CBD Oil and Breast Feeding [Everything You Need to Know]

MarijuanaBreak Staff MarijuanaBreak Staff / Updated on June 19, 2019

cbd oil breastfeeding

It is difficult to know precisely how many compounds exist in the marijuana plant. Research suggests there are at least 480, anywhere between 66 and 100 of which are classified as ‘cannabinoids.’ These special compounds interact with certain receptors in the central nervous system. CB1 and CB2 are the two cannabinoid receptors that have been identified to date.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the most famous marijuana compounds. It is known for being non-intoxicating, a stark contrast to the effects of THC which ensure users enjoy a ‘high.’ The trouble with THC is its legal status. Also, while it offers a number of medicinal benefits, it is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

CBD, on the other hand, also provides an array of medical benefits and it is widely used by breastfeeding women. However, while it doesn’t provide a ‘high,’ there are some concerns over its suitability for women who are breastfeeding. In this guide, we look at the available scientific evidence to see if CBD will harm or help your new baby.

Why Would New Mums Need CBD Oil in the First Place?

Among the many conditions that CBD is used for, anxiety and depression are among the most common. In new mothers, CBD oil is especially useful in the fight against postpartum depression (PPD). Data regarding the number of women that suffer from PPD is sketchy. A 2004/2005 self-reporting study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), showed that between 11.7% and 15% of new mums experienced PPD. It was a large-scale study and covered mothers in 17 states.

If you use the 15% figure, this equates to approximately 900,000 women with PPD each year. Of course, the CDC data focuses on live births, but women who suffer a miscarriage or have a stillborn child are also susceptible to PPD. One would imagine they would have an even higher instance of PPD.

cbd oil breastfeeding

It is also important to note that the CDC study involved self-reporting. Sadly, there is still a stigma attached to anxiety disorders such as PPD, so it is likely that a large percentage of women don’t even report it. As a consequence, the percentage of new women with PPD is probably higher than 15%. It is also a fact that PPD in low-income areas can reach as high as 25%.

If all of the above isn’t concerning enough, only 15% of women receive treatment for their PPD. Physicians such as pediatricians and obstetricians don’t screen for the condition. As a result, women with PPD find it more difficult to bond with their babies or care for them adequately. Furthermore, PPD can even impact the child’s psychological development, and lead to a higher risk of psychiatric illness in later life.

The Trouble with Drugs & Breastfeeding

With so much at stake, it is little wonder that women with PPD are seeking an all-natural solution to their condition. The most common treatment, aside from counseling, is an anti-depressant. Popular drugs include Sertraline, Zyban, and Lexapro. As well as taking several weeks to have an effect, these drugs result in side effects such as insomnia, dizziness, weight gain, and diarrhea.

Although newer anti-depressants are designed not to interfere with breastfeeding, there are no guarantees that they will work. It is also a fact that breastfeeding moms have limited choice when it comes to prescription drugs. And, if you have an adverse reaction to one drug, there may not be another option for you on the market.

The Trouble with CBD & Breastfeeding

By far the biggest issue surrounding the use of CBD while breastfeeding is the lack of scientific research conducted on nursing mothers. There have been studies relating to THC however, and the outcome is not positive. A 2014 study by Gunn et al. discovered that exposure to cannabis in utero has a negative impact on birth weight and increases the risk of a newborn baby ending up in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). As upsetting as this news is, it only outlines the fact that women shouldn’t smoke marijuana while pregnant.

Did You Know That Breast Milk Naturally Contains Cannabinoids?

cbd oil and breastfeeding

Given the lack of relevant research, one of the most significant findings of the last decade in this sphere is the fact that cannabinoids are found naturally in human breast milk. Several studies have confirmed that breast milk contains the same cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant and they are crucial for correct human development.

Endocannabinoids help teach a newborn baby how to eat by stimulating the process of suckling. If these endocannabinoids didn’t exist, babies wouldn’t know how to eat nor would they have the desire. The result would be malnourishment and possibly death.

Dr. Melanie Dreher conducted a study on women who used cannabis during their pregnancy and studied the children one year after they were born. Dreher discovered that the babies from women who smoked cannabis were more sociable, engaged quicker and made contact more quickly. It is noticeable that babies are calmer and more relaxed after feeding on the breast. This is one of the many reasons why breast milk is vastly superior to formula.

Although this is exciting news, it is important to note the term ‘cannabinoids’ in these studies. Remember, there are dozens of them and there is no evidence that human breast milk specifically contains CBD or THC for that matter.

Cannabinoids in Utero

Since the biggest concern about CBD and breastfeeding is its impact on the milk, and therefore the baby, it is worth looking into research regarding cannabinoids and pregnancy. A 2006 report from Vanderbilt University’s Pediatrics Department found that endocannabinoids were an “emerging concept in female reproduction.”

Endocannabinoids are crucial in conception. The newly fertilized embryo has to attach itself to the uterus’ lining after intercourse, and it requires a certain amount of anandamide, an endocannabinoid. It uses the CB1 receptors on the fertilized egg which are the same receptor types used by THC.

Why Is It So Difficult to Determine the Impact of CBD on Breast Milk?

Given the number of women using CBD to treat PPD and anxiety after giving birth, one would have thought there would be multiple studies relating to the compound’s effects on breastfeeding mothers. Alas, even measuring the amount of CBD that ends up in breast milk is tough.

Research by the American Chemical Society showed that CBD binds so closely with fat, that it has been impossible to measure the amounts in breast milk. All cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, like to stick to fat and of course, there is a lot of fat in breast milk. Although there are analytical methods capable of detecting THC at levels of 1.5 nanograms per ml or higher, no methods exist to detect CBD levels. (At least as far as we know)

Researchers at the CDC believe they have the answer in the form of a process called ‘saponification’ which will separate cannabinoids from milk. They believe it will be possible to detect tiny amounts of CBD in breast milk in a test set to be 100 times better at detecting cannabinoids than previous tests. Eventually, this technique should help in future studies that look at how CBD impacts breast milk.

Is CBD Worth the Risk for Breastfeeding Mothers?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, women with PPD often have problems breastfeeding. If your condition becomes so severe that it could result in harm to you and your baby, you have to weigh the risk versus reward ratio. CBD will help you through PPD, but there isn’t enough information available to determine how it will impact your breast milk and your baby.

cbd oil and breastfeeding

What we do know is that CBD is a far better choice than THC when battling anxiety and depression. While THC blocks a neurotransmitter called GABA which helps calm the body, CBD acts oppositely as it helps the brain create even more GABA. CBD is known to work on serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with depressed moods. It is also worth noting that CBD is regularly prescribed for children with seizures. It offers a non-intoxicating method of combating the problem with no side effects.

In contrast, many of the pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for breastfeeding moms are known to have a variety of side effects. For example, Tramadol is often prescribed even though it is an opioid that is highly addictive given its morphine-like effects. It also slows your breathing and can even lead to seizures.

How Much CBD Should I Take When Breastfeeding?

cbd while breastfeeding

This is yet another great unknown, even amongst people who use CBD to combat depression. A 2011 study focused on ten people with social anxiety who never previously had treatment for their condition. They received 400mg or a placebo. Those who consumed the CBD reported a noticeable improvement in their symptoms compared to those who took the placebo.

Does this mean you need 400mg of CBD a day? Of course not, especially since that would be considered a large dose. A typical ‘starting’ dose is 5-10mg. Note how it impacts your mood and decide whether you need to increase the dosage. You can try edibles or balm, but most people opt for CBD oil. While you can vape it, most breastfeeding mothers should place a few drops under their tongue.

While it is true that the impact of CBD on breastfeeding women is unknown due to a lack of research, it is important to remember that it comes from naturally growing hemp or cannabis. It is a far cry from the lab-created opioids often prescribed that usually do more harm than good.

Article Sources
  1. Diana Smith
    Why to take a chance

    Not sure of what the latest studies say, but CBD oil must be avoided while you breast feed as per my opinion goes. There are some traces of THC always there in the CBD, and the infant might be harmed. Why to take a chance?

  2. Jonalle Graham

    This article was very helpful. Even though they didn’t have all the answers, everything that was explained and talked about made sense. Didn’t feel like they were going around in circles about something they didn’t have knowledge about just to make an article….

  3. Sarah Ward
    adopt a baby

    I am thinking that better not to take CBD at least 4 months prior to even planning a pregnancy…..there is insufficient research till date into weather or not it is harmful, and most probably it would be as all addictive drugs are…..Why to take a chance…..better go for adoption and for formula milk if you cannot quit…..
    PS, I don’t like the THC free version of cannabis…….

  4. Sammi Kay

    This is so interesting, as a woman who will be looking to start a family very soon, but who also uses CBD i am very worried about what my baby could be taking in and how it could affect them. Hopefully when i am ready to have children there will be more research into this!

  5. Bonnie
    Finding good cbd with zero thc

    Pure CBD with ZERO THC will not harm any person or animal. The key is to obtain the certificate of analysis for any cbd product one is considering & be sure there is a lot # on the lab report that matches the lot # on your product. Be sure testing shows a minimum of 40 terpenes & tests for heavy metals, microbiology, over 70 pesticides & over 20 chemical solvents/compounds, down to parts per million. This ensures the product is real.

  6. Nelson Brooke
    CBD for breastfeeding mothers- concern is with THC, not CBD

    The concern my wife has with taking CBD for postpartum anxiety is centered around THC levels tranferred thru breastmilk while breastfeeding. While industrial hemp is required to have </=.3% THC, there is some info out there which suggests THC bioaccumulates, or concentrates, in breatmilk and nursing infants. So, we’re seeking clarity on what that means dependent on organic industrial hemp CBD concentrations in tinctures/oils, volume dosage, and frequency of use. While it may be that little research has been done on CBD products, perhaps existing marijuana/THC studies could serve as a critical guide for mothers wanting to make an informed decision NOW about using industrial hemp CBD instead of big pharma/opiod status quo options that doctors are more familiar/comfortable with.

  7. Mel Brooke
    so interesting!

    This is so helpful and informative, and important! Where I live there are many young girls getting pregnant and continuing to smoke, drink and indulge in weed. As a mother of 3 i have never risked taking even paracetamol when pregnant, and at this moment i wouldnt take CBD due to lack of evidence that it is harmless. This is very interesting, and I look forward to the future of more research into this!

  8. Ty Spiegel
    Very good

    This was very informative thank you.

    When will we see a study done to determine which cannabinoids are in breast milk? And if taking supplements of those chemicals and increasing them actually helps babies development…

  9. John A Harris

    The Drug Laws of t today can criminalizes all females of childbearing age due to their natural ability to produce CBD a class(1) restricted drug,IN Their BREASTMILK

    1. Tanya

      And that’s why there are THC free options. Still get the benefits of cbd.

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