Heading: Dangers of Smoking Marijuana and Breastfeeding at the Same Time
Studies have suggested that up to 4% of women use marijuana while breastfeeding. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that new mothers exclusively breast feed for the first six months of a baby’s life. But studies suggest that the use of marijuana is one of the top reasons that mothers discontinue breast feeding early.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana – also known as cannabis, hemp, pot, and weed – is the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa plant. It is a psychoactive drug that can cause euphoria, mood changes, and even hallucinations. The main active compound in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana can be ingested by eating, smoking, drinking, or vaping. All methods of ingestion introduce THC into the body.
Marijuana does have medicinal effects – in particular, it can help reduce nausea and vomiting and decrease pain.
Marijuana Has Been Found in Breast Milk
THC is lipid soluble – meaning that it is stored in fat and brain tissues in the body. Breast milk is high in fat so THC can accumulate in high concentrations. Studies have shown for a heavy marijuana user, there can be up to eight times more THC in breast milk than in the bloodstream. For chronic marijuana users, THC can accumulate in breast milk in high concentrations.
An article from the Journal of Toxicology suggests that babies that ingest THC-laden breast milk will metabolize it. Babies will test positive for THC in their urine for up to two to three weeks after their last exposure.
Risks Associated With Breast Feeding While Using Marijuana
During breast feeding, babies’ brains are at a crucial development stage. Research is thin on the ground as to definitive proof of the effects of ingestion of THC, however, here are some possible risks:
- Decreased motor skills or delayed motor development
- Increase tremor
- Poor sucking reflex
- Decrease feeding time
- Slow weight gain
- Changes in visual responses
Breast Milk Has Numerous Benefits
The literature that supports the benefits of breast feeding an infant are nearly endless. After all, breast feeding is designed to be a nearly perfect food for babies. Medical literature says that breast feeding can help babies fight off infections, lowers the risk of asthma, fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, fewer bouts of diarrhea, fewer hospitalizations or doctor visits, and it has even been linked to higher IQs.
Using Marijuana While Breast Feeding IS NOT RECOMENDED
The benefits of breast feeding an infant are well-documented while the risks of using marijuana during breast feeding have not been as well studied.
For most mothers, breast feeding is the appropriate choice because of the myriad benefits associated with it. While research on the effects of THC in breast feeding infants is sparse, experts suggest that mothers who use marijuana while breast feeding should minimize the baby’s exposure to marijuana smoke and reduce marijuana use as much as possible.