CBD and Breastfeeding
Sabina King on Jun 20th 2019
CBD’s possible benefits are putting it on the map for people looking for some relief with common troubles like nausea, inflammation, daily stresses, and tiredness. Pregnant women and new mothers are most definitely a group that could use some help with all of those! It’s no wonder that the pertinent question of whether CBD could be used by pregnant or nursing mothers is all over mommy forums and blogs. Moreover, women that had been taking CBD before they got pregnant may be curious about whether they can continue or not. Here’s all the information you need on CBD and breastfeeding before you proceed.
What We Know About CBD Oil and Breastfeeding
If you take any new foods or vitamins as a new mother, common sense would dictate that you make an informed decision about it. That’s where it gets tough with CBD. There is currently a dearth of information on CBD and breastfeeding, and more studies are the need of the hour. Always consult with your doctor before ingesting any new wellness product. However, here is a round-up of the information available at the moment.
Studies on CBD
There are virtually no studies on the use of CBD oil and breastfeeding. The few studies that have been conducted provide very inconclusive results on whether CBD affects the infant at all. One study examined the effects of chronic exposure to CBD for 24-72 hours on in vitro cells. Results said that it may change the physiological characteristics of the placenta. However, chronic exposure is far more than the average CBD user would be exposed to, and they would do so over a longer period of time.
CBD in Breast Milk
In order to find out how much CBD ends up in breast milk, it would need to be measurable. CBD, however, is completely fat soluble which makes it nearly impossible to detect in breast milk which is full of fats. There are means to detect concentrations of THC (another compound in hemp that gets you ‘high’) in breast milk, but nothing conclusive so far for CBD. Researchers at the CDC are hopeful that in the future, a process called saponification could help in detecting even minute amounts of cannabinoids in breast milk. When and if this takes effect, it should clear up any doubts about CBD oil and breastfeeding.
Cannabinoids in Breast milk
Don’t be dismayed by all that we don’t know yet, though. Because here’s what we do know:
- A growing fetus, even when it has just 2 cells, has a developing endocannabinoid system, which is the bodily system that CBD benefits.
- More importantly, breast milk contains endocannabinoids that are very similar in structure to CBD. If these terms are new to you, think of it this way. The body’s own cannabinoids are called endocannabinoids, ‘endo’ meaning ‘inside’. CBD and other compounds in the hemp plant are called phytocannabinoids or simply cannabinoids.
- The endocannabinoids in breast milk are very important for a newborn's development. They stimulate hunger, teach the infant how to suckle, and how to feed themselves.
- The lack of these endocannabinoids may trigger a syndrome called ‘non-organic ability to thrive’ wherein the infant has no desire to feed. These may provide some context to future studies on CBD and breastfeeding.
Studies on Cannabis
There have been a few studies on cannabis, lactating mothers and their infants. These studies mainly focus on the effect of THC on breast milk and children. THC and CBD are, however, two vastly different compounds: THC is the compound in cannabis that gets you high. Additionally, THC blocks GABA, a neurotransmitter that is useful in stress, while CBD may stimulate the production of GABA. Research shows that THC is probably not worth the risk while breastfeeding. If you do decide to take CBD while you’re breastfeeding, make sure it’s a product that is completely THC free. A brand that has zero THC in its product will say so on the label, but any reputable manufacturer will also have third-party lab results readily available so you can see for yourself.
Here are some reasons why, if you do decide to take CBD while breastfeeding, you should only ever consider 100% THC-free CBD blends:
- THC can concentrate in breast milk: One study analyzed 50+ breast milk samples from mothers that used cannabis while breastfeeding. Researchers were able to detect THC levels in 63% of the samples – even up to 6 days later. More worrying is the fact that THC concentrates in breast milk: the samples had almost double the amount of THC required in blood to be considered impaired driving.
- THC can affect the baby: Studies conducted on pregnant mothers who smoked cannabis and their children found that the infants were more likely to have lower birth weights and possibly suffer from a lack of oxygen in the womb. Another study found that infants exposed to THC in breastmilk had lower motor function by the time they were one.
- THC is a huge risk: Breastfed babies of those who smoke heavy amounts of marijuana will test positive for THC for up to three weeks! If for any reason, a baby was urine tested and found to have THC in their system, a pediatrician would most likely be compelled to report it to CPS or a similar organization: not a risk you want to take.
How to Proceed
If you plan to take CBD while pregnant or nursing, here are some imperatives:
Speak to your doctor about the risks and benefits, and interactions with any medications you may be on.
Make sure the CBD you purchase has no THC.
Make sure the CBD you purchase has no solvents, heavy metals or harmful pathogens. Third party lab tests are important under any circumstances, but for a nursing mother, their availability should be non-negotiable.
Take a low dose of CBD (5 mg is a typical dose to start with).
Keep an eye out for any behavioral, digestive or feeding schedule changes in the baby. If you notice any, stop use and consult with a doctor.
With the many mental health, pain and nausea-related issues that can plague a new mother, it’s no surprise that organizations for postpartum support receive numerous calls a day asking about the possible negatives of CBD and breastfeeding. A lot of mothers want to opt for a non-pharmacological approach to tackling these issues. Unfortunately, the current 'verified safe' options are few, but the future of research is promising. As more studies emerge, we can have more conclusive answers regarding the use of CBD by breastfeeding mothers