Safety concerns about using CBD while Breastfeeding 

It has been seen that perinatal general anxiety disorder (GAD) [1] affects 8.5%–10.5% women during their pregnancy and 4.4%–10.8% during their postpartum phase. 

This combined with lack of sleep before and after the birth of their child (often to nurse, check diaper, etc. during the night) causes women to go into a depression. For professional women, this phase may be a welcome break or even a cause for severe depression – being locked away at home for long periods to take care of her child. 

After the legalization of CBD oil in the US, a lot of women turn to this natural remedy for their anxiety [2]. However, questions about the safety of CBD for their babies while nursing is often at the top of the minds of new mothers. 

Can CBD Help Nursing Mothers

Depression

Quite a large number of breastfeeding mothers are inflicted by postpartum depression (PPD) that can result in anxiety, fatigue, and mood changes. 

Although this condition primarily affects the mothers, babies too suffer as a consequence of depressed mother ignoring their children. Not getting fed on time can have a severely negative impact on a child’s development.  

Breast milk is not only essential for the newborn; the act of breastfeeding also has several physical and mental benefits, including the development of the mother-child bond. 

PPD is usually treated with antidepressants – medications that could have many adverse effects on the baby if he or she is on mother’s milk. So in such cases, babies are placed on baby formula instead of breast milk, thus putting an end to the mother’s nursing phase that neither bears well for the mother nor the child. 

CBD oil, on the other hand, interacts with our body in a very different way. For one, it impacts the neurotransmitter, anandamide, which is commonly known as the “bliss molecule”. This particular neurotransmitter controls the body’s feelings of joy, happiness, excitement, and motivation. CBD’s presence in the body increases the volume and intensity of anandamide in the brain. 

In the case of women suffering from PPD, anandamide somehow decreases. However, CBD can help reverse this process by increasing its volume and effectiveness, thus helping such women overcome their depression. 

Fatigue, nausea and weight loss

Besides anxiety and depression, breastfeeding mothers often also suffer from fatigue, nausea and unhealthy weight loss. It is often believed to be caused by the body channeling its nutrition for making breast milk. While the baby needs its nutrition, the mother needs to be kept nourished as well. 

For this reason, doctors often ask breastfeeding mothers to supplement their regular diet with an additional 450-500 extra calories per day. 

Meanwhile, studies have revealed CBD’s effectiveness in curbing these symptoms, thus offering nursing women with a healthy appetite to keep both herself and her baby going strong. 

Disrupted sleep & insomnia

Thirdly, nursing your newborn also requires you to often wake up at night to feed your baby. This disrupts sleep, leaving the mother exhausted, nauseous and lacking in appetite. This brings us to yet another benefit of using CBD oil. CBD has been known to enhance sleep quality and fight insomnia. Moreover, CBD also lowers cortisol production in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that is triggered by stress, one that may prevent you from falling asleep.

Does CBD Affect the Child?

People have come to accept that anti-depressants and sedatives may not be safe to be administered to nursing mothers. While it may be helpful for the mother, it is not believed to be safe for the babies. 

What about CBD? Is it safe for children? Although no direct study or clinical trial is available in this regard, experts generally stick to the negative. They are wary as they believe that their little bodies cannot accept cannabinoids, which are potentially powerful nerve stimulants. 

While CBD has been proven to be generally safe for adults and has even been clinically tested on children above the age of 4 for treating seizures associated with some rare forms of epilepsy, no substantial research is available on the effects of this phytocannabinoid on human babies in their breastfeeding stage. 

Another concern regarding consuming CBD oil while nursing your newborn is the fear of consuming THC, contaminants and other undesirable chemicals, like solvents, in the process. CBD-making is a complex procedure. From the seed to the oil – this procedure requires a lot of cleansing and extracting. A lot of chemicals, often, enter the equation, making it a potentially harmful concoction, which may be comparatively safe for adults, but definitely not for newborns. 

In fact, it is always best to consult your pediatrician before using any kind of drug or supplement during the nursing stage. 

CBD in Breast Milk

So far, scientists have been able to prove the THC – the intoxicating component of cannabis – does get absorbed into breast milk and has detrimental effects on both the mother and the child, no such evidence has been found in the case of CBD. 

Firstly, to be measured, a substance must first be detected. CBD is completely fat-soluble. This means that it mixes in a homogenous manner with breast milk, making it impossible for anyone to detect this substance. 

Secondly, no adverse effects have been found among CBD users so far. However, these results are entirely dependent on anecdotal evidence. No clinical trials have been conducted on CBD’s presence in breast milk or its effects on the newborn being nursed. 

However, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hope to someday employ a process, known as “alkaline saponification” to detect and measure even minute amounts of cannabinoids in breast milk [3]

Naturally occurring cannabinoids in breast milk

Talking of cannabinoids, in general, some cannabinoids (also termed as the endocannabinoids) are naturally present in breast milk. These are produced by our endocannabinoid system. So much so, they behave quite like CBD [4]

From stimulating hunger to signaling the baby’s brain to suckle – these endocannabinoids are essential to a baby’s growth and development. 

So, you may well understand that in their absence, a baby may not develop the will or desire to feed, a syndrome known as ‘non-organic ability to thrive’. 

Given these facts, it may be expected that future studies would establish a positive link between CBD and breastfeeding.

Here’s another fun fact:

You may have heard that the anus of a fetus forms before its mouth. But did you know that even when the fetus has only two cells, it already has a developing endocannabinoid system

It’s true. This little-understood system has more power to control and influence our physiological processes than we have given it credit for, so far. 

Hopefully, with more scientists showing interest in this area, we can establish a more profound idea as to how CBD affects nursing mothers and babies.

Where The Science On CBD & Breastfeeding Stands So Far

While there are only a few studies to show how long THC remains in breast milk, there are virtually no such studies on CBD oil, for reasons mentioned above. 

Even in the case of THC, the findings aren’t concrete. For example, one study that analyzed over 50 breast milk samples from cannabis-using mothers, found that around 63% of the samples detected THC levels even after 6 days of use [6]. Another such study found traces even after six weeks, suggesting that it is not always possible to gauge the exact extent and period of its effects. 

As opposed to THC, there is no such concrete study on CBD use and breastfeeding. The few that have been carried out, offer only inconclusive results on CBD’s effects on infants. 

According to a 2013 study, published in PeerJ, chronic exposure to CBD for 24-72 hours on in vitro cells may bring about changes in the physiological characteristics of the placenta [5]. However, chronic exposure isn’t what an average CBD user is exposed to.

Our Takeaway

While there are no studies to prove that CBD is unsafe for a nursing mother or her breastfed child, the absence of such studies doesn’t prove their safety either. 

Under such circumstances, it is best to consult with a doctor who has experience with CBD oil before going ahead with your usual CBD dosage. 

Even if you’re given the nod, look for lab-tested CBD products (especially from those brands that make their results available on their website). Some brands also offer unique products for children. 

That being said, one must remember that although many nursing mothers have safely used CBD oil, one cannot say for sure how it will react with the nervous system of an individual baby. 

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Reference links: 

  1. Perinatal Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Assessment and Treatment; Journal of Women’s Health (Larchmt); September 1, 2015; Shaila Misri, MD, Jasmin Abizadeh, BA, Shawn Sanders, and Elena Swift, MRes; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4589308/ 
  2. Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain; Pain; December 28, 2018; Danilo De Gregorio,a Ryan J. McLaughlin,b Luca Posa,a,c Rafael Ochoa-Sanchez,a Justine Enns,a Martha Lopez-Canul,a Matthew Aboud,a Sabatino Maione,d Stefano Comai,a,e and Gabriella Gobbi; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6319597/ 
  3. Sensitive Quantification of Cannabinoids in Milk by Alkaline Saponification–Solid Phase Extraction Combined with Isotope Dilution UPLC–MS/MS; ACS Publications; December 20, 2016; Binnian Wei*, James E McGuffey, Benjamin C. Blount, and Lanqing WangTobacco and Volatiles Branch, Division of Laboratory Sciences, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy, Atlanta, Georgia 30341, United States; https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/49114 
  4. Cannabis and endocannabinoid modulators: Therapeutic promises and challenges; Clinical Neuroscience Research; September 19, 2008; Igor Grant, and B Rael Cahn; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2544377/ 
  5. Cannabidiol changes P-gp and BCRP expression in trophoblast cell lines; PeerJ; September 12, 2013; Feinshtein V, Erez O, Ben-Zvi Z, Erez N, Eshkoli T, Sheizaf B, Sheiner E, Huleihel M, Holcberg G; Department of Clinical Biochemistry and Pharmacology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24058883 
  6. Marijuana Use by Breastfeeding Mothers and Cannabinoid Concentrations in Breast Milk; Pediatrics; September 2018, VOLUME 142 / ISSUE 3; Kerri A. Bertrand, Nathan J. Hanan, Gordon Honerkamp-Smith, Brookie M. Best, Christina D. Chambers; https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/3/e20181076 

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Content Manager , Greenthevoteok

Ivan is a professional cannabis journalist. He  has his work featured on websites like Cannabisradar, Leafly, Hightimes and few others.

When he is not writing or discussing about cannabis, he likes to drive & spend time with his wife & kids.