New Research Questions Hospital Ban on Breastfeeding when Marijuana is Present

New research should usher in more flexible hospital policies that might be better for the health of newborns.

While the debate over whether pregnant women should smoke weed continues, breastfeeding is a different story, according to recent research.

The small study of mothers who smoked marijuana while breastfeeding found that their babies ingested an estimated 2.5 percent of the maternal dose of THC.

Published this month in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study found that levels of THC in the mother’s milk decline with time, so if a mother smoked weed, then waited three to four hours there would be “virtually none” in her milk, according to the study’s co-author Thomas Hale, a professor of pediatrics at Texas Tech University School of Medicine and co-director of the InfantRisk Center.

Dr. Hale, known as one of the foremost experts on drugs and medications in mothers’ milk, says his new research should usher in more flexible hospital policies that might ultimately be better for the health of newborn babies.

With legalization of marijuana becoming widespread across the land, hospitals need to create or revise their policies to address it. Dr. Hale cautioned against hardline policies about marijuana use and breastfeeding.

Instead, hospitals should assess mothers individually and more carefully evaluate the potential harm of marijuana use versus the risks associated with not breastfeeding, which are major and well-known, said Dr. Hale, who also co-authored the popular reference book “Medications and Mother’s Milk.”

“Just to say because the (marijuana) drug screen is positive that a mother can't breastfeed just is not analyzing the situation,” Hale said. “That means what you're doing is banning the baby from getting breastmilk and increasing the risk of infectious disease and other harmful effects.”

In other words, the risk to the baby of not being breastfed is high while the risk of the mother being an occasional toker is low, according to Hale.

“We’re trying to interject some reality in this and get rid of the hysteria associated with it,” he said.

Comments

Stories