Breastfeeding While High: What to Consider Before You Try

Me: “Just a few more weeks and I’ll be fun again!”

My husband: “Great! So can you have edibles?”

Me: confused face emoji…

You see, edibles had become a favorite as a booze replacement in our household prior to discovering I was pregnant with my daughter. Our weekend cannabis consumption, and my daily CBD consumption, came to a grinding halt as I made the decision not to consume cannabis during my pregnancy (although I know many women who decided otherwise with happy healthy babes). Given the limited research on the topic I figured I’d just err on the side of caution. But now the moratorium was over, right? Right?!?!

After spending the last few weeks of pregnancy reading, listening to podcasts, and seeking as much information as I could about breastfeeding and cannabis, here’s what I learned and what I decided was right for me.

The research is limited.

There is some research, the most salient of which is from the 80s and 90s, a time when the War on Drugs was in full force. Initially, the findings were disheartening: lowered milk production, decreased motor development in the child by age one and trace amounts of TCH found in mother’s milk weeks after consumption. Yikes! Yet other studies showed no significant differences in baby’s development, and one even showed increased milk production.

In addition to these contradicting findings, I saw quite a few red flags that stir up more questions than answers:

  • Since these studies were based on self-reported survey data, how can we be sure the results are universally true?

  • Since the research took place three decades ago and was based solely on smoking the plant, do the variety of consumption options we have today change the anything?

  • Did the researches measure or know the doses these women consumed? Now that we have dependable ways to microdose, does that change the results?

  • How could they be sure cannabis use was coupled with a healthy lifestyle and household?

  • During labor, I was administered Fentanyl (a drug 50x stronger than heroine) and prescribed Oxycodone after my cesarean, both of which are approved for breastfeeding. Could 5 milligrams of THC really do all this much harm?

The true answer is that we just don’t totally know at this juncture. As cannabis becomes legal in more states we hope to see more large-scale studies to better evaluate these questions, but as of today, we have to live with limited and outdated information.

Method of consumption matters.

Smoke of any kind is not good for children’s lungs (and really, adult’s either). Given the tender nature of little infant’s lungs, we here at Molly Jones generally recommend against smoking anything at all in the house. On the opposite end of the spectrum, topicals are great for concentrated and localized use, and because they don’t typically enter the bloodstream, topicals with THC won’t get you high. Because of this, we say: use liberally!

What about the rest of the consumption methods? Sublinguals, edibles and tinctures? Given what we don’t know from the research, we suggest to use sparingly. My personal decision is to micro dose THC (5-7mg) one to two times monthly. As the tried and true idiom says…everything in moderation, right? Except heroine. Probably best to just avoid heroine.

Know yourself, your comfort levels, and in some cases, the law.

It’s key to know yourself, your limits and your comfort levels. It may not surprise you to know, as you read my recommendations here, that I also ate sushi, oysters and enjoyed an occasional glass of wine during pregnancy. So sue me. I have pregnant friends who partook in those more liberally than me, and also those who abstained entirely. Since your risk tolerance is personal, this decision is personal. If you’ve never ventured into the world of edibles, consider if breastfeeding is the right time for you to start the adventure. It’s certainly not the right time to apply the mantra “go big or go home.”

Finally, it’s also important to know your state’s laws around cannabis use. We think it’s absolutely crazy that cannabis is a schedule one drug while opioids enjoy the freedom of schedules two through five, but as the old saying goes “it is what it is.” As a new mom, some states even mandate that nurses and doctors report you to authorities if you fail a drug test – as if we weren’t already being scrutinized enough already! While I don’t ever recall being drug tested after my first baby, it’s still smart to know what you’re working with before partaking.

All of these things said (or, well, written) the gist is this: periodic use is probably very unlikely to do irreparable harm, and if it makes mom happy – that makes baby happy (and husband happy, and really, everyone happy when you think about it.)

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