One reason you might think CBD is safe for nursing mothers is the fact that mother's milk naturally contains cannabinoids, similar to CBD. These cannabinoids may help stimulate a newborn's appetite. In fact, they work on the same receptors that are activated when people get the munchies from consuming THC. However, don't assume a case of "the more the merrier," says Thomas. Geary, too, warns there's a big difference between what the body produces naturally and the "artificially imported chemicals" in commercial CBD. She adds, "Women have been breastfeeding forever. Mother's milk contains no impurities, no chemicals or pesticides, and no chance of an overdose."
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is everywhere, from topical salves to tinctures. The so-called organic Xanax is being touted by wellness enthusiasts as a panacea to pain, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Nature’s supposed cure-all might seem like a miracle treatment to sleep-deprived, delirious new mothers, especially those who are breastfeeding and feeling energetically depleted. But despite the widespread availability of CBD, as of 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one CBD drug, leaving many questions around its safety for breastfeeding mothers unanswered. What may seem like natural stress relief to help navigate the many mental and physical challenges of motherhood, especially in trying times, might end up exposing your child to risks that research has yet to uncover.
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Topical vs. Ingestible Use of CBD When Breastfeeding
CBD remains out of the purview of the FDA, leaving each company or brand in control of monitoring the product's safety. "Some companies are able to afford testing and studies," says Thomas. "Others aren't."
Until we have more evidence, Geary says women who are expecting or breastfeeding should definitely err on the side of caution and avoid cannabis in all forms.
What the Data Says About CBD and Breastfeeding
Ahead, our experts help us sift through what we do know about using CBD when breastfeeding, so nursing mothers can make informed choices.
Thomas warns to be skeptical of CBD products that are inexpensive. Seek out reputable brands that use conscious farming practices. "None of this stuff is cheap," she says. "This is an expensive process."
"We truly do not know what short- or long-term impact on the baby it may have," says Felice Gersh, M.D., a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and author of
Granted, this research was done on marijuana and THC, not hemp and CBD. But experts are concerned about the effect of any cannabinoid on an infant's brain development.
Is CBD Safe While Breastfeeding?
"We do not have enough research to make claims one way or another on how that breast milk would affect the milk-fed babies," says Dr. Flannery. "Cannabis is a medicine that has been used specifically for pregnant and breastfeeding parents for millennia. I will never make a claim without the science to back it up, but we should understand that anecdotal evidence can be used to formulate testable hypotheses to validate the use of cannabis at this time in a one's life."
Ultimately, because CBD "has been shown to be little risk to both adults and children" and therefore, "may not pose a problem," it is important to weigh the risk versus benefits for the breastfeeding parent and the infant, says Hilary Peckham, the co-founder of Etain Health, the only all-women, family owned medical marijuana dispensary company in New York.
What the Science Says About Using CBD While Breastfeeding
"Having a new baby is stressful, and some may wish to turn to cannabis products," Dr. Gersh notes. But the limited data on its safety—and the fact that it will pass into breast milk—makes it difficult for many experts to advise its use for nursing parents. "Unfortunately, there is no safety data to allow a doctor to recommend the use of cannabis or CBD," says Dr. Gersh.