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What about smoking pot during the breastfeeding year(s)? Have there been any studies on the short and/or long-term effects on a child’s health and development?

We got this question in response to our previous advice about pot and pregnancy. As with pregnancy and marijuana use, this is a fairly understudied area – there just isn’t that much data. Of the research out there, there are, not surprisingly, mixed messages. There is a study showing that babies whose moms smoked marijuana during the first month of breastfeeding had some developmental delays at one. But there was another study comparing one-year-old babies of breastfeeding mothers who smoked marijuana with babies who hadn’t been exposed and there were no differences in motor or mental development. There’s also research showing that breastfed Rastafarian babies (who have been exposed to marijuana through breastmilk and smoke) are no worse off than their pot-free counterparts. Whether there are any long-term effects of marijuana use by breastfeeding mothers is totally unknown.

Marijuana (as well as other “street drugs”) is on the AAP list of substances contraindicated for breastfeeding. THC (the psychoactive component in marijuana) is fat-soluble, so it enters milk in higher concentrations than the bloodstream. Pot also has a long half-life (the amount of time it stays in your system) so it’ll be in the mother’s milk for quite a while. A baby who feeds from a mother who has smoked will test positive for weeks afterward, which can have legal (among other) implications. When the jury is clearly out, and there are so many unknown variables (the THC is present, but is it enough to have an effect on the baby?), the choice about whether to smoke becomes very personal and more than a tad controversial. It comes down to the way you deal with “known unknowns.” Everyone has a different way of doing this. Some definitely feel (in general and when breastfeeding) that occasional pot use is less dangerous than alcohol. Others are staying away until rock solid clinical trials have been done. Don’t hold your breath.

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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