The Impact of Cannabis Use on Breastfeeding Parents

The Impact of Cannabis Use on Breastfeeding Parents

In the United States, there has been a noticeable increase in cannabis use among breastfeeding parents. However, the extent to which the drug is transferred to breast milk, as well as its potential effects on newborns, remains uncertain. A recent observational study conducted in the US has shown that THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, can still be detected in breast milk up to 12 hours after the mother’s last use. This information poses a challenge for understanding when THC levels peak in breast milk, and further complicates the assessment of risks associated with cannabis use among breastfeeding parents.

Despite the growing legalization and acceptance of cannabis in the US, research on the impact of the drug on breastfeeding babies is limited. Stigma surrounding cannabis use, along with the historic exclusion of mothers and breastfeeding individuals from clinical trials, has contributed to the scarcity of information on this topic. Current recommendations from the CDC advise breastfeeding parents to abstain from cannabis use entirely, highlighting the lack of clear guidelines for this population.

A recent study recruited 20 breastfeeding mothers from Washington and Oregon, where cannabis is legally available, to investigate the presence of THC in breast milk. These mothers provided milk samples for analysis, along with detailed reports on their cannabis use habits. The findings revealed that THC was present in the breast milk of participants, albeit in low concentrations. On average, infants were exposed to just 0.07 mg of THC per day, raising questions about the potential effects of even small doses of the drug on infants.

Challenges in Monitoring THC Levels in Breast Milk

Unlike alcohol, which exhibits a more predictable pattern of peaking and declining in breast milk, THC levels were found to fluctuate unpredictably among the study participants. Mothers who used cannabis multiple times throughout the study period showed a continual increase in cannabinoid concentrations in their breast milk. This variability makes it difficult for breastfeeding parents to time their feeding sessions to avoid peak THC levels in breast milk, underscoring the need for more research in this area.

The authors of the study emphasize the importance of conducting more rigorous research to determine the potential effects of regular THC exposure on breastfeeding infants. They caution breastfeeding parents to consider the possibility of their infants ingesting cannabinoids through breast milk and acknowledge the uncertainty surrounding the impact of this exposure on infant development. Heightened awareness and education are needed to help parents make informed decisions regarding cannabis use while breastfeeding.

The rising trend of cannabis use among breastfeeding parents in the US necessitates a deeper understanding of the implications of this practice on infant health. While existing research sheds some light on the presence of THC in breast milk, there are still many unanswered questions regarding its effects on breastfeeding infants. Further studies are needed to provide clearer guidance and recommendations for parents who are navigating the complex intersection of cannabis use and breastfeeding.


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