The use of CBD during breastfeeding is a controversial topic. This is because CBD can pass from the mother’s milk to the baby. Not enough research has been done yet to determine whether or not CBD causes harmful effects in babies. Therefore, professional organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists do not recommend that new mothers use CBD while nursing.
While there is still a lack of enough evidence, at this stage enough studies have shown that the use of cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding can lead to increased risk of low birth weight, preterm labor, and brain and behavior problems.
However, CBD can offer many benefits for women who have just had a baby because CBD can relieve many common postpartum symptoms and conditions.
What Is CBD Oil?
CBD oil comes from the cannabis plant. The CBD is extracted from the plant and added to a carrier oil, usually hemp seed oil. The user can then add the oil to food or place it under the tongue.
CBD is one of the many cannabinoids found in the hemp plant, and it offers an array of health benefits, especially for postpartum women. Unlike with tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD does not make the user “high.” Instead, the CBD cannabinoids can help with post-pregnancy symptoms such as insomnia, mood disorders, and even pain.
Use of CBD Oil After Pregnancy
After a baby has been born, there are many reasons a new mother may wish to use CBD. Because she must now change some of her daily habits, she may experience undesirable side effects such as anxiety and trouble sleeping. CBD can help ease these effects without the problems of prescription medications.
Postpartum depression in women who have recently given birth is as common as left-handedness is in the general population. This depression affects one in 10 women. They may experience spells of crying, mood swings, and insomnia after the birth of the baby.
This depression usually begins just a few days after birth, and it can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to more long term. Rarely, a mother may develop postpartum psychosis, which is a very severe form of depression. CBD can help ease symptoms of depression in new mothers.
Many women will experience some form of anxiety in the weeks following birth. A few symptoms mothers may experience include racing thoughts, constant worry, and an inability to concentrate. Some new mothers may also experience panic attacks, which come on very quickly and are characterized by an intense feeling of terror.
Because a new mother must get up several times at night to feed her baby, she can find it difficult to fall asleep afterward. Insomnia may also be caused by neurological changes as the woman adjusts to being a mother.
CBD can help with sleeping issues because it has a calming and relaxing effect. Now, CBD users can purchase CBD products that also contain melatonin, which helps put the body in a state of restfulness before bedtime. Studies have shown that people who take CBD can experience a deeper, more restful sleep. They reported waking up feeling more refreshed than those who did not use CBD.
New babies can also experience anxiety. Some mothers may choose to consume CBD, so it and its calming effects will pass through the breast milk to the baby.
Many women will experience some pain in the days and even weeks following birth. This pain may feel like contractions or cramps. Many of these pains are caused by the uterus shrinking back to its normal size. This pain is most common in women who have already had at least one baby before. Often, this pain comes during breastfeeding because the body produces more hormones to shrink the uterus during this time.
CBD has been shown many times to be an effective pain reliever. It can change the way the brain responds to pain signals so that the new mother will feel less pain.
Is CBD Oil Safe for Breastfeeding?
More research is needed on whether or not CBD oil is safe for breastfeeding mothers to use. What is known is that CBD can pass from breast milk to the baby. However, what is not known is how that will affect the baby in the long term.
Part of the reason for this lack of research is because ethically, researchers cannot give babies CBD. Animal studies are not always useful in determining the effects of CBD, and it is challenging to test long-term effects on animals. The other reason research on CBD is lacking is because many existing studies on cannabis products focus on the use of marijuana because many pregnant women do smoke marijuana in pregnancy.
Marijuana Use in Pregnancy
While the effects of CBD in pregnancy remain widely unknown, medical marijuana is a different story. Studies done on women who smoked marijuana during pregnancy found that the THC content led to several problems in both the baby and the mother. This is because THC can cross the placental barrier and reach the baby in the womb.
- Low Birth Weight: Marijuana may prevent the baby from getting as many nutrients in the womb. It may also lead to the baby being born too early.
- Faintness or Dizziness in Mother: Some expectant mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy were more likely to feel faint or dizzy. This can make them more likely to fall or injure themselves.
- Neurodevelopmental Issues: Studies of mothers who smoked marijuana during pregnancy showed that once the child reaches 4 or 5 years of age, he or she may suffer from developmental issues. These children had more trouble concentrating, paying attention, and controlling impulses.
- Mental Disorders: In adulthood, children of mothers who used marijuana in pregnancy were more likely to suffer from mental disorders.
- Substance Abuse: Other studies have shown that children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were more likely to abuse drugs during the teen years.
If a pregnant or breastfeeding woman feels that she cannot stop using marijuana, there are resources to help, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s helpline.
Marijuana Use in Breastfeeding
After a woman has given birth, the THC in marijuana can be passed to her child, which can cause many of the problems listed above. Another problem of using marijuana while breastfeeding is that it can cause a mother’s body to produce less milk for the child. Mothers who are new to breastfeeding may especially struggle to produce enough milk in the first place, and so using marijuana is not a good idea for that reason alone.
Alternatives to CBD
There are several more natural ways a new mother can help ease her symptoms without using CBD.
Warm milk is known for helping people fall asleep at night. Bubble baths in the evening and relaxing foot massages can also both help women fall asleep in the evening. If these things are not working, women can talk to their doctors about using over-the-counter or prescription medications that are safe for breastfeeding.
Depression and Anxiety
Therapy can go a long way toward helping new mothers who are suffering from anxiety or depression. Taking care of themselves can also help mothers feel better. However, if they are still not feeling better, they can talk to their doctors about anti-anxiety or antidepressants that may help them feel better sooner.
Finding Safe Products
If a new mother does choose to use CBD during breastfeeding, it is essential for her to find the highest quality products available, because everything she ingests will go to her baby as well. It is best to choose CBD products with lower doses during breastfeeding. THC can remain in breast milk for up to six days after use, so it is best to choose CBD products that have no THC content. Products from reputable companies that are labeled CBD isolate contain only CBD and nothing else.
Hemp Bombs CBD Oil
For new mothers looking for an affordable option, Hemp Bombs still offers high-quality products. They send all their products to a third-party lab for testing. The lab tests the products for toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides. The lab also verifies the cannabidiol content of each product to ensure each one has been accurately labeled.
This company offers CBD in lower concentrations, which is perfect for mothers who are nursing. The company sends off a sample from each batch they make so it can be tested.
CBDistillery CBD Gummies
While each of CBDistillery’s gummies has a little higher potency than breastfeeding mothers should use, they can cut each gummy in half. This way, they will only be taking 15 mg at a time instead of 30 mg at a time. These CBD gummies are a good option for mothers who are breastfeeding because CBDistillery offers gummies with CBD isolate. This means the gummies will not contain any traces of THC, which is known to be harmful to babies.
Breastfeeding women have many reasons to use CBD to help ease postpartum symptoms. However, research on the safety and long-term effects of these products are lacking, and many professional organizations do not recommend using them.
It is not uncommon for women to use marijuana during pregnancy. Some women find that it helps minimize side effects. Others use marijuana to manage anxiety or to get a better night of sleep. Women who use marijuana during pregnancy might want to continue to use afterwards. However, some research indicates that it can get into breast milk.
Many women abstain from use because of concerns over whether marijuana use during breastfeeding is safe for the child. Despite these concerns, most of the research on the topic is incomplete, outdated, or narrow in scope. This article aims to educate expecting or new mothers on the safety of using marijuana during breastfeeding, as well as how it could affect their children.
Is It Safe to Use Marijuana During Breastfeeding?
Compared to other drugs, the human body metabolizes marijuana very slowly. Since marijuana is stored in fat cells, it is often present in the body for weeks at a time. This is especially true for those who use marijuana frequently or heavily; the drug’s active chemicals accumulate in the body.
Breast milk cannot be created without some body fat, making it possible for marijuana to be present in breast milk and passed onto a child through breastfeeding. Even if the mother did not use marijuana that day or in the days before breastfeeding, it could still be present in the milk.
Research on the subject typically revolves around the amount of marijuana that is passed to the breastfed children and whether it is harmful. Some earlier studies show that the drug does pass to the child. However, there is no definite answer as to whether it has adverse effects.
Since there has not been a significant amount of research on the subject, it is quite difficult for doctors and industry experts to make concrete recommendations on using marijuana during breastfeeding. In this same vein, doctors cannot say whether there is a safe level of marijuana for breastfed babies. As a result, it is best to err on the side of caution.
Here are some potential side effects of using marijuana during breastfeeding:
- Developmental Issues: Although research is incomplete, some studies indicate that marijuana can hurt a baby’s development. These developmental issues include coordination, strength, and overall movement. Marijuana may also affect intellectual development.
- Low Weight: Sleepiness is a side effect of marijuana. This could cause a baby to eat less and sleep more. Slow weight gain can be an issue for babies, especially premature babies.
- Impaired Awareness: Marijuana use can affect a person’s awareness. This, in turn, can affect the level of care that users give their children.
- Less Breastfeeding: On average, women who use marijuana breastfeed their babies for a shorter amount of time than women who do not use marijuana.
As marijuana continues to become more accessible, its impact on breastfeeding gains more attention. Until more research is conducted, it is best to avoid using marijuana while breastfeeding to ensure the health of the baby.
What Is Marijuana’s Effect on Breast Milk?
Mothers who use marijuana while breastfeeding could transmit 2.5 percent of marijuana’s active chemicals to their babies through breast milk. Otherwise, marijuana has not been found to have a profound impact on breast milk. Prolactin, the hormone that tells the body to make breast milk, may be impacted by marijuana use. However, the prolactin level in a mother with established lactation does not affect her ability to breastfeed her child.
Will Marijuana Impact a Baby’s Brain Development?
There is a concern that tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, consumed through breast milk could affect baby brain development. Studies show that maternal marijuana use does affect a child’s development. These children are more likely to experience mental health problems, lower IQ scores, and behavioral issues. During their teen years, these children were significantly more likely to deal with depression or display delinquent behavior.
However, it is important to note that more studies must be done to truly understand the impact marijuana use during breastfeeding might have on children. Some of the behavioral outcomes observed in these studies might not be related to breast milk marijuana exposure. These behavioral issues could be due to other societal factors.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay in the Body?
Even though the effects of marijuana wear off after a few hours, traces of the substance can remain in the body for weeks at a time. Time can vary depending on how often someone uses marijuana. THC can be detected in urine several days after the subject last used marijuana. For frequent users, it is common for marijuana to be detected in urine anywhere from 30 to 45 days.
Although urine tests are most commonly used for detecting marijuana use, blood and hair tests may also be used. Traces of marijuana can be found in blood anywhere from 60 to 75 days. A hair follicle test can detect the drug for up to 90 days.
Although marijuana can be detected in the body several weeks after use, breast milk is different. A study found that lower levels of marijuana chemicals could only be found up to six days after the last use of the drug. This is a significantly shorter period than some might expect. Even so, breastfeeding mothers must still be careful if they wish to avoid feeding their children while it is still in their systems.
Aids to Stop Marijuana Use
Although withdrawal is not commonly thought of when stopping marijuana use, it can be an issue. When heavy users stop using marijuana, they may experience several symptoms. These symptoms include insomnia, irritability, flu-like sickness, and appetite changes. These symptoms can last up to a week or even longer.
Those who are struggling with marijuana addiction can receive therapy from American Addiction Centers. Therapy can give addicts the necessary skills to avoid triggers and cope with cravings.
Receiving professional medical supervision through rehabilitation can also help people make it through the withdrawal period. Otherwise, a few mental health treatments can help those suffering from marijuana addiction:
- Contingency Management
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy
Breastfeeding is an excellent way to enhance your child’s development. Typically, breast milk delivers all of the necessary nutrients in the perfect ratios for the nourishment of a growing baby. Additionally, breast milk helps build the immune system and protect your child from sickness, reduce the incidence and development of allergies, and even protect against infections, diabetes, and cancer.
Furthermore, breast milk is easily digested, allowing nutrition without the interference of indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea and it also promotes weight regulation as the baby grows (breastfed children tend to maintain healthier weights as they age).
Breastfed children are widely regarded for being markedly healthier than their formula-fed counterparts, as formula-fed infants have higher rates of gastrointestinal upset, ear infections, and allergies. Formula-fed infants are at as much as 100% higher risk than that of babies who are breastfed for at least their first six months of life.
Breastfeeding is not always a feasible option, especially when the mother has a low breast milk supply due to (but not limited to): insufficient glandular tissue, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), previous mastectomy or breast reduction, hypothyroidism, or radiation used to treat breast cancer before conception. Other factors that may prevent a mother from breastfeeding include addiction to illegal substances, a medication that is contraindicated during pregnancy, infectious diseases (such as HIV, HTLV, TB, and Herpes lesions on the breasts).
