

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What Should You Do If You Are Unable To Quit Marijuana?

If you have been a long-time marijuana user and find it hard to quit, then you can consider the following solutions (6) (7):

  1. Therapy: Several de-addiction treatments aim at identifying triggers for marijuana usage and teaching methods to overcome them. You may have to visit a rehabilitation center or consult a clinic where you can be a part of such therapies.
  2. Counseling: A nursing mother is counseled about the importance of her baby’s health over the joys of having marijuana. Addiction is mostly due to mental dependence on a substance. A change of mindset can help the nursing mother look beyond marijuana. These sessions often happen in groups or are individually conducted by an experienced counselor.
  3. Select formula if everything else fails: Breast milk is the best food for your baby. When you cannot quit marijuana, switch to formula milk for the baby. Keep in mind that formula is not as good as breast milk, and your marijuana consumption will still affect your ability to raise the baby.

[ Read: Antidepressants While Breastfeeding ]

The health of your breastfeeding baby is entirely your responsibility. And using marijuana is undoubtedly bad for your baby. So choose a life without marijuana, not just for your sake but for the safety and health of your precious little one now and in the future.

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Rohit Garoo is a writer-turned-editor with over 9 years of experience in content writing, editing, and content marketing. He did his bachelors in Science at St. Xavier's College, Hyderabad, and masters in Business Administration at Osmania University.

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