Do you like to smoke weed sometimes and are wondering if it means you should stop breastfeeding? Do you want to know if smoking weed will have a negative effect on your baby?
When you are 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, learning everything you can about the two can be beneficial for your decision making.
What Does Marijuana Do?
When you smoke marijuana, the main ingredient, THC enters the bloodstream and eventually reaches your brain. Your “high” is essentially comprised of a number of neurological functions (1).
These functions include, but aren’t limited to:
- Memory formation.
- Time perception.
- Motor function.
Research regarding the use of marijuana is rather blurred, but typically the user does not experience any life-threatening effects.
In fact, for some, marijuana can actually improve their quality of life. There is a reason several states have approved the use of medicinal marijuana.
The use of marijuana also has varying results depending on age. It is believed teens and those with brains that are still developing should proceed with extreme caution. A younger brain is more susceptible to adverse environmental insults.
The problem with breastfeeding and smoking marijuana is that your baby is experiencing rapid brain growth and it is vital that nothing interrupts this process. The time a mother spends breastfeeding is also the time when a baby experiences the most rapid brain growth in their life.
Will Marijuana Affect Your Milk?
There have been numerous studies conducted that report smoking weed will affect breast milk and it can have potential side effects on your baby (2).
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 with breastfeeding is that breastmilk is fatty – so the THC and other chemicals may persist and be easily transferred to your baby via breastmilk.
Editor's Note:Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
Only a small percentage of your dose crosses into the breastmilk, 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 8 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 (3).
The use of marijuana is also known to decrease milk production for the mother. If you are hoping to breastfeed exclusively, smoking marijuana could make this challenging.
How Does Marijuana Affect Your Baby?
The struggle with breastfeeding and smoking weed is that there is a lack of research regarding the topic fully. 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. Some babies can become fussy if mom eats something that upsets the baby’s stomach.
Babies are much smaller, so they have a much smaller tolerance. Although only a percentage of the marijuana crosses into the breast milk, it only takes a small percentage to impact your baby. Your baby will be vulnerable to the chemicals and toxins.
If your baby experiences lethargy and sleeps far more often, this could lead to slow weight gain and possibly hindered development because your baby will not be awake and eating often enough.
When a mother breastfeeds and smokes weed, her baby can experience slower developmental growth. The major 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 there is potential marijuana can stunt this process (5).
There have been some studies that have shown no long-term brain impairments, but there have been other studies showing infants exposed to marijuana had decreased motor development, among other long-term outcomes.
It is important to note 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 (6).
It has also been found that breastfed babies whose mothers smoke weed have an increased risk of dying from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The risk factor is almost doubled from the risk of a non-smoking mother. The SIDS risk is also increased if the baby is exposed to secondhand smoke.
There are other risks associated with breastfeeding and marijuana smoking that include:
- Hyperactivity: There is enough evidence that suggests the use of 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 this has been believed to cause long-lasting emotional instability in children.
- Later drug use risk: There is little evidence supporting this, but it is believed early exposure to drugs and drug use can cause children to seek out drugs, and potentially harder ones in the future (7).
Other Marijuana Effects Not From Breastfeeding
If a mother smokes marijuana and breastfeeds, there are some potential side effects. A mother who smokes and does not breastfeed can still expose their baby to a harmful environment.
A mother who smokes is going to be high, and this can inhibit the care the baby will receive. If the mother is very sleepy after smoking it’s possible she’ll enter a deep sleep and become oblivious to the needs of her baby.
A baby can also experience side effects from the secondhand smoke. This smoke probably contains many harmful ingredients just as tobacco smoke does.
As mentioned earlier, marijuana smoke also increases the risk of your baby suffering from SIDS.
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? It is still in your baby’s best interest if you avoid smoking altogether. If a mother occasionally or rarely smokes, however, it is possible the benefits from breast milk will 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
A mother who smokes marijuana and breastfeeds is obviously going to be judged by others.
Smoking and breastfeeding can actually lead to possible jail time or abuse charges. Many child protection agencies consider exposing your baby to this drug as abuse or child endangerment. No matter the trace amount, charges can be administered. Know the laws where you live before taking any chances.
Marijuana and Health Benefits
Marijuana is thought to have many health benefits. Some of these benefits include:
Some of these benefits include:
- Relieves pain.
- Suppresses nausea.
- Reduces anxiety.
- Treats Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- Controls seizures.
- Lessens the symptoms of some chronic health conditions.
If you are using marijuana for medicinal purposes, it is probably in your best interest to seek an alternative medication or avoid breastfeeding.
You should consult with your doctor to determine what is the best method for you and your baby. Although marijuana can benefit your health, it can still cause harm to your baby.
The Bottom Line
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 both parents and healthcare providers.
Breastfeeding is the best option of nutrition you can give your baby, but sometimes it should be avoided.
There is little research regarding smoking weed and breastfeeding, but there are cases that have shown negative results. Your baby could go 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 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 is crossing into the breast milk and entering your baby’s system.
If you feel like you have to smoke, don’t breastfeed and don’t smoke around your baby. Make sure someone else is around to help take care of your baby in case your behavior becomes affected.
Don’t inflict possible permanent damage upon your baby for your temporary relief.
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