Expecting and new mothers are warned not to use marijuana after a study has found traces of the drug in breast milk.
A team of researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine conducted a study on how long marijuana and other constituent compounds remain in breast milk. They sampled breast milk from 50 women who used marijuana either daily, weekly, or sporadically.
The result of the study was published in Pediatrics.
Marijuana In Breast Milk
The researchers have detected traces of Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the recreational drug that makes people high, in 63 percent of the sampled breast milk six days after the mother's last reported use.
Marijuana is rapidly becoming more widely used as more states in the United States and more countries across the globe push for its legalization. The study adds that marijuana is the most commonly used recreational drug among breastfeeding women.
Unfortunately, the effects of the substance on babies remain vague. A previous study from way back in the 90s claimed a link between marijuana use of breastfeeding mothers and psychomotor deficits in infants. Another study from the 80s said that marijuana use of pregnant women caused slight developmental delays in a breastfed infant. More research is needed to confirm the claims.
Christina Chambers, the principal investigator, explained that the amount of THC that the baby can ingest from breast milk is low, but whether the dose poses a threat to the child or if there is a safe dosing level at all remain unseen.
"Pediatricians are often put into a challenging situation when a breastfeeding mother asks about the safety of marijuana use," she added. "We don't have strong, published data to support advising against use of marijuana while breastfeeding, and if women feel they have to choose, we run the risk of them deciding to stop breastfeeding — something we know is hugely beneficial for both mom and baby."
Mothers are recommended to breastfeed their children exclusively up to six months. Breastfeeding is associated with plenty of benefits including lowered risks of obesity, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome.
Breastfeeding Mothers Asked To Avoid Marijuana
In response to the study, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned mothers to avoid using marijuana while pregnant and breastfeeding even if there is no ample evidence about the possible negative effects of the drug to the infant.
"We still support women breastfeeding even if using marijuana but would encourage them to cut down and quit," said study co-author Seth Ammerman. "In counseling patients about this, it's important to be nonjudgmental but to educate patients about the potential risks and benefits."