Everything Expecting Mothers Need to Know About Using Marijuana While Breastfeeding

It is not uncommon for women to use marijuana during pregnancy. Some women find that it helps minimize side effects. Others use marijuana to manage anxiety or to get a better night of sleep. Women who use marijuana during pregnancy might want to continue to use afterwards. However, some research indicates that it can get into breast milk.

Many women abstain from use because of concerns over whether marijuana use during breastfeeding is safe for the child. Despite these concerns, most of the research on the topic is incomplete, outdated, or narrow in scope. This article aims to educate expecting or new mothers on the safety of using marijuana during breastfeeding, as well as how it could affect their children.

Is It Safe to Use Marijuana During Breastfeeding?

Compared to other drugs, the human body metabolizes marijuana very slowly. Since marijuana is stored in fat cells, it is often present in the body for weeks at a time. This is especially true for those who use marijuana frequently or heavily; the drug’s active chemicals accumulate in the body.

Breast milk cannot be created without some body fat, making it possible for marijuana to be present in breast milk and passed onto a child through breastfeeding. Even if the mother did not use marijuana that day or in the days before breastfeeding, it could still be present in the milk.

Research on the subject typically revolves around the amount of marijuana that is passed to the breastfed children and whether it is harmful. Some earlier studies show that the drug does pass to the child. However, there is no definite answer as to whether it has adverse effects.

Since there has not been a significant amount of research on the subject, it is quite difficult for doctors and industry experts to make concrete recommendations on using marijuana during breastfeeding. In this same vein, doctors cannot say whether there is a safe level of marijuana for breastfed babies. As a result, it is best to err on the side of caution.

Here are some potential side effects of using marijuana during breastfeeding:

  • Developmental Issues: Although research is incomplete, some studies indicate that marijuana can hurt a baby’s development. These developmental issues include coordination, strength, and overall movement. Marijuana may also affect intellectual development.
  • Low Weight: Sleepiness is a side effect of marijuana. This could cause a baby to eat less and sleep more. Slow weight gain can be an issue for babies, especially premature babies.
  • Impaired Awareness: Marijuana use can affect a person’s awareness. This, in turn, can affect the level of care that users give their children.
  • Less Breastfeeding: On average, women who use marijuana breastfeed their babies for a shorter amount of time than women who do not use marijuana.

As marijuana continues to become more accessible, its impact on breastfeeding gains more attention. Until more research is conducted, it is best to avoid using marijuana while breastfeeding to ensure the health of the baby.

What Is Marijuana’s Effect on Breast Milk?

Mothers who use marijuana while breastfeeding could transmit 2.5 percent of marijuana’s active chemicals to their babies through breast milk. Otherwise, marijuana has not been found to have a profound impact on breast milk. Prolactin, the hormone that tells the body to make breast milk, may be impacted by marijuana use. However, the prolactin level in a mother with established lactation does not affect her ability to breastfeed her child.

Will Marijuana Impact a Baby’s Brain Development?

There is a concern that tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, consumed through breast milk could affect baby brain development. Studies show that maternal marijuana use does affect a child’s development. These children are more likely to experience mental health problems, lower IQ scores, and behavioral issues. During their teen years, these children were significantly more likely to deal with depression or display delinquent behavior.

However, it is important to note that more studies must be done to truly understand the impact marijuana use during breastfeeding might have on children. Some of the behavioral outcomes observed in these studies might not be related to breast milk marijuana exposure. These behavioral issues could be due to other societal factors.

How Long Does Marijuana Stay in the Body?

Even though the effects of marijuana wear off after a few hours, traces of the substance can remain in the body for weeks at a time. Time can vary depending on how often someone uses marijuana. THC can be detected in urine several days after the subject last used marijuana. For frequent users, it is common for marijuana to be detected in urine anywhere from 30 to 45 days.

Although urine tests are most commonly used for detecting marijuana use, blood and hair tests may also be used. Traces of marijuana can be found in blood anywhere from 60 to 75 days. A hair follicle test can detect the drug for up to 90 days.

Although marijuana can be detected in the body several weeks after use, breast milk is different. A study found that lower levels of marijuana chemicals could only be found up to six days after the last use of the drug. This is a significantly shorter period than some might expect. Even so, breastfeeding mothers must still be careful if they wish to avoid feeding their children while it is still in their systems.

Aids to Stop Marijuana Use

Although withdrawal is not commonly thought of when stopping marijuana use, it can be an issue. When heavy users stop using marijuana, they may experience several symptoms. These symptoms include insomnia, irritability, flu-like sickness, and appetite changes. These symptoms can last up to a week or even longer.

Those who are struggling with marijuana addiction can receive therapy from American Addiction Centers. Therapy can give addicts the necessary skills to avoid triggers and cope with cravings.

Receiving professional medical supervision through rehabilitation can also help people make it through the withdrawal period. Otherwise, a few mental health treatments can help those suffering from marijuana addiction:

  • Contingency Management
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy
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