One of the first things you hear when you find out you’re pregnant is that you have to stop drinking. Same thing (for the most part) when you’re breastfeeding. It’s common knowledge that alcohol can pass to the fetus during pregnancy, and that it can pass to your infant through breast milk. While drinking during pregnancy is a hard no, consuming alcohol while breastfeeding is a bit of a gray area. Plenty of women have a glass of wine or two while nursing, and others “pump and dump” so they can imbibe while breastfeeding. But now, with marijuana use on the rise and becoming “mainstream”, we’re asking the same questions about pot. Studies have shown that THC passes to the fetus during pregnancy (its effects are still being debated). But a new study on smoking pot while breastfeeding raises some additional concerns.

A new study suggests that THC, the drug’s psychoactive component, passes to the infant through breast milk.

In a study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecologyresearchers concluded that THC appears in breast milk hours after it’s been consumed.  Researchers asked women who were occasional marijuana users and who were also breastfeeding to inhale 0.1 grams of cannabis containing more than 23% THC. The women were asked to abstain from other marijuana use for 24 hours before the study. Breast milk was collected from each woman in stages: 20 minutes after consumption, one hour later, two hours later, and then four hours later.

At all four points, THC was found in the breast milk. So it would have been passed to the infant up to four hours after it was consumed, and perhaps longer. The mean dose of THC the infant received was 2.5% of the 0.1 grams the mother took.

However, what that means to researchers and nursing moms remains unclear. The infants received micrograms of the psychoactive ingredient. And research is still very unclear on what, if any, implications this has on infant health and development. Most of the animal studies are conducted using very high doses of THC. The medical and scientific communities can’t seem to agree on how THC affects infant brains.

But, the fact that they don’t know doesn’t mean it’s safe. Until more research is done, doctors suggest abstaining from smoking pot while breastfeeding. Not being sure it’s not bad isn’t the same as being sure it’s OK.

(Image: iStock / HighGradeRoots)