In cases when breastfeeding is an option, however, a mother should be well educated on what is within the realms of safety, including being aware that anything that a breastfeeding mother eats or drinks can pass through to the infant through her breast milk. When you consider this, it is critically important to monitor what you consume because it can pass to the baby. Most medications, while they do pass into breast milk, do so at low levels that are unlikely to pose any risk to the infants. However, some drugs are the exception as they can build up and become quite concentrated within breast milk, posing a risk to the infant.
As a general rule, babies six months or older are at a much lower risk for adverse reactions to medications whereas newborns, babies born prematurely, and medically unstable infants are at higher risk for adverse reactions upon exposure to certain medicines.
Always consult your doctor before continuing, discontinuing, or altering the dosage of any medicine, medication, or prescription drugs. Always consult with your doctor about potential risks to your infant and contraindications while pregnant or breastfeeding.
So, is it safe to take over-the-counter medicine while breastfeeding?
The short answer is: typically, yes.
Like stated before, only trace amounts of medicine taken by the mother pass into her breast milk, and as a result, there are only a few that arguably shouldn’t be taken by a mother who is breastfeeding.
When in doubt, a couple of rules of thumb are effective for determining whether or not it is safe to take a medication while breastfeeding, such as:
Is the drug regularly prescribed for infants? If it is regularly prescribed, it’s most likely not contraindicated, and it is safe for mothers to take while breastfeeding. This is an easy conclusion, especially when given that the amount that would be ingested by the infant would be far less than if the infant had been administered a dose. Additionally, if it is safe at an administered dose, a trace amount is unlikely to pose a risk. Of course, consult your physician to discuss contraindications specific to you and your baby.
Is the drug safe to take during pregnancy? If the drug is deemed safe during pregnancy, it is probably safe to take while breastfeeding, though some exceptions do apply. As always, consult your physician.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers numerous resources for referencing general information regarding the safety of medicine while breastfeeding, such as LactMed, a Toxnet Database – which is an online database for drugs and lactation. It is hosted by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and offers a search engine for breastfeeding mothers to find extensive information about drug safety and contraindications pertaining to breastfeeding. On the front page under the subject, “What is LactMed?” the website states,
“The LactMed® database contains information on drugs and other chemicals to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed. It includes information on the levels of such substances in breast milk and infant blood, and the possible adverse effects in the nursing infant. Suggested therapeutic alternatives to those drugs are provided, where appropriate. All data are derived from the scientific literature and fully referenced. A peer review panel reviews the data to assure scientific validity and currency.”[ref. 3]
Additionally, the database is updated on a monthly basis, making it a substantially reliable source for breastfeeding mothers.
The Basics: What Medications are Safe to Take While Breastfeeding?
While it is always important to consult with your primary physician before taking any medications (breastfeeding or not), below is a basic (and by no means exhaustive) list of medications that are generally safe to take while breastfeeding. If you are considering a medication that is not on this list, we recommend that you reference LactMed’s database for a quick check before consulting your physician for confirmation.
Pain Relievers/Fever Reducers:
- Brands included: Advil, Motrin, IBU
- Brands included: Tylenol, Paracetamol, Panadol, Mapap, etc.
- Brands included: Claritin, Alavert, etc.
- Brands included: Allegra Allergy, Allegra, Allegra Hives, Aller-Ease, etc.
- Brands included: Diflucan
- Brands included: Oravig, Monistat, Micatin, Vusian, Rash Relief Antifungal (use all sparingly)
- Brands included: Mycelex, Lotrimin, Lotrisone, etc. (use sparingly)
- Such as amoxicillin and ampicillin
- Cephalosporins, such as Cephalexin
- Brands included: Keflex, Zartan, Daxbia, Keftab
- Brands included: Sudafed, SudoGest, Entex, Zyrtec D, Nexafed, etc.
Use with caution. Pseudoephedrine has been associated with decreased milk supply, so consider natural alternatives when possible, especially while breastfeeding.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRS, Antidepressants):
- Brands included: Paxil, Brisdelle, Pexeva
- Brands included: Zoloft
- Brands included: Luvox, Luvox CR
- Brands included: Pepcid, Pepcid AC, Heartburn Relief, Fluxid
- Brands included: Tagamet HB, Tagamet, Leader Heartburn Relief, Equaline Acid Reducer
What about Nyquil and Gravol?
Both Nyquil and Gravol, while not dangerous, may contain ingredients that can be unsafe for the infant if you are breastfeeding (for example, Nyquil often contains a significant amount of alcohol).
Generally, cold medicine (acetaminophen, ibuprofen), allergy medicine, and cough medicine are safe to take while breastfeeding.
Additionally, it is recommended for breastfeeding mothers to use Menthol products (such as cough drops) with caution, as some women report decreased milk supply when using menthol products though there have not been any studies to confirm this. There is published literature regarding Peppermint and its use during lactation, though there is no mention regarding Peppermint’s potential effects on milk supply.
Natural Alternatives to Medications
While breastfeeding, many mothers may prefer to avoid medicine and pharmaceutical medications altogether (when possible) by utilizing natural alternatives.
Unfortunately, regulatory standards for dietary supplements, including (but not limited to) herbs, botanicals, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes should always be purchased from a reputable source. A registered dietitian, nutritionist or physician should direct the dose to ensure that the supplements used are potent, high quality, and at an optimal and safe dose.
Some safe and good natural remedies include honey (a natural analgesic, or a component used for sore throat), garlic (high in quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant known for its ability to reduce histamines), and herbs, such as elderberry and echinacea, to improve immune health.
Most medications are safe in moderation, though it is always a must to consult with a primary physician or naturopath. Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen tend to be safer options than Nyquil or Gravol. Natural alternatives are available but should be used with direction from a Naturopath, Registered Dietician, or Nutritionist.
Caffeine and alcohol should be monitored while pregnant and breastfeeding. While breastfeeding, an occasional glass of wine is not harmful (though it is recommended to dilute with fruit juice or water) and drinking up to 10-ounces of coffee per day is generally regarded as safe.
If you have taken any medications and notice your child is exhibiting signs of a reaction, such as altered sleeping patterns, changes in hunger, fussiness, rash, or any other concerning symptoms, consult your baby’s primary physician immediately.
After nine months of staying away from alcohol during pregnancy, a new mother may want to have a drink. However, if she is planning on breastfeeding her child, she may want to think twice about having that drink. This is because everything a mother ingests can pass into her breastmilk and to her child.
Is It Safe?
A newborn infant eliminates alcohol from his or her bloodstream only half as quickly as adults do. The CDC does not recommend breastfeeding mothers to drink any alcohol. However, a single drink a day is safe, mainly if the mother does not feed her child right after the drink. Waiting at least two hours ensures that her body has eliminated most of the alcohol.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Breastmilk?
If a mother drank alcohol without food, alcohol levels are at their highest for about 30 to 60 minutes after the drink. If she drank alcohol with a meal, alcohol levels would be highest for about an hour to an hour and a half after the drink. It takes about one to two hours for a unit of alcohol to altogether leave the breastmilk supply.
However, if the mother had more than one drink, it takes longer for the alcohol to leave the breastmilk. If she had two drinks, it would take about four to five hours for the alcohol to leave her breastmilk. If she had three drinks, it might take as long as eight hours before her breastmilk is free of alcohol.
Other factors like how quickly the mother drinks alcohol and how much she weighs also play into how long the alcohol stays in her breastmilk.
Drinking and Breastfeeding
If a mother drinks more than a small amount of alcohol while breastfeeding, her infant may have problems such as impaired motor development.
When there is alcohol in breastmilk, babies often do not drink as much milk, and they may not grow as well. One study found that babies who had alcohol through breastmilk drank 20 percent less than babies who did not have any alcohol. Especially in the first three months of an infant’s life, his or her brain is still developing, and alcohol may harm the brain.
Another study found that babies who had ingested alcohol through breastmilk slept 25 percent less than those who had no alcohol. When a baby does not sleep enough, he or she may be more irritable, and he or she may have trouble learning. Over time, lack of proper sleep may lead to anxiety and depression when the child is older.
Drinking alcohol may lead to the let-down reflex being inhibited, which ultimately leads to less production of milk. When the baby sucks the nipple, breast milk comes from the glands to the breast. The hormone oxytocin is responsible for this reflex, and this hormone comes from the hypothalamus.
Alcohol can inhibit the hypothalamus, meaning that when a mother has been drinking alcohol, the let-down reflex is inhibited. This means that milk production temporarily stops. Breastfeeding women who already have trouble producing enough milk may want to consider avoiding alcohol until they have weaned their baby.
The good news is that any alcohol a baby ingests through breastmilk is likely to be a minimal amount. But while having an occasional drink while breastfeeding is unlikely to harm the baby, it may still be best not to drink as official guidelines do not recommend any drinks while breastfeeding.