Today, we're delving into a topic that stirs up quite a bit of debate, one that's been making waves in both mom forums and medical conversations: the use of marijuana while breastfeeding.
With 23 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam having legalized the recreational use of marijuana, the prevalence of cannabis use in pregnant and breastfeeding women is increasing. The use of marijuana is seen as being more socially acceptable now than at any time in the last 100 years in our country.
Nobody denies that parenting can be tough, and there are many evenings when sometimes you just want to unwind, but it's important to consider the potential risks before partaking in marijuana use if you’re a breastfeeding mama. Let’s get into it!
Risks of Smoking Weed While Breastfeeding
So, what are some of the potential risks we're talking about? More research is definitely needed to get a full picture and the data available isn’t sufficient enough to fully evaluate the effects of marijuana use on infants during lactation and breastfeeding. However, medical professionals tend to warn that babies exposed to marijuana through breast milk might experience issues like developmental delays, sleep disruptions, growth and motor skills disruption, and even an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
The brain is a work in progress during those early months and years. Some studies suggest that marijuana exposure could lead to developmental delays and affect cognitive functions down the road.
We all know how precious sleep is, especially for new parents. Marijuana use by a breastfeeding mom might disturb a baby's sleep patterns, leaving everyone in the household feeling a bit more tired and frazzled.
Babies need proper nutrition for their growth and motor skills development. THC might interfere with this process and lead to slower growth and difficulties in achieving developmental milestones.
Some research has hinted at a potential link between THC exposure through breast milk and an increased risk of SIDS. However, the exact relationship is still not fully understood.
One study on lactating animals (no human data to back it up) also suggests that “marijuana could inhibit lactation by inhibiting prolactin production and, possibly, by a direct action on the mammary glands”. Something to think about if you’re having trouble with your milk supply.
THC While Breastfeeding
Let's talk about why this is a concern in the first place. When you smoke or consume marijuana, the active compounds in weed, like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), can find their way into your breast milk. THC likes to hang out in your fat cells, so it doesn't make a quick exit. According to studies, even though the THC levels in your breast milk hit their highest point about an hour after you've taken it, it's still chilling in your body for 3-7 days after, sometimes longer. So, thinking you can just "pump and dump" to dodge passing THC to your baby? Nope, that won't cut it.
So whatever you're putting into your body has the potential to end up in your baby's milk supply. But why does that matter?
THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives you that well-known "high." When you consume THC, it can make its way into your breast milk and potentially affect your baby. Here's a rundown of the possible risks associated with using THC while breastfeeding:
Babies' brains are rapidly developing during their early months and years. Exposure to THC through breast milk could potentially impact this delicate process. Some studies suggest that THC might interfere with cognitive development and lead to long-term issues with learning and behavior.
Babies rely on sleep for their growth and development. Using THC could potentially disrupt your baby's sleep patterns, leading to irritability, restlessness, and difficulties in getting adequate rest.
THC might affect your baby's motor skills and coordination as they develop. This could potentially result in delays in achieving developmental milestones like crawling and walking.
THC could affect your baby's feeding habits, potentially leading to difficulty in latching, decreased appetite, and weight gain issues.
Since babies' systems are still developing, the effects of THC exposure during this crucial phase might have long-lasting consequences that only become evident as they grow older.
Depending on where you live, using THC might have legal implications, and it's essential to be aware of the laws in your area. Additionally, if THC use is detected in your breast milk, it could lead to child protective services becoming involved.
It's important to note that the research on the effects of THC on breastfeeding is still somewhat limited and often inconclusive.
A study provided by The American Academy of Pediatrics found that marijuana use doesn’t hurt the short-term health of infants, but cautions that the long-term effects are still unknown.
Some Doctors see the benefit of breastfeeding outweighing the risks from THC and encourage women who use THC to continue to breastfeed.
If you're considering using THC while breastfeeding, it's crucial to have an open and honest conversation with your healthcare provider. They can offer personalized advice based on your health, your baby's needs, and the latest research available.
CBD While Breastfeeding
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is another compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its more well-known cousin THC, CBD doesn't typically induce a "high." It's often marketed as a natural remedy for various issues, from anxiety to pain relief. But when it comes to using CBD while breastfeeding, things get a bit trickier.
Just like with marijuana, when you use CBD, it can find its way into your breast milk. Even though CBD doesn't have the same psychoactive effects as THC, it still interacts with your body's systems, and that includes potentially affecting your baby too.
Here are some potential risks and things to consider when using CBD while breastfeeding:
The big challenge here is that there's not a ton of research specifically on CBD use during breastfeeding. The studies that exist are often small or inconclusive, so it's tough to say definitively what the effects might be.
CBD products vary widely in terms of dosage, purity, and other ingredients. This means you might not always know exactly what you're getting. The lack of regulation in the CBD market adds an extra layer of uncertainty.
Just like THC, there's a possibility that CBD could be passed on to your baby through breast milk. While CBD might not have the same mind-altering effects as THC, it still interacts with the body's systems, and we're not entirely sure how it might impact a developing baby.
If you're using CBD to manage a specific condition, it's important to consider how it might interact with any other medications you're taking. Some medications might have their own effects on breastfeeding, and adding CBD to the mix could complicate things further.
