Can I Smoke Weed While Breastfeeding?

woman smoking weed

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Most of us are aware that smoking weed during pregnancy is an unsafe practice, and we refrain from doing so while we’re expecting. If smoking weed is important to you—perhaps because you use it for medical purposes, or to relax and unwind—you might be looking forward to resuming once your baby is born.

But things can get a little complicated if you are breastfeeding. You likely know that certain substances pass through breast milk and can affect your baby, but you might be unsure if that’s the case with weed. You might also be uncertain as to how the ingredients in weed could affect your baby if they are exposed through breastmilk.

Unfortunately, if you are breastfeeding, it is advised that you abstain from smoking weed. Kim Langdon, an obstetrician-gynecologist based in Ohio, shares the sentiment that other medical professionals do.

“I would advise against weed while breastfeeding,” she says, explaining that THC—the active ingredient in weed that gets you high—is excreted into breast milk. Moreover, THC could have negative effects on your baby’s neurodevelopment.

Smoking Weed While Breastfeeding

It’s clear that the ingredients in weed make their way into breast milk, and that those ingredients, particularly THC, can have negative effects on your baby. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the ingredient in weed that alters your mood, is excreted into breast milk in large quantities.

Jessica Madden, IBCLC, pediatrician, neonatologist, and medical director at Aeroflow Breastpumps, cites research published by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, which says that THC is eight times higher in breast milk than in a breastfeeding parent’s blood. Additionally, THC may be present in breastmilk for up to six weeks, says Dr. Madden.

“Babies whose mothers use marijuana while breastfeeding have marijuana metabolites in their stools, evidence that marijuana definitely passes from mothers to babies via breast milk,” Dr. Madden explains.

Not only that, Dr. Madden says, but there is evidence of THC impacting babies’ developing brains, as well as causing potential long-term cognitive damage. As Dr. Langdon explains, more research needs to be done on the subject of marijuana use in breastfeeding, but what doctors know is concerning enough for them not to recommend its use. Major medical organizations agree as well.

The Academy of American Breastfeeding Medicine states, “Breastfeeding mothers should be counseled to reduce or eliminate their use of marijuana to avoid exposing their infants to this substance and advised of the possible long-term neurobehavioral effects from continued use.”

Similarly, the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) says that using cannabis while breastfeeding is “contraindicated.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) echoes these statements,“[T]here are insufficient data to evaluate the effects of marijuana use on infants during lactation and breastfeeding, and in the absence of such data, marijuana use is discouraged.”

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about smoking weed while breastfeeding.

Why You Should Not Smoke Weed While Breastfeeding

Smoking weed—both for medical and recreational use—has become more acceptable over the past few years. Additionally, it has become legal in many states. As many as 18 states legally allow recreational marijuana use. People use marijuana and cannabis products to manage their mental health and to treat medical conditions like chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. 

Although smoking weed may have personal benefits to you, there is evidence that it can be harmful to your baby if you are breastfeeding. Weed is excreted into breastmilk and can cause potential cognitive issues for babies.

Even if you are not breastfeeding, smoking weed near your baby comes with the potential of them inhaling second-hand smoke, says Dr. Madden, which can be harmful to their health as well as their lungs. It also may not be safe to care for your baby if you are under the influence of marijuana.

Risks of Smoking Weed While Breastfeeding

Again, the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is excreted into your breast milk in large amounts and can have negative effects on babies. Let’s look at those effects in more detail.

Cognitive Issues in Babies

As the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine points out, babies are especially vulnerable to the effects of cannabis. "[Exposure to cannabis] during critical periods of brain development can induce subtle and long-lasting neurofunctional alterations,” they explain.

Babies who’ve been exposed to large quantities of weed through breastmilk may have reduced muscle tone and issues with sucking, says Dr. Madden. In addition, she says, marijuana use is associated with an increased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Potential Long-Term Issues

There are concerns about the effects of marijuana usage during breastfeeding that may extend beyond the newborn period, says Dr. Langdon. “There is little research on THC and children but we do know that frequent use in teenagers can lead to schizophrenia,” she says.

