Can I Take CBD While Breastfeeding?

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Breastfeeding is a remarkable experience—but it requires extra care

One of the most significant changes during pregnancy is the need to monitor what you eat and drink. Anything consumed is passed directly to your child, and as such, a wide range of substances are taboo. This cautionary approach is also needed during breastfeeding, as specific compounds can enter a newborn's system via breast milk. When it comes to CBD, does this substance pose any risk to mother or child?

One compound that has received a wealth of attention for its effect on newborns is THC, the psychotropic compound found within the Cannabis sativa species. However, how much CBD may be passed onto a newborn is something we know significantly less about. This lack of understanding is in spite of CBD being considered a non-toxic and well-tolerated cannabinoid in adults, with several suggested therapeutic benefits.

The link between CBD and breast milk is unclear

Although specific studies into CBD and breast milk are lacking, there are some generalised studies that we can use as a reference point.

A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics took 54 samples from 50 breastfeeding women in order to measure levels of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Results showed that while THC was detectable in 63% of the samples taken, cannabidiol was measurable in 9% of milk samples.

Despite the seemingly favourable outcome, it is worth considering the variables. It is not known what concentration of cannabinoids these women were consuming, and there is the manner in which THC and CBD are processed to factor in. While THC is stored in fat cells, CBD is not, and it has a much shorter half-life. Different scientific methods are needed to measure samples for traces of CBD accurately.

The authors were quick to point out that “information regarding risks to breastfeeding infants is urgently needed”. This is a theme that continues throughout many preclinical studies. Regardless of results, academics agree that greater targeted research is desperately needed.

CBD oil may have some benefits while breastfeeding

If we take a step back from the research and consider why breastfeeding mothers may want to consume CBD, the need for more information becomes more urgent. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a debilitating condition that can cause fatigue, anxiety, depression, changes in mood, and worst of all, detachment from your newborn.

A standard course of treatment for PPD is the prescription of antidepressants. This poses a significant issue for new mothers, as antidepressants cannot be taken while breastfeeding. At a time that is already challenging enough, many mothers don’t want to lose the bond developed through breastfeeding.

An alternative approach may come from the potential therapeutic qualities of CBD. If we take anxiety as an example, a preliminary report on social anxiety disorder and the effects of CBD provided favourable results. Researchers found that “CBD was associated with significantly decreased subjective anxiety”. Not only were outcomes positive, but it is one of the few studies performed on human patients.

There is also CBD’s interaction with endocannabinoids to consider. Produced internally, endocannabinoids are compounds that help regulate pain, mood, appetite, and other critical biological processes. CBD has been shown to inhibit an enzyme that breaks down anandamide, and increased levels of anandamide (nicknamed the "bliss molecule") have been linked to a potential decrease in depression and pain.

There simply isn’t enough research to give a definitive answer

Coming full circle to the title of this article, “Can I take CBD while breastfeeding?”, the answer is, unfortunately, yet unclear. There isn’t enough research into possible interactions between a newborn and CBD to say definitively whether it’s safe or unsafe. However, if you still have questions on the matter, your doctor should be the first port of call.

Although we cannot give you a clear picture of CBD’s use during breastfeeding, it is essential to note that endocannabinoids already exist in breast milk. Produced by the body’s innate endocannabinoid system (ECS), there is no doubt that these chemicals play a pivotal role in biological development. The challenge, however, is understanding this mechanism in its entirety to ensure the health of both mother and child. With CBD’s lack of toxicity being a significant factor in its favour, future studies may provide the answers we need.

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