If you're using CBD in non-regulated products, there's a risk that these products could contain harmful contaminants or inaccurate labeling. According to the CDC, most CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA and could contain ingredients such as THC, pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, or fungi. This poses a potential danger not only to you but also to your baby.
Given the uncertainties, it's wise to approach CBD use while breastfeeding with caution. Just like with any substance, it's a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before diving in. They can help you weigh the potential benefits against the risks, taking into account your health, your baby's well-being, and the most up-to-date information available.
Remember, the ultimate goal is to create a safe and nurturing environment for your baby to thrive. And that often means making informed decisions, even when it comes to trendy wellness products like CBD. So, when in doubt, reach out to your healthcare provider and have an open conversation about what's best for both you and your little one.
Vaping While Breastfeeding
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic device known as an e-cigarette or vape pen. These devices work by heating a liquid solution, often called e-liquid or vape juice, which typically contains nicotine, flavorings, marijuana, or other chemicals. The heating process turns the liquid into a vapor that’s then inhaled into the lungs. Vaping was initially seen as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, but the safety of vaping has been called into question over the last few years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Using tobacco or e-cigarettes while breastfeeding can allow harmful chemicals to pass from the mother to the infant through breast milk or secondhand smoke exposure. Mothers who use tobacco or e-cigarettes should be encouraged to quit; regardless, breastfeeding provides numerous health benefits and breast milk remains the recommended food for an infant.
While the CDC acknowledges that chemicals from vaping can get into breast milk, they advise that vaping and smoking women can continue to breastfeed as the benefits of breast milk outweigh the risks of tobacco and e-cigarette use while nursing.
We know that nicotine does pass into breast milk and studies have shown that infant heart rate and blood pressure changes have been associated with increased nicotine concentrations in breast milk. However, e-cigarette use during breastfeeding hasn’t been studied as much. Researchers do also know that secondhand smoke raises the risk of SIDS, and it’s suggested that vaping might also increase the risk.
With the lack of studies available to prove one way or the other the safety of vaping while breastfeeding, the best and safest approach would be to try and quit smoking or vaping while you’re breastfeeding since we know that no amount of nicotine is good for infants.
Since the information about vaping and breastfeeding is ambiguous, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your specific situation if you need more information.
Alternative Options for Managing Postpartum Stress
Having a newborn is undoubtedly a big change for most people. Adjusting to a new normal can affect people in different ways, and some new mamas can experience a wide range of emotions. If it seems like you’re experiencing periods of sadness that are interfering with your everyday life, you should seek the advice of your Doctor to see if you’re experiencing postpartum depression (PPD).
If you feel like you’re having a difficult time adjusting, but at a level that you feel is manageable with the right tools, before you reach for cannabis to reduce your stress, think about using some tried-and-true methods that aren’t controversial.
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress for everyone, including nursing mamas. Before getting into a strenuous workout regime (if that’s what you want) be sure to get the all-clear from your OBGYN first. Until then, walking is an easy and sure way to reduce some of your stress and anxiety. Walking is also something that can easily be done with your baby. Getting out in the fresh air and cruising around with your baby in a stroller or body carrier is also a good way to get in that vitamin D, which can also help to alleviate symptoms of depression.
Finding a support group where you can share your experiences is another great way to relieve stress and symptoms of depression. Participating in support groups and psychoeducational sessions designed for expecting and new mothers can effectively reduce stressors, foster the growth of meaningful connections, and contribute to the gradual enhancement of social well-being for both mothers and their babies.
The nurturing and strengthening of maternal confidence often stem from receiving validation and encouragement from peers who intimately understand the perinatal and postpartum journey. The significance of empathetic and non-judgmental listening, combined with focused attention, reflective dialogue, and validating expressions within a therapeutic environment, cannot be overstated.
Many communities have mommy and me groups that get together for various activities, including group exercises, where you can spend some time with other mamas that might be having a similar experience to you. A quick Google search should steer you in the right direction.
Making time for yourself can also be a good way to deal with stress. A lot of new mamas find it difficult to squeeze in a little personal time with a newborn around. Try to finagle a little time to be by yourself to re-center, which can be very beneficial for your mental well-being. Whether it be 15 minutes to meditate or 30 minutes to soak in a bath, or an hour to take a solo walk. Let your partner, parent, or trusted friend know that you need a few minutes to yourself, and let them take over while you prioritize your needs for a bit.
Discover More Resources and Support for Breastfeeding with Mila's Keeper
If you're considering using marijuana while breastfeeding, it's a smart move to chat with your healthcare provider. They can give you personalized advice based on your health, your baby's needs, and the latest research.
Remember, just because marijuana is being legalized in more places doesn't mean it's a free pass for every situation. Your baby's health and well-being come first, and making informed choices is crucial.
Being in the know about the potential risks of smoking weed while breastfeeding is a great way to ensure you're giving your little one the best start in life.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your stress, you have other options you should consider first.
- Get out in the fresh air and get some exercise
- Find a nearby support group to join
- Prioritize self-care and find some time for yourself
We know being a parent can be challenging sometimes, but supporting one another and exchanging valuable information can hopefully make it a little easier, and that’s what we hope to do here at Mila’s Keeper!
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