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CBD And Breastfeeding: Is It Safe?

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It's no secret that nursing mothers often feel like they're constantly being pulled in many different directions—caring for the new baby, recovering from childbirth, and maintaining their own well-being. It's no wonder that many nursing mothers are interested in CBD products to help manage stress and discomfort. But is it safe for nursing mothers to use CBD products? There's minimal research available on the outcomes of CBD on breastfed babies, so it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid using it while breastfeeding.

Key Takeaways:

  • CBD is one of many non-psychoactive compounds found in cannabis plants being researched for its long list of health benefits.
  • CBD and other cannabinoids are fat-soluble, which means the body doesn't eliminate them quickly, and they are stored in fat tissue.
  • CBD has been detected in breastmilk 6 days after the last reported use, which can get passed on to infants.
  • Some poorly-made CBD products may contain contaminants that can also pose a risk to the infant's and mother's health.
  • Since there's limited research on the safety of CBD and breastfeeding, it's best to abstain from all cannabinoids.

What Is CBD?

CBD, cannabidiol, is one of over a hundred active compounds called cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. CBD interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for maintaining balance for a wide range of functions, including sleep, energy, memory, inflammation support, and pain perception [1, 2].

Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, which means it doesn't cause changes in perception and feelings of euphoria. While some people smoke marijuana for pain and mental health, the intoxicating effects aren't always welcome. CBD products have been gaining much attention lately for their potential health benefits without causing a high associated with marijuana use.

There's a lot of misunderstanding about the effects and safety surrounding CBD because it's long been associated with marijuana and THC, the main psychoactive component of the plant.

Legal CBD products are derived from hemp plants, which cannot contain more than 0.3% THC—which isn't enough to elicit psychoactive effects.

You may be wondering what the difference between them is.

Is smoking cannabis just smoking cannabis?

Hemp and marijuana are from the same cannabis plant, but the difference is in the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and, therefore, its effects on the body.

Because CBD doesn't cause the same changes in perception and euphoria, many people consider it a safer compound to take. Breastfeeding mothers may consider reaching for it to support relaxation, better sleep, and stress support. While CBD is deemed safe for most people, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly recommends against all cannabis product use, even CBD, for pregnant and breastfeeding parents.

Why Some Mothers Consider Using CBD While Breastfeeding

We know that bringing a new baby home is a massive transition for the family—while the postpartum period is a joyous time—it's also undoubtedly challenging. And the nine months leading up to giving birth, women experience many changes to their bodies, resulting in pain, hormonal problems, stress and anxiety, and sometimes, postpartum depression.

Because there's been so much attention on CBD's potential to support stress, mood, sleep, and pain, many new mothers consider CBD products as a gentle and natural-derived compound for their wellness.

The critical question is whether or not taking CBD oil is safe for the breastfed baby.

Even with CBD use aside, breastfeeding benefits the mother and baby. Compared to not breastfeeding, nursing mothers have been found to have generally lower perceived stress levels, fewer depressive symptoms, and lose more weight [3, 4].

What The Science Says About CBD And Breastfeeding

It's not advised to consume even small quantities of cannabis products while pregnant at the risk of the developing fetus.

Some research looking at the outcomes of marijuana use during pregnancy has found that newborns had a higher likelihood of low birth weight and impaired brain and nervous system development [5].

There's limited research on the safety of consuming CBD products while breastfeeding and even less on human milk specifically. Most of the published research is focused on marijuana and THC.

Since THC and CBD are cannabinoids that bind to fat and are metabolized in much of the same way, there are certain assumptions we can make, but nothing concrete about their effects on infants exposed to the compounds.

A study conducted from 2014 to 2017 followed 50 breastfeeding women who reportedly used marijuana and provided samples of their breastmilk to the lab to detect cannabinoid concentrations.

THC was detectable in 63% of the samples up to six days after the reported use, and five samples contained measurable levels of CBD (8.56 ng/mL) [6].

This study shows us that it takes much longer to metabolize and eliminate cannabinoids in the body because cannabinoids are fat-soluble. It's not as simple as pumping the breast milk and discarding it to eliminate the compounds from the woman's body before feeding as many nursing mothers can do after drinking a glass of wine. Because there's not enough research on the outcomes of using CBD products while nursing, it's best to stay on the safe side and avoid it altogether.

Risks Of Smoking CBD While Breastfeeding

Smoking cigarettes while pregnant is a huge no-no. Chemicals from tobacco smoke can pass into your breast milk, and research suggests that babies exposed to tobacco smoke through breast milk are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems, ear infections, and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) [7].

But what about smoking CBD while breastfeeding? Is safe?

The jury is still out on this one, but there are some risks to consider. For starters, CBD can pass into breast milk. Your baby could be exposed to the compound, and CBD is potentially unsafe for infants. Additionally, smoking anything while breastfeeding can be harmful to you and your baby.

Another factor to consider is the harmful chemicals potentially hidden in your CBD products.

The CBD industry is new and still poorly regulated. Unfortunately, too many brands don't care about the care or quality of their products and will use shortcuts to yield higher profits at the cost of their customers.

The hemp plant is susceptible to its growing environment, and poorly grown hemp crops could have traces of pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants that can end up in your CBD products, which can then be passed through breast milk.

Risks Of Taking CBD Oil While Breastfeeding

While CBD oil is generally considered safe for most adults, there is limited research on its effects on breastfeeding mothers and their babies.

Some of the potential risks associated with taking CBD oil while breastfeeding include:

  • Disruption of the mother's milk production. CBD may reduce the amount of milk a mother produces and the quality of her milk.
  • Transfer of CBD into the breastmilk. CBD can transfer into breastmilk, which could potentially expose the baby to the compound.
  • Potentially affects the baby's developing brain. Because CBD has interactions with the central nervous system, it could potentially affect the baby's developing brain if they are exposed to it through their mother's breastmilk long-term.
  • Given the many unknowns about cannabis use and nursing, it's best for new moms to steer on the side of caution and avoid using all cannabis products while breastfeeding.

    How Long Is CBD In Breast Milk?

    Many factors affect how long cannabinoids can remain in your body, such as your metabolism, frequency of use, and dose.

    Since cannabinoids bind to fats, CBD and other cannabinoids remain in the body for much longer than other compounds such as alcohol and nicotine. When it comes to drug testing, we know that THC can stay in your system and be detected in urine up to 30 days after the last reported use.

    Some evidence shows that cannabinoids can be detected in trace amounts in breast milk even 6 days after the reported use. Of course, this number can vary from person to person.

    Can Nursing Mothers Use Topical CBD Products?

    In theory, it should be safe to use CBD products on the skin as it doesn't enter the bloodstream.

    Topical CBD interacts with endocannabinoid receptors in the skin tissue to exert its effects locally. However, since there's so much we don't know about human breast milk and CBD, it's best to avoid anything that can potentially harm the baby.

    The Takeaway: Is It Safe For Breastfeeding Mothers To Use CBD Products?

    While CBD oil is generally considered safe for most adults, some controversy surrounds its use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. In some breastfeeding mothers' milk samples with cannabis use, CBD was detected up to six days after its last reported use [6].

    For many new mothers, the decision to use CBD is personal. But if you are on any prescription medications, you must speak with your doctor before taking CBD. Cannabinoids, like many prescribed medications, are processed by the liver, which can increase the risk of specific medication toxicity in the body, which can then get passed onto the infant.

    Resources:

    1. Pagotto, U., Marsicano, G., Cota, D., Lutz, B., & Pasquali, R. (2006). The emerging role of the endocannabinoid system in endocrine regulation and energy balance. Endocrine reviews, 27(1), 73-100.
    2. Petrocellis, L. D., Cascio, M. G., & Marzo, V. D. (2004). The endocannabinoid system: a general view and latest additions. British journal of pharmacology, 141(5), 765-774.
    3. Mezzacappa, E. S. (2004). Breastfeeding and maternal stress response and health. Nutrition reviews, 62(7), 261-268.Chicago
    4. Jarlenski, M. P., Bennett, W. L., Bleich, S. N., Barry, C. L., & Stuart, E. A. (2014). Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among US women. Preventive medicine, 69, 146-150.
    5. Wu, C. S., Jew, C. P., & Lu, H. C. (2011). Lasting impacts of prenatal cannabis exposure and the role of endogenous cannabinoids in the developing brain. Future neurology, 6(4), 459-480.
    6. Bertrand, K. A., Hanan, N. J., Honerkamp-Smith, G., Best, B. M., & Chambers, C. D. (2018). Marijuana use by breastfeeding mothers and cannabinoid concentrations in breast milk. Pediatrics, 142(3).
    7. Mitchell, E. A., & Milerad, J. (2006). Smoking and the sudden infant death syndrome. Reviews on environmental health, 21(2), 81-104.

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