Babies and marijuana are not a good mix. When I ask mothers why they smoke marijuana they tell me: it helps my appetite, I was anxious, I was having trouble sleeping, it made me feel better. They don’t seem to understand that there is another person being affected by their ingestion or smoking of marijuana.
Marijuana, also known as weed, is a drug that is made from the leaves, flowers, stems and seeds from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. It can be smoked, eaten, or drunk as a tea. The main chemical in the plant is THC. The true name is delta-9-tetrahyddrocannabinol. THC is absorbed by the brain and stored in fat tissues for weeks or months. THC alters moods, perception, and receptors in the brain.
It is difficult to do research on the long lasting affects because it really isn’t ethical to put a developing brain of a human baby at risk. There have been studies on monkeys. Those studies have shown that a baby monkey brain does absorb THC causing some developmental delays around the age of 1. It also causes the baby monkey to be lethargic and not transfer milk from its mother effectively. Those studies suggest that marijuana may impact milk production, cause the young to not be able to nurse affectively, and be sedated.
This is especially true for the baby that has been exposed to THC while the mother was pregnant and in the first month of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in 2012: Street drugs such as PCP (phencyclidine), cocaine, and cannabis can be detected in human milk, and their use by breastfeeding mothers is of concern, particularly with regard to the infant’s long term neurobehavioral development and thus are contraindicated.
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Babies are much more vulnerable to chemicals and toxins than adults. Many experts are seriously concerned about the physical and mental effects on the development of children whose mother use marijuana while they are pregnant and or breastfeeding their babies. Since the baby’s brain develops receptors during their life in their mother’s uterus, one can only conclude that there is serious concern about the effect of ingesting marijuana, or any of those other drugs, during pregnancy.
The American Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine published a guideline in 2015 that states: Breastfeeding mothers should be counseled to reduce or eliminate their use of marijuana to avoid exposing their infants to this substance and advised of the possible long-term neurobehavioral effects from continued use.
There seems to be an attitude in our society that marijuana is harmless. It is not harmless to a growing baby, whether that baby is inside the mother or outside the mother. Babies and marijuana are not a good mix.
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.