CBD and Breastfeeding: Is It Safe?
Curiosity around the therapeutic uses for CBD has reached a fever pitch, but is it safe when you’re nursing? Here’s what experts say.
Pregnancy is one thing, but life postpartum often comes with a variety of mental and physical challenges. As many as one in five women suffer from postpartum depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other concerns include anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia, all compounded by the lack of sleep and hormonal shifts that naturally occur after giving birth. It’s no wonder more new parents are gravitating to CBD, or cannabidiol, a component of either a marijuana or hemp plant that is non-psychoactive (unlike THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which only comes from marijuana).
CBD has been touted as the active ingredient in a variety of therapeutic products that boast anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-psychotic, anti-convulsant, and antidepressant properties. But is it safe if you’re breastfeeding your child?
Here’s what nursing parents need to know about CBD.
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What the Science Says About Using CBD While Breastfeeding
Research has focused primarily on THC, as opposed to CBD, in breast milk, and the conclusion is that it is possible to pass low levels of the psychoactive ingredient to your baby this way. A study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology looked at samples of breast milk from eight anonymous test subjects who regularly use cannabis and found that babies who were three to five months old and who were breastfed exclusively ingested an estimated 2.5 percent of the maternal dose of THC. (Researchers didn’t, however, take blood samples from the infants to see if they had measurable levels of THC in their bodies.)
And trying to “pump and dump” doesn’t work for cannabis products, as chemicals from cannabis that entered the body days or weeks prior to breastfeeding can make their way into breast milk, according to Medical News Today. In fact, other research published in the journal Pediatrics found that low levels of THC may be found in breast milk for up to six days after smoking cannabis or eating an edible.
Granted, this research was done on marijuana and THC, not hemp and CBD. But experts are concerned about the effect of any cannabinoid on an infant’s brain development.
“We truly do not know what short- or long-term impact on the baby it may have,” says Felice Gersh, M.D., a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and author of PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones, and Happiness.
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Is CBD safe while breastfeeding?
“Having a new baby is stressful, and some women may wish to turn to cannabis products,” Dr. Gersh notes. But the limited data on its safety—and the fact that it will pass into breast milk—makes it difficult for many experts to advise its use for nursing parents.
“Unfortunately, there is no safety data to allow a doctor to recommend the use of cannabis or CBD,” says Dr. Gersh.
Mary Clifton, M.D., an internal medicine doctor in New York City agrees, stating, “If a new mom is breastfeeding, it’s probably not wise to use CBD. The medical community doesn’t support the use of CBD in these settings, because proper studies can’t be completed on the effect on the baby or infant.”
Despite the lack of published research, new parents have used cannabinoids for thousands of years, notes Robert Flannery, PhD, owner of Dr. Robb Farms. “Yes, THC and CBD are expressed in small quantities in breast milk,” Flannery says. And while he doesn’t feel comfortable suggesting CBD for a new parent who is breastfeeding, he acknowledges the use of cannabis in the past by breastfeeding mothers.
“We do not have enough research to make claims one way or another on how that breast milk would affect the milk-fed babies,” says Flannery. “Cannabis is a medicine that has been used specifically for pregnant and breastfeeding moms for millennia. I will never make a claim without the science to back it up, but we should understand that anecdotal evidence can be used to formulate testable hypotheses to validate the use of cannabis at this time in a mom’s life.”
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Consider the risks vs. benefits
Ultimately, because CBD “has been shown to be little risk to both adults and children” and therefore, “may not pose a problem,” it is important to weigh the risk versus benefits for the mom and infant, says Hilary Peckham, the co-founder of Etain Health, the only all-women, family owned medical marijuana dispensary company in New York.
For instance, many new parents suffer from postpartum depression suffer from anxiety, fatigue, mood swings and detachment from the infant. “Many sufferers usually start a treatment of antidepressants which may not be appropriate for breastfeeding and may need to discontinue,” Peckham says. “Starting CBD may still allow the mother to breastfeed and prolong the bonding time with the infant. Speak to your doctor before starting CBD, especially if you are a new mother.”
The Bottom Line
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend physicians counsel moms to abstain from all cannabis products—including CBD—if they wish to breastfeed. However, given the minimal amount of the substance that make its way into breast milk, and the fact that research has yet to confirm the exact effects on an infant, anyone interested in trying CBD while nursing would do well to speak to their doctor.
Curiosity around the therapeutic uses for CBD has reached a fever pitch, but is it safe when you're nursing? Here's what experts say.
Can You Use CBD Oil While Breastfeeding?
Written by Jason Brett — Edited by on March 24, 2021
As a breastfeeding mother, you know how carefully you need to monitor your consumption. Certain foods and drinks are off limits, but can you use CBD oil while breastfeeding?
CBD oil has seen a surge in popularity due to recent changes in U.S. legislation and its purported health benefits. With potential benefits including better sleep, reduced stress, and increased appetite, there are certainly ways CBD oil could improve the health of a new mother…but is it safe for a nursing baby?
Research into how CBD oil interacts with the human body is ongoing, and due to ethical constraints, it’s difficult to directly study CBD oil’s effects on breastfeeding mothers and their babies. This does not mean, however, that there is no available information on the subject.
Here is the most up-to-date information about the use of CBD oil while breastfeeding.
Concerns About Using CBD Oil While Breastfeeding
The use of any substance, even a natural one like CBD oil, can raise concerns for breastfeeding mothers. Below are a few of the most common questions new mothers may have regarding CBD oil use.
Will CBD Oil Get Me High?
Because CBD will not get you high, it’s becoming more widely accepted and used to treat a variety of ailments, including inflammation, anxiety, and insomnia.
Does CBD Oil Pass Through My Milk?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question. While it has been shown that THC passes through to breast milk and can be detrimental to an infant, the effects of CBD oil on newborn babies are not yet known.
It is worth keeping in mind however, that there are some cannabinoids that are naturally present in breast milk, which are produced by the body’s own endocannabinoid system . While marijuana should not be used at all during pregnancy or breastfeeding, CBD oil has been shown to be of little risk to both adults and children so it may not be problematic.
Because there is still no conclusive evidence to support an answer to this question, you must speak to your doctor before using CBD oil, especially if you’re a new mother.
Why Would a Mother Consider Using CBD Oil While Breastfeeding?
The uncertainty around CBD oil and its impact on nursing infants may be enough for some mothers to avoid it completely. For others, there are still plenty of reasons to consider using CBD oil while breastfeeding.
Many women who are breastfeeding find themselves affected by postpartum depression (PPD), a serious condition that can result in anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, and detachment from your infant. PPD is usually treated with antidepressant medications that are not suitable to use while breastfeeding. Taking antidepressants ultimately brings a mother’s nursing journey to an abrupt end during an already difficult time.
CBD oil has been found to reduce depression in a multitude of ways, one of which is through its impact on anandamide , a neurotransmitter commonly called the “bliss molecule.” Anandamide plays a key role in the experience of joy, happiness, and motivation. CBD oil acts as an anandamide reuptake inhibitor , which means it increases the amount of anandamide available in the brain. For women with PPD, the increased amount of anandamide in the brain could decrease the limiting, heavy effects of postpartum depression.
Along with its positive impacts on mood and anxiety , CBD oil has a host of other benefits that may make life easier for breastfeeding mothers.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists , breastfeeding mothers should supplement their regular diets with 450-500 extra calories per day to make up for what is fed to the baby. Without an adequate intake of calories, new mothers may experience fatigue and unhealthy weight loss. Studies have shown that certain types of CBD oil can reduce nausea and increase appetite , providing a useful aid for increasing caloric consumption for breastfeeding mothers.
Lastly, when being woken multiple times a night to nurse your newborn, decent sleep can be hard to come by. CBD oil has been proven to improve sleep quality and help combat insomnia. CBD oil also reduces the production of cortisol, a hormone that’s triggered by stress and may prevent you from drifting back to sleep.
Is CBD Oil Right for You?
The decision of whether or not to use CBD oil while breastfeeding is one you should make with the help of your doctor. You might also consider speaking with a naturopathic doctor who specializes in using CBD for medical treatment.
For your reference, the Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) states in a report on the use of cannabidiol (CBD oil) while breastfeeding that:
“If cannabidiol is required by the mother, it is not a reason to discontinue breastfeeding. However, since no information is available on the use of cannabidiol during breastfeeding, an alternate drug may be preferred, especially while nursing a newborn or preterm infant.”
If in doubt, speak to your doctor to discuss the options available to you. Once you have all the information you need, you can decide whether CBD oil will be of benefit to you.
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CBD oil has many potential health benefits, but is it safe to use while breastfeeding? We’ve got the latest information to help you draw your own conclusion.