Is any amount of marijuana safe to consume while breastfeeding? Is it bad that I’m craving it?

Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood

Sister, you’ve just spent nine months abstaining from all the relaxing vices and are now in the thick of motherhood. I don’t blame you for wanting to indulge in some Mary Jane. And now that it’s decriminalized in many states and legalized in others, it’s even more tempting. But like any responsible breastfeeding mama, you want to make sure what you put in your body doesn’t screw with your baby’s body.

The tricky thing with marijuana is that it sticks around in your body longer than something like alcohol, so you can’t “pump and dump.” Various studies have detected small quantities of THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) in breastmilk from six days to more than six weeks after use. And a study published in Pediatrics found that more than four hundred chemicals in marijuana can transfer into breastmilk. The researchers also reported that typically less THC was detected when the mother used edibles or topicals, instead of smoking. As an added bonus, edibles and topicals don’t expose baby to secondhand smoke. However, all delivery methods expose the baby to THC.

Shedding a less damaging light on marijuana use and breastfeeding is a 2018 study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology that reported the concentration of THC in breastmilk was about 2.5 percent of what the mother received, and of that, only around 1 to 5 percent is absorbed by the baby. So the dose is pretty minimal. In addition, they found that levels of THC in breastmilk were undetectable twenty-four hours after a mother who only occasionally used marijuana ceased use.

But because it’s hard to go twenty-four hours without breastfeeding (at least with an infant), it’s assumed a baby would consume some THC before it was metabolized out of the milk. In the case of chronic marijuana users, the study discovered that it took much longer than twenty-four hours for THC levels to become undetectable — it could potentially take up to four days. This study suggests that risks might be minimal if a mother uses marijuana infrequently and waits twenty-four hours between use and breastfeeding. However, they still urge caution.

Regarding the effects of marijuana — specifically, THC — on the baby, limited research has found that occasional maternal use of marijuana during breastfeeding didn’t have noticeable effects on the infant — but this research did not rule out long-term risks. It’s also believed that THC could alter baby’s brain and motor development, slow weight gain, reduce milk production, and diminish the baby’s ability to suckle.

The bottom line: I don’t have a straight answer for you. Limited research has indicated marijuana can have negative impacts on baby. Continued research might discover a safe amount for a breastfeeding mother to consume, but unfortunately, we don’t currently have that information. So in many ways, the choice of whether to use marijuana when breastfeeding comes down to the level of uncertainty and risk you’re comfortable with.

Make informed decisions by trying the following:

Check with your care provider: With something as little understood as consuming marijuana when breastfeeding, it’s best to check with your care provider before proceeding. While they’ll likely tell you to “just say no,” if you push you may be able to get some information about the amount they think would probably, maybe, possibly be safe. And if you’re hoping to use marijuana for a condition like anxiety and you’d be using it in place of a pharmaceutical, your care provider might determine that the risks of marijuana for the baby are less than the risks of a certain pill. You can also get a second or third opinion to gain a more well-rounded perspective.

Purchase from a dispensary: If you choose to occasionally partake in ganja, know that it’s not all created equal, which is why it’s best to purchase it from a dispensary instead of getting it from a friend. Dispensaries typically have staff trained in the various strains and delivery methods and can help you choose an option best suited to your unique needs. But again, I wouldn’t take this route until you get the go-ahead from your care provider.

Don’t bed-share. If you use marijuana, hold off on bed-sharing the same day, as you might experience heavier sleep.

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