Dr. Madden explains that long-term studies that looked at fetuses and babies who’d been exposed to marijuana found “impairments in school-aged children’s cognitive abilities, visual integration, memory, problem-solving, and emotional regulation.” She also described potential links to marijuana exposure and ADHD/hyperactivity.

Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

If you are smoking weed while breastfeeding, you are also exposing your child to second-hand smoke. Vaping instead of smoking doesn’t do much good, either. “Vaping is especially risky as the levels of THC can be extraordinarily high compared to smoking joints,” says Dr. Madden.

Besides secondhand smoke exposing babies to THC, it can also be harmful to their lungs. This is especially concerning for premature babies, says Dr. Madden.

When Can I Resume Smoking Weed?

It’s not safe to smoke weed, even when your baby is older because the risks of them being exposed to THC via your breastmilk remains, says Dr. Madden. You can resume smoking weed when you are done breastfeeding, though you should not smoke weed near your child either way, as they may be exposed to second-hand smoke. You should also make sure that you have backup child care when you are high, as your judgment and motor skills may be impaired.

Breastfeeding Safe Alternatives

Again, smoking weed while breastfeeding is not advised. This includes smoking weed or vaping weed. CBD products are not a viable alternative either, because their ingredients are excreted into breast milk as well, says Dr. Langdon.

Dr. Madden says that there isn’t research about the harm that CBD products might cause to babies, but that CBD is largely present in breastmilk. Moreover, CBD products have potentially harmful additives and contaminants (heavy metals, pesticides) that may pass into breast milk, Dr. Madden adds.

Having to abstain from smoking weed during breastfeeding can be challenging for parents who rely on it to treat medical issues or for mental health issues. Here are some alternatives you can consider.

Discuss Medicinal Alternatives With a Healthcare Provider

If you use weed to treat medical issues, you should talk to a healthcare provider about alternative treatments. Although weed is not considered safe during breastfeeding, other medicines are. In fact, there are many medications that are compatible with breastfeeding that might work for you.

Besides discussing options with your healthcare provider, you can look up medications and their impact on breastfeeding on the LactMed database, which is sponsored by the National Library of Medicine.

Get Help After Your Baby Is Born

It’s normal to feel extra stressed when you have a new baby in your house. Babies have many intense needs, and it can be hard to balance their needs with your own. If you are working or taking care of other kids, your stress levels may be even higher.

It’s vital to remember that just because you are a parent doesn’t mean you have to be a martyr. Accept help if it’s offered to you, and reach out for help if you can. As Dr. Madden says, “The most important way to decrease stress after having a baby is to make sure new mothers have a lot of in-person help and support so that they can focus on recuperating, resting, and feeding their babies.”

Alternative Three: Make Lifestyle Changes

If you use weed to help with mental health issues, you should speak to a therapist to help navigate your mental health issues while you have a new baby. If you end up needing medication to manage your issues, you can talk to a psychiatrist. Many psychotropic drugs and antidepressants are compatible with breastfeeding.

You may also want to consider making lifestyle choices that support your mental health. Dr. Madden suggests spending time outside, practicing yoga and mindfulness, taking walks, and making sure to take technology and social media breaks.

A Word from Verywell

It can be upsetting and frustrating to find out that smoking weed is a “no” while you are breastfeeding, especially if you were looking forward to resuming the practice after your pregnancy. But smoking weed is just not a risk you should take, as it’s known that the active ingredient in weed (THC) can get into your breastmilk and have harmful effects on your baby.

If you are finding that eliminating weed is something that’s difficult for you, or if you need further clarification on smoking weed or using CBD products during breastfeeding, make sure to reach out to a medical provider.

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Article Sources
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  1. Reece-Stremtan S, Marinelli KA. ABM clinical protocol #21: guidelines for breastfeeding and substance use or substance use disorder, revised 2015. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2015;10(3):135-141. doi:10.1089/bfm.2015.9992.

  2. AAP Committee on Substance Use and Prevention, AAP Section on Breastfeeding, Ammerman S, O’Connor M, Ryan S. Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Implications for Neonatal and Childhood Outcomes. Pediatrics. 2018;142(3):e20181889. doi:doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-1889.

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Lactation. Updated October 1, 2017.

  4. National Conference of State Legislatures. Cannabis Overview. Updated July 6, 2021.

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