Is Breast Best? Examining the effects of alcohol and cannabis use during lactation

Maternal drug use during lactation may have adverse effects on the health of their children. Two common drugs used during this period are alcohol and cannabis. A literature search was conducted using PubMed, CINAHL, Nursing and Allied Health, and Google Scholar with the following search terms: marijuana, cannabis, THC, alcohol, ethanol, breastfeeding, lactation, and breastmilk. The search strategy was restricted to papers since the year 2000, and limited to English language journals. Reference lists were also used to capture any articles that were missed from the database searches. In total, 19 articles were found related to alcohol and breastfeