Do you like to smoke weed and wonder if it means you should stop breastfeeding?
When breastfeeding, you want to know what is safe for you to do and what you need to avoid. It is best to educate yourself before engaging in a behavior or activity that could potentially be dangerous.
If you are breastfeeding and considering smoking weed, this is what you should know to make an informed decision for you and your baby.
- Smoking weed can affect breast milk, potentially causing side effects for the baby and decreasing milk production.
- Marijuana exposure during breastfeeding may lead to slower developmental growth and increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Occasional weed smoking may still pose risks, but the benefits of breast milk might outweigh the negatives in some cases.
- Legal consequences are possible if child protection agencies consider marijuana exposure as abuse or child endangerment.
Will Marijuana Affect Your Milk?
Numerous studies have reported that smoking weed will affect breast milk, and it can have potential side effects on your baby (1).
Marijuana is a fat-loving drug, meaning it’s attracted to and stored in your fat cells for a long time (unlike other water-loving drugs that are eliminated more readily in your urine). One of the major issues is that breast milk is fatty, so the THC and other chemicals may persist and be easily transferred to your baby via breast milk.
Editor's Note:Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
Only a small percentage of your dose crosses into the breast milk, but it is enough your baby will test positive for the drug for weeks. In one study of a mother who smoked weed heavily, her breast milk had eight times the amount of marijuana than her own blood did. A 2018 study showed that exclusively breastfed babies got 2.5% of the maternal dose through breastfeeding (2).
Marijuana use is also known to decrease the mother’s milk production. If you hope to breastfeed exclusively, smoking marijuana could make this challenging.
The THC in marijuana can suppress the production of prolactin, the milk-making hormone, which can directly affect your milk supply. THC can even affect your ability to care for your baby (3).
How Does Marijuana Affect Your Baby When Breastfeeding?
The struggle with breastfeeding and smoking weed is that there is a lack of research regarding the topic. Marijuana isn’t legal everywhere, so the studies conducted are limited.
When you breastfeed, you are advised that everything you eat can cross into the milk and into your baby. Your baby can become fussy if you eat something that upsets their stomach.
Babies are much smaller than adults, so they have a much smaller tolerance. Although only a percentage of marijuana crosses into breast milk, it only takes a small percentage to impact your baby. Your baby is vulnerable to the chemicals and toxins in marijuana.
If your baby experiences lethargy and sleeps far more often, this could lead to slow weight gain and possibly hindered development from not being awake and eating often enough.
When a mother breastfeeds and smokes weed, her baby can experience slower developmental growth. The primary concern with marijuana is it affects the neural receptors in the brain that are important for development. A baby experiences rapid brain growth in the first year of life, so marijuana could stunt this process (4).
Some studies show no evidence of long-term brain impairments, while others have shown that infants exposed to marijuana had decreased motor development, among other long-term outcomes.
Many of these studies were conducted in the 1980s. Cannabis has since increased the levels of THC, meaning the potential side effects can now be much worse (5).
Breastfed babies whose parents smoke weed also have an increased risk of dying from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The risk factor almost doubles for babies exposed to marijuana — even from their fathers or other close caregivers (6).
These are some of the other risks associated with breastfeeding and marijuana smoking:
- Hyperactivity: Sufficient evidence suggests that using marijuana when breastfeeding can cause your baby to exhibit hyperactive behavior and potentially develop ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
- Emotional dysregulation: The active ingredient in marijuana is THC, and many experts believe this causes long-lasting emotional instability in children (7).
- Later drug use risk: Some medical experts believe that early exposure to drugs and drug use can cause children to seek out drugs — and potentially harder ones — in the future (8).
Is Occasional Weed Smoking Safe?
Breast milk is known to be better for your baby than any formula, but is it still worth it if you smoke weed? It is still in your baby’s best interest if you avoid smoking altogether. If a mother occasionally or rarely smokes, however, the benefits from breast milk may outweigh the negative effects of smoking weed.
Some babies are allergic to many components in formula, so breast milk is their best option. If the benefits of breastfeeding your baby while smoking outweighs the negative aspects of formula, it may be worth it.
Consequences of Breastfeeding and Smoking Weed
Smoking weed and breastfeeding can lead to possible jail time or abuse charges. Many child protection agencies consider exposing your baby to cannabis to be abuse or child endangerment. No matter the trace amount, charges can be administered. Know the laws where you live before taking any chances.
The Bottom Line
If you still need to know more about breastfeeding and marijuana use, these resources may help:
- The Infant Risk Center at Texas Tech University is a resource for all sorts of drug and breastfeeding information.
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has resources about marijuana and breastfeeding for parents and healthcare providers.
Breastfeeding is the best option of nutrition you can give your baby, but sometimes it should be avoided.
Minimal research regarding smoking weed and breastfeeding exists, but some studies have shown negative results. Your baby could possibly be unaffected, but there is always the chance something irreversible could occur.
Marijuana affects neural receptors, and no mother should knowingly expose their baby to something that has the potential to cause harm to their baby’s developing brain.
Even though there have been cases where babies were unharmed, most babies still show traces of the drug in their urine. This means the drug crosses into the breast milk and enters your baby’s system.
If you feel like you have to smoke weed, don’t breastfeed, and don’t smoke around your baby. Make sure someone else is around to care for your baby if your behavior becomes affected.