Maternal Cannabis Use during Lactation and Potential Effects on Human Milk Composition and Production: A Narrative Review

Adv Nutr. 2024 Apr;15(4):100196. doi: 10.1016/j.advnut.2024.100196. Epub 2024 Mar 1.


Cannabis use has increased sharply in the last 20 y among adults, including reproductive-aged women. Its recent widespread legalization is associated with a decrease in risk perception of cannabis use during breastfeeding. However, the effect of cannabis use (if any) on milk production and milk composition is not known. This narrative review summarizes current knowledge related to maternal cannabis use during breastfeeding and provides an overview of possible pathways whereby cannabis might affect milk composition and production. Several studies have demonstrated that cannabinoids and their metabolites are detectable in human milk produced by mothers who use cannabis. Due to their physicochemical properties, cannabinoids are stored in adipose tissue, can easily reach the mammary gland, and can be secreted in milk. Moreover, cannabinoid receptors are present in adipocytes and mammary epithelial cells. The activation of these receptors directly modulates fatty acid metabolism, potentially causing changes in milk fatty acid profiles. Additionally, the endocannabinoid system is intimately connected to the endocrine system. As such, it is probable that interactions of exogenous cannabinoids with the endocannabinoid system might modify release of critical hormones (e.g., prolactin and dopamine) that regulate milk production and secretion. Nonetheless, few studies have investigated effects of cannabis use (including on milk production and composition) in lactating women. Additional research utilizing robust methodologies are needed to elucidate whether and how cannabis use affects human milk production and composition.

Keywords: breastfeeding; breastmilk; cannabinoid receptors; cannabinoids; cannabis; human milk; lactation; milk composition; peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors; prolactin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding
  • Cannabinoids* / analysis
  • Cannabinoids* / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids* / pharmacology
  • Cannabis*
  • Endocannabinoids / analysis
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism
  • Endocannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Milk, Human / chemistry


  • Endocannabinoids
  • Cannabinoids
  • Fatty Acids