Pot Smoking Breast Feeders
HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer
Now that medical marijuana is approved in 20+ states (and counting), issues concerning the health and safety of others exposed to THC – the chemical component of cannabis that accounts for most of its psychological effects – are emerging.
One concern is the effect of pot smoking, breastfeeding mothers’ milk on infants. The relatively recent lawfulness of marijuana accounts for the scarcity of controlled studies. Consequently, healthcare providers must often rely on reports from random screenings and recommendations from professional associations. Given the rarity of controlled studies and the possibility of harm, many providers err on the side of caution, advising breastfeeding mothers to avoid either marijuana or breastfeeding. Erring on the side of caution is the approach frequently used by Family Law courts, healthcare providers and other professionals when dealing with children.
The dilemma was recently highlighted in an Oregon news story involving Oregon Health Science University Hospital and the mother of a premature baby. On her midwife’s advice, the mother smoked marijuana during her pregnancy to counteract nausea and anxiety; however, during her child’s treatment in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the mother was told she could not breastfeed the infant. Eventually, the Hospital and mother reached a compromise in which she was allowed to breastfeed after signing a waiver acknowledging her use of marijuana and that she was advised of its potential risks to her breastfed child. Obtaining her informed consent by signed waiver helps shield the Hospital from liability if pot smoking/breastfeeding ultimately harms her child. Though their disagreement was resolved, disagreements will undoubtedly arise here and there around the country as more states approve marijuana’s use.
What, then, should a woman who uses marijuana do about breastfeeding newborns? At least some experts agree that the best course of action is to avoid marijuana use while breastfeeding. If marijuana is still used, the mother should minimize her use of the drug, should take care that marijuana is not smoked near the infant so he/she will not be exposed by inhaling it, and should expect to sign a healthcare provider’s waiver acknowledging that the mother uses marijuana and has been advised of the drug’s possibly harmful effects on her breastfed baby.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DO err on the side of caution when dealing with children.
DO eliminate or at least minimize the use marijuana while breastfeeding.
DON’T allow the smoking of marijuana in the child’s vicinity.
DO expect to sign a healthcare provider’s waiver acknowledging the use of marijuana and its possibly harmful effects on breastfed babies, if you use marijuana and breastfeed your child.
By Kathy Catanzarite
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.
FAMILY LAW DOS AND DON'TS