Increased duration of breastfeeding does, however, extend the postpartum period, which may result in fatigue, interrupted sleep, and the emotional pressure that can accompany feeding a little one 24/7. As wonderful as breastfeeding may be, it can also be overwhelming, leaving nursing mothers exhausted and in need of relief; after all, being a source of unconditional comfort is draining. Widely available CBD might seem like a godsend, offering an instant feeling of calm without a hangover or any of the psychoactive affects of marijuana. But here’s the rub: Even though CBD is natural, we don’t yet know how CBD affects a developing baby and child, and what the longterm effects might be to a baby who has been exposed to CBD through breastmilk.
A recent study surrounding THC and breastfeeding, published out of UC San Diego in 2018, indicates that THC is measurable in breastmilk for up to six days after maternal marijuana use. Cannabinoids love to adhere to fat, and breastmilk is viscous as it contains long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.
What the Data Says About CBD and Breastfeeding
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Nursing offers an unparalleled host of benefits to both mother and child. According to the National Institutes of Health, the nutritional, immunological, and anti-inflammatory properties of breastmilk provide health advantages to a nursing baby, including reduced risks of asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Nursing mothers experience a lowered risk of disease, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancer, according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). But that’s not all. Breastfeeding is credited with positive psychosocial outcomes, most noticeably through the bond that develops between mother and child. As such, leading organizations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorse breastfeeding for at least 12 months of a child’s life. Such consensus around the benefits of breastfeeding have resulted in an uptick in mothers who nurse, with the CDC reporting 57.6% of infants breastfeeding at six months in 2018.
Geary adds, “Every mother’s metabolism is different; the absorption into the blood stream is different, and the actual dosage of the CBD listed is not considered accurate or reliable.” She also brings up a point about the lack of regulation surrounding CBD products. This March, the FDA issued a statement promising to advance regulatory practices of CBD, admitting wide gaps in data and a lack of market transparency. The same report notes, “we are not at a point where we can conclude that unapproved CBD products are safe for use” in lactating women. Thomas adds that for reliable data, we’ll need to evaluate a couple thousand people over at least 15 years. Current data doesn’t meet either of those criteria.
"CBD and other cannabinoids have undergone intense scrutiny in the areas of managing anxiety and sleep, and can be beneficial for both immediate and long term stress and insomnia," Mary Clifton, M.D., an internal medicine doctor and leading cannabis and CBD expert, tells InStyle.
That's why experts say it's best just to stay away from CBD altogether during both pregnancy and while breastfeeding until we know more. "Right now, we do not have any accurate studies showing how long CBD stays in your system," Nicole Williams, M.D., ob-gyn and founder of the Gynecology Institute of Chicago tells InStyle. "This could be as short as a few days or maybe even weeks!"
The Science On CBD While Breastfeeding
But what if you're a new mom and also nursing? Is taking CBD still a good idea? Here's what you need to know about CBD and breastfeeding.
CBD has been a hot topic in wellness and medicine for the past couple of years. Some people swear by the derivative of hemp to relax, de-stress, and sleep better. So it makes perfect sense that new mothers, dealing with sleepless nights thanks to late-night feeding and early mornings, out-of-whack hormones, or even postpartum anxiety and depression in some cases, would be curious about the benefits.
In other words, CBD can't just be treated like having a glass of wine if you're currently nursing. "The pump and dump method can't work because you have no idea if there is still CBD in your breastmilk," Dr. Williams adds.