Does using marijuana while breastfeeding adversely affect the development of an infant?

Last updated: February 20, 2022
We cannot identify an answer to this question. This could be because the studies in this list found that there was insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion. It also could be because we were not able to identify the answers that the studies gave to the question based on the texts of the studies. As additional studies on this question are published, we may be able to identify an answer.
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Chart summary of 2 studies examining this question

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Literature Reviews
Although we recommend you consider all of the studies below, we believe the following studies are literature reviews, which survey and evaluate many studies on this question:

SUMMARIES OF STUDIES
Total studies in list: 2
Sorted by publication year
1
Marijuana Use in Pregnancy and While Breastfeeding
"There are conflicting data regarding outcomes of infants exposed to cannabis during breastfeeding. In one study, 136 breast-fed infants were assessed at one year for motor and mental development.43 The 68 infants exposed to cannabis during the first month postpartum showed an association of decreased motor development at one year compared to matched controls. Specifically, there was a 14 ± 5 point decrease in the Bayley index of infant motor development. However, the authors believed that marijuana use during pregnancy confounded the association.Another study compared 27 breast-fed infants exposed to cannabis to 35 unexposed breast-fed infants.44 At one year, no differences were noted for motor and mental skills using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development. The authors noted that statistical analyses were limited due to a small sample size and lack of comparability regarding dose and duration of exposure.The paucity of clinical evidence has made it difficult for organizations to make definitive recommendations regarding cannabis use during lactation. Both ACOG and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that women refrain from using cannabis while lactating.3,45 The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine states breastfeeding mothers “should be counseled to reduce or eliminate their use of cannabis to avoid exposing their infants and advised of the possible long-term neurobehavioral effects from continued use”.46 They ask clinicians to consider the wide range of occasional, regular medical, and heavy exposure to cannabis and urge caution when breastfeeding occurs with cannabis use."
AUTHOR
Torri D. Metz
PUBLISHED
2019 Obstetrics & Gynecology
Literature Review
High Quality Source
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2
Marijuana Use During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Implications for Neonatal and Childhood Outcomes
"There are 2 small studies by Tennes et al92 and Astley and Little93 from the 1980s in which the authors attempt to evaluate the effect of maternal marijuana use while breastfeeding on the infant. Both studies included mothers who also used alcohol, other drugs, and tobacco. Tennes et al92 studied 258 mothers using marijuana and compared them to mothers who did not use marijuana. They examined the infants at 24 to 72 hours of age and a subgroup at 1 year of age. They found the following results: (1) marijuana users were more likely to use illicit drugs and alcohol with a significant linear dose-response relationship between the use of marijuana and alcohol (R = 0.45; P < .01); (2) infants exposed to marijuana were slightly shorter; (3) most mothers decreased use of marijuana during pregnancy; and (4) no differences were noted in the 1-year growth and scores on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development; however, only 27 of the infants tested at 1 year were exposed to marijuana while being breastfed. These results are limited by the small number of infants exposed to marijuana through breastfeeding, self-selection of mothers who participated in the 1-year follow-up, and lack of control for use of other substances, particularly alcohol.92 Astley and Little93 studied diet, alcohol, and tobacco use during lactation in a group of middle-class mothers. Developmental evaluation at 1 year was completed on 68 infants whose mothers used marijuana while breastfeeding who were matched with mothers with similar alcohol and tobacco use who did not use marijuana while breastfeeding. Of the breastfeeding mothers, 79% reported marijuana use while pregnant, compared with 15% of mothers of infants who were fed formula. In multivariate regression analysis, the infant’s exposure to marijuana during breastfeeding in the first month was associated with 14 ± 5 points decrease in motor scores after controlling for tobacco, alcohol, and cocaine use during pregnancy and lactation. There was no effect of marijuana use in the third month of life while breastfeeding. Marijuana use in the first trimester of pregnancy confounded these results, and it was not clear whether exposure prenatally or during breastfeeding had more association. The studies by Tennes et al92 and Astley and Little93 had small sample sizes, were completed more than 30 years ago, were associated with use of marijuana during the mother’s pregnancy, and had no long-term follow-up. These limitations make it difficult to separate independent effects of marijuana use during breastfeeding from prenatal exposure."
AUTHOR
Sheryl A. Ryan
PUBLISHED
2018 Pediatrics
Literature Review
High Quality Source
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