California Nonprofit Looking to Study Breast Milk and Cannabis

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When babies nurse, they receive many benefits beyond the basic nutrition of their mother’s breast milk. Babies that breastfeed or receive bottles of pumped milk from their mother often have more robust immune systems and may have a head start on their peers for intellectual development as they grow up. These benefits, as well as the bonding that comes from nursing, lead to many medical practitioners telling expectant mothers that “breast is best.”

However, if the mother in question uses cannabis for either medical purposes or recreationally, the reaction seems to be quite different. There have been well-publicized cases where mothers have had their nursing children taken from them simply because of cannabis use. State officials and medical professionals assert that doing so is in the best interests of the child, even though there is no evidence of harm to babies whose mothers use cannabis while breastfeeding.

The lack of evidence often does little to help parents facing allegations from Child Protective Services or similar agencies. Without scientific backup, mothers often have to choose between their medical cannabis use and continuing to nurse their child. Despite the fact that endocannabinoids naturally occur in human breast milk, politicians and public health professionals seem unduly worried about the risk of children receiving some cannabinoids through breast milk.

Thankfully, the dearth of research on the topic will not be an ongoing concern. The Mommy’s Milk Human Milk Research Biorepository is currently in the early stages of a publicly-funded study on cannabis use and breast milk. This organization is a multidisciplinary research initiative out of UC San Diego. Headed by renowned research doctor, Dr. Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, Mommy’s Milk seeks to study human breast milk by building a research biorepository.

They are currently raising funds for a ground-breaking study looking at how cannabis use and cannabinoid presence in breast milk will impact child health and development. People who want to support this incredibly important work can make a financial donation to help cover costs. Mothers who breastfeed and use cannabis can also help by donating a two ounce sample of milk and answering a few questions.

Image of a nursing infant, captions encouraging readers to donate breastmilk for research.

Image Courtesy of the Mother’s Milk Facebook Page

Older studies and the information we currently have about breast milk seem to imply that the results of this study will be neutral or positive in regard to how cannabis impacts development and overall health. Of course, good science does not assume the outcome to a study, which also makes this project unique. It is not setting out to find proof of harm or contamination. Instead, the goal is to establish reliable data that can inspire additional future research and public policy.

Mothers are often left in a more legally precarious position than any other cannabis users. This study and future research it may lead to can help protect mothers from discrimination or harassment due to non-scientific assumptions by policy makers. You can follow the Mommy’s Milk Facebook page by clicking here. You can also donate to their fundraiser by clicking here.

Photo Credit: Simone Fischer © 2018

For previous Ladybud articles about breastfeeding and cannabis, click here.