Research on cannabis and its chief medicinal ingredient — CBD (cannabidiol) — is still in its relative infancy.
Popular uses of CBD include depression, stress, and anxiety — all of which are correlated with pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenthood.
Causes may include lack of sleep, dramatic changes in lifestyle, and hormonal shifts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as one in five women suffer from postpartum depression — so it’s no surprise that a lot of new mothers are considering taking CBD.
But if you’re breastfeeding, there’s the obvious concern regarding your baby’s safety and well-being. Some substances — such as alcohol and THC — should not be consumed while breastfeeding, but does this also apply to CBD?
In this article, we explore the relationship between CBD and breastfeeding so you can make an informed decision.
Quick Answer: Is It Safe to Consume CBD When Breastfeeding?
Unfortunately, we cannot say for sure due to the lack of concrete scientific evidence currently available.
We do know that THC — the psychoactive compound responsible for the high associated with marijuana use — is harmful to newborn babies, but there has not been enough research to say whether this applies to CBD in the same way. Scientists are still seeking to understand how CBD may affect a developing infant.
However, there may be cases in which taking CBD outweighs the risks — such as if you’re suffering from conditions that would otherwise be treated with stronger prescription drugs. In this sense, it’s about weighing up the benefits vs. the risks.
What Are the Risks of Using CBD While Breastfeeding?
We know there are risks associated with consuming THC when breastfeeding.
The U.S. Surgeon General advised that it may affect fetal brain development, causing hyperactivity, poor cognitive function, and other long-term consequences.
It’s absolutely imperative that, while breastfeeding, you do not consume CBD products that contain high levels of THC. It may be easily available if you live in a state that has legalized marijuana for recreational use. Remember that the limit under federal law is 0.3%, and anything above this could have intoxicating side-effects.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that advises people against consuming cannabis in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding — specifically mentioning products that contain CBD.
“Despite being quite in vogue, there’s still a lot we don’t understand about CBD and its potential health effects, especially in pregnant and lactating people. Until we have more research, it makes absolute medical sense to proceed with caution,” says Dr. Jennifer Conti, an OB-GYN at Stanford Health Care.
Felice Gersh, M.D., a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and author of PCOS SOS: A Gynecologist’s Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones, and Happiness, backs this up, stating: “We truly do not know what short- or long-term impact on the baby [CBD] may have.”
Studies on Animals
Although research on humans is limited, there have been some trials on animals that have shown high doses of CBD in pregnant female mice impair the reproductive system of male fetuses. This suggests that male human infants could be affected in the same way if their mother consumes CBD while breastfeeding — although this is currently only a theory.
The Potential Benefits of CBD For New Mothers
Many new parents suffer from stress and anxiety, and women have to also endure hormonal shifts that can have both physical and psychological effects.
This can have severely detrimental consequences on not only the parents but also the baby. Unfortunately, most prescription medicines used to treat anxiety come with their own harsh side-effects.
Many of these medications will be transferred to the baby via breast milk.
CBD, therefore, may offer a safer alternative for managing anxiety and depression in new mothers.
Hilary Peckham, the co-founder of Etain Health, states: “Many sufferers usually start a treatment of antidepressants which may not be appropriate for breastfeeding and may need to discontinue. Starting CBD may still allow the mother to breastfeed and prolong the bonding time with the infant.”
She continues to say that because CBD “has been shown to pose little risk to both adults and children. It’s important to weigh the risk versus benefit for the mom and infant.”
It’s strongly recommended that you consult a medical professional before consuming CBD while breastfeeding.
If I Decide to Take CBD While Breastfeeding, Which Type Is Best?
If, after consulting a medical professional, you decide to consume CBD while breastfeeding, you should carefully consider which type you choose.
As previously mentioned, there’s no doubt that THC can be harmful to babies’ development, so you should ensure there is none present in your CBD. This includes CBD with the federally legal limit of 0.3% THC, as it’s better to be safe than sorry.
This rules out full-spectrum CBD, which contains all of the compounds found in the cannabis plant — including THC.
Broad-spectrum hemp extract and CBD isolates are the only guaranteed THC-free types of CBD products. Broad-spectrum contains all cannabis derivatives except for THC, while CBD isolate contains only pure CBD.
Most doctors recommend you stick to CBD isolate. This way you can be sure of exactly what you’re putting in your body. And, because there have been no clinical trials on the effects of the other 100+ cannabinoids found in cannabis, it’s probably best to limit what you consume.
What Does the Future Look Like for CBD & Breastfeeding?
Currently, it’s difficult to apply the results of animal studies to humans. And unfortunately, it’s going to be difficult to fund more research and get concrete evidence on the subject.
Dr. Kecia Gaither, OB-GYN — Maternal-Fetal Medicine Physician and Director of Perinatal Services at NYC Health, points out that “there would be no ethical manner in which to conduct studies.”
Mary Clifton, M.D., an internal medicine doctor in New York City, agrees, stating, “If a new mom is breastfeeding, it’s probably not wise to use CBD. The medical community doesn’t support the use of CBD in these settings, because proper studies can’t be completed on the effect on the baby or infant.”
Consequently, it’s unlikely that the advice of consulting a medical professional and weighing the risks versus the benefits is going to change.
Final Thoughts: CBD & Breastfeeding
Much more research is needed to make a concrete claim that CBD is safe or dangerous to consume while breastfeeding. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely this will happen due to ethical reasons.
CBD and other cannabinoids will be transferred from the mother to the baby through breastmilk.
For now, it’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to consuming any cannabis-related products while breastfeeding. It’s especially important to avoid products that contain THC — these have been proven to have a negative impact on a growing baby. THC has been shown to have negative effects.
Sometimes, because of other medical conditions, CBD may seem to be the best way forward compared with prescription medicines. However, it’s always best to consult a medical professional before taking any new supplement — especially when breastfeeding. They’ll be able to advise you on the best way forward based on your individual circumstances.