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Mom Challenges the Risks of Smoking Pot While Breastfeeding

Mom defies doctor's orders, continues to use marijuana while breast-feeding

When it comes to the list of things to avoid while breastfeeding, most would assume "smoking pot" would be at the top.

Oregon mom Crystal Cain isn't so sure, though.

Cain (who gave birth recently to a baby 8 weeks premature) says she's a regular medical marijuana user, and doesn't believe she is harming her child by continuing to smoke while breastfeeding. She even spoke out about it recently to the Portland TV station KATU to state her claim. She needs it to lower her anxiety, she says, and even used it while pregnant to help keep nausea at bay, so she doesn't understand why that should be off-limits now.

The new mom ran into a bit of an issue after giving birth at a local hospital, where doctors barred her from breastfeeding until she signed a waiver. The document stated that she acknowledged the potential risks of smoking pot while breastfeeding.

However, that's not exactly what Cain believes.

"There's not enough information [on the risks] because nobody tests it," she told KATU. “There are several studies that indicate that it can't transfer through your milk ducts. Your body automatically kind of filters it.”

While that may be true in part (there have only been a few studies done on the topic, and most are not recent), there are a few unavoidable truths Cain can't deny. And her recent comments to the local news led LiveScience to round-up the solid evidence we do have on the links between pot-smoking and breastfeeding.

Here's what they found:

For one, many health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, are in agreement that the drug does transfer to breast milk and as a result, into a baby's body if their mother is smoking during or around the time of breastfeeding.

The only uncertain part? Just how much those amounts may affect the baby's brain development.

According to Martha Lasley, a lactation consultant at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando, babies being breastfed by moms who regularly smoke marijuana have actually tested positive for the drug up to three weeks after the mom has smoked. Though their levels of THC were small, and not enough to result in any kind of high, the effects varied from case to case.

In 1990, a study looked at a baby's exposure to THC over their first month of life and found considerable impacts — including reduced movement and slower coordination skills by the time they reached age one. Lethargy was also found to be a side-effect on these children in a 2005 review in the journal Canadian Family Physician, along with the loss of appetite.

Other studies also linked pot-smoking during pregnancy to an increased risk of infants having a low-birth weight, smaller size for their age and probability of being born premature. As for the impacts later on in life, other studies linked its use to kids with attention issues and learning problems.

Still, a more recent 2012 review admitted that while the results certainly don't give the OK to smoking while breastfeeding, the jury may still be out on this one. "While there are no studies that support breastfeeding and the use of marijuana," it stated, "with conflicting results [of studies], further studies and case-by-case considerations are warranted in cases of occasional use."

Photo via KATU

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