15 May CBD & Breastfeeding: Is it safe?
After giving birth comes the sleepless nights, stress and anxiety as your body works to rebalance hormones, and you start adjusting to life with a newborn baby. With active therapeutic properties sure to help, is it safe to return to CBD once your child is born?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five women suffer from postpartum depression1. Add this scarily concerning fact to the list of physical and psychological issues that can arise after giving birth and it’s no wonder new parents are looking for extra support during this time.
Antidepressants aside, individuals needing a natural way to combat the aches, pains, stress, and more serious side effects of childbirth will no doubt have seen positive recommendations around CBD. A natural extract of the cannabis plant, CBD interacts with our body’s own endocannabinoid system – the internal function maintaining essential balance by supporting a number of vital processes, such as mood, appetite, sleep and pain. Because of this, CBD seems to offer a real solution for people with issues ranging from restless nights to increasingly debilitating conditions. But what does science say when it comes to breastfeeding your baby?
BREAST MILK BASICS
Internally produced endocannabinoids are incredibly important when it comes to a baby’s development, kicking into gear as early as the embryonic stage to begin essential functions related to foetal growth. Once a baby is born, and development continues outside of the womb, endocannabinoids are then found to be present in breast milk. These compounds promote a number of vital processes, from appetite to improving the suckling reflex – teaching your newborn the essential function of receiving nutrients before they can even think for themselves.
While it’s possible to prove that endocannabinoids are present in breast milk, the science around which cannabinoids (those derived from the cannabis plant) can make their way into it is still very unclear. As CBD and other cannabinoids are fat-soluble, these compounds bind closely with fat, making it almost impossible to measure their amount. And it’s this uncertainty that has the potential to cause health problems for your baby. Why? The presence of THC.
CBD is non-psychoactive, unlike the closely linked THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – a chemical-altering component that gives marijuana smokers their ‘high’. During extraction, the CBD is filtered to remove THC, guaranteeing the product is safe and free of any controlled substances. However, small amounts of this cannabinoid can remain. So, although harmless to us, it’s these traces that can find their way into the natural milk you provide through breastfeeding.
A study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology looked at samples of breast milk from eight anonymous test subjects who regularly use cannabis and found that babies who were three to five months old, and who were breastfed, ingested an estimated 2.5 per cent of the maternal dose of THC.2 For ethical reasons, researchers didn’t take any blood samples to test for THC levels, however, it’s considered to be a high probability that at least some small amounts would be present within each baby.
Studies surrounding prenatal exposure to THC found that there is a direct link to increased adverse outcomes for women and their babies, such as low birth weight, placement in the neonatal intensive care unit, and preterm birth. 3 You can explore the facts around CBD and pregnancy here, however, this evidence has led to similar concerns around how THC affects the newborn development once transmitted through breast milk, and for good reason.
Although much more research needs to be completed before this can be verified, it poses the important question: is it possible to avoid exposure to THC or any other cannabinoid through traditional breastfeeding methods? Or, should you abstain entirely?
MORE RESEARCH NEEDED
CBD and THC are not the same things. With various studies and scientifically backed claims, the positives of regular CBD use are impressive. However, with THC comes the possibility of adverse effects once transmitted to newborns through breastfeeding, specifically related to their development.
However, mostly due to ethical reasons, there is a clear lack of research to prove this thinking either way. In its absence, the best course of action is to follow the guidance of your doctor, and in most cases, this means abstaining from any CBD products to safeguard your newborn’s health.
Recommended supplements while breastfeeding
Breastfeeding mothers have increased nutritional needs to support both their own health and the health of their baby. While it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements, here are some vitamins that are commonly recommended for breastfeeding mothers:
- Vitamin D supports the immune system¹
- Vitamin D also supports supports bone health & maintains normal muscle function and blood calcium levels²,³,⁴
- Convenient everyday supplement
Vitamin D is important for both the mother’s bone health and the baby’s development. It can also help prevent postpartum depression. Breast milk may not provide enough vitamin D, so a supplement might be recommended, mainly if you have limited sun exposure.
- Contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism
- Reduces tiredness and fatigue
- 100% vegan
This vitamin is important for maintaining energy levels and supporting the nervous system. If you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you might need to supplement B12, as it is primarily found in animal products.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Premium Vegan Omega-3
- 60 Capsules
- Natural algae-derived oil with life’s®OMEGA
- Easy-to-take softgels
Omega-3s, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are important for brain and eye development in the baby. They can also support the mother’s mood and cognitive function.
Folate (Folic Acid): Folate is essential for cell division and can help prevent birth defects. While most prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, continuing to take a supplement during breastfeeding can be beneficial.
Iron: Iron is essential for preventing anaemia, especially during the postpartum period when blood loss can occur. Some breastfeeding mothers might need iron supplementation if their levels are low.
Calcium: Calcium is important for maintaining strong bones and teeth for both the mother and the baby. Getting calcium from dietary sources is best, but a supplement might be considered if your intake is inadequate.
Iodine: Iodine is crucial for thyroid function and proper brain development in infants. The iodine content of breast milk can vary, so a supplement might be recommended if your intake is low.
1) Ko JY, Rockhill KM, Tong VT, Morrow B, Farr SL. Trends in Postpartum Depressive Symptoms — MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:153–158.
2) Baker, Teresa MD; Datta, Palika PhD; Rewers-Felkins, Kathleen MS; Thompson, Heather PhD; Kallem, Raja R. PhD; Hale, Thomas W. PhD – Transfer of Inhaled Cannabis Into Human Breast Milk, Obstetrics & Gynecology: May 2018 – Volume 131 – Issue 5 – p 783-788
4)Anderson, O Phillip – Cannabis and Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding Medicine, 12(10), pp. 580–581