After nine months of avoiding sushi, alcohol, and all your favorite soft cheeses, most new parents are anxious to get back to their beloved pre-pregnancy habits. But if you’re breastfeeding, you still need to be aware of certain foods, substances, and ingredients that may impact your baby’s health and development.
The question is: Is CBD on that list? Can it pass through breast milk, and if it does, is it harmful to your new little one?
Keep reading for the 101 on CBD and breastfeeding.
Is it safe to use CBD when you’re breastfeeding?
According to Dr. Bindiya Gandhi, integrative medicine doctor, women’s health expert, and founder of Revive AtlantaMD, “CBD does pass through breast milk.” As she explains it, CBD is fat-soluble and since breast milk is also made of fatty substances, it’s easy for CBD to transfer into breast milk. That said, “the amount is usually minimal,” she continues.
Most of the research on cannabinoids and breastfeeding has been done on THC, so we really don’t know much about how CBD may affect a baby’s development if it’s exposed via breast milk. The Food and Drug Administration has released a statement saying that the “FDA strongly advises against the use of cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and marijuana in any form during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.” They cite potential risks to brain development and other risks but none of these have actually been proven.
But is it really fair to pool CBD and THC together when they are entirely different compounds and interact with the body in distinct ways? Robert Flannery, Ph.D., owner of Dr. Robb Farms told Parents that new parents have been using cannabinoids for thousands of years, specifically for postpartum health woes. But when it comes to CBD, “We do not have enough research to make claims one way or another on how that breast milk would affect the milk-fed babies," he said.
What role does CBD play in the postpartum period?
Not all clinicians and researchers agree with the FDA’s firm stance, especially considering the fact that CBD may act as an alternative to certain pharmaceutical drugs, which have known and well-studied risks. Dr. Flannery does not explicitly recommend cannabis to new parents but says he knows many people who have leaned on it after the birth of their child. “We should understand that anecdotal evidence can be used to formulate testable hypotheses to validate the use of cannabis at this time in a mom's life," he explains.
New parents can struggle with chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, and depression and anxiety caused by massive hormonal shifts that happen after giving birth. And CBD has shown promise for all of these issues with little-to-no side effects or risks. As a physician, Dr. Gandhi says that she’s not concerned about new moms using CBD during breastfeeding. “Although cannabinoids are not recommended by the FDA; in small doses, CBD may be beneficial for some mothers helping with postpartum to help with sleep, depression, anxiety and more!” She says.
“In fact, it may even help with milk production,” she continues. “We all have an endocannabinoid system that naturally produces cannabinoids and cannabinoids are naturally found in breastmilk and newborns, which helps them suckle,” she continues.
What should you know about CBD & breastfeeding?
The FDA’s statement does make one very important point when they write that: “We also know that there is a potential for CBD products to be contaminated with substances that may pose a risk to the fetus or breastfed baby, including THC.” According to Dr. Gandhi, the purity of your CBD product matters all the time — but even more so if you are breastfeeding. “THC is considered unsafe for babies and should be avoided during breastfeeding,” she explains. To avoid THC, you can opt for a THC-free formulation instead of a full-spectrum formulation, which will contain trace amounts of THC. The brand Mendi, which is designed for pro athletes who are frequently drug tested and have to avoid THC entirely, has day and night tinctures that are guaranteed THC-free.
Contamination with THC isn't the only type of contamination to be wary of, either. As the FDA continues in their report, “We have also heard reports of CBD potentially containing other contaminants (e.g., pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, and fungus); we are investigating this.” To safeguard against these factors, Dr. Gandhi recommends CBD products that are from reputable sources. “The CBD industry is not well regulated,” she explained. A high-quality CBD company should be able to provide a Certificate of Analysis with any product they’re selling. This document will provide the findings of all the different lab tests done on the product in one place; it will include a cannabinoid profile as well as levels of possible contaminants. (Here’s how to read a certificate of analysis like a pro.)
Another great way to take advantage of CBD while breastfeeding, while operating with an abundance of caution for your baby, is to simply use CBD topically. That way, you can get the anti-inflammatory, soothing benefits of CBD without ingesting it. Dr. Kerklaan’s Natural Sleep Cream or Leef Organics Revive CBD Balm on dry skin.
At the end of the day, you’ll find health professionals that recommend avoiding CBD while breastfeeding at all costs, health professionals that say there’s just no solid evidence either way, and health professionals that endorse it. It’s always best to consult with your doctor, who will help you weigh the pros and cons of CBD with other therapeutic options.