Background: Breastfeeding is associated with substantial benefits for both the child and mother. Most guidelines state that women who use illicit drugs should not breastfeed. Although this recommendation has traditionally included marijuana, this drug's changing legal status and the limited scientific research regarding marijuana's effect on breastfeeding and the nursing child may lead to varying recommendations made by lactation professionals to clients who use marijuana. Additionally, to our knowledge, there are no data estimating the prevalence of marijuana use among breastfeeding women, making it unclear how common it is. This study assessed recommendations around breastfeeding and marijuana use and estimated the prevalence of marijuana use among breastfeeding women.
Materials and methods: A convenience sample of lactation professionals who practice throughout New England and were attending the 2014 Vermont Lactation Consultant Association conference was offered the opportunity to complete a five-item survey.
Results: Of 120 conference attendees, 74 completed the survey. Forty-four percent reported their recommendations around breastfeeding and marijuana use depended on factors like the severity of maternal use. Another 41% reported recommending continued breastfeeding because the benefits outweigh the harms. The remaining 15% reported recommending that a woman should stop breastfeeding if she cannot stop using marijuana. Survey completers estimated that 15% (1,203/7,843) of their breastfeeding clients in the past year used marijuana.
Conclusions: Lactation professionals vary widely in their recommendations to breastfeeding clients who use marijuana. The estimate of prevalence also suggests this is a relatively common issue. More research is needed to assess the generalizability of these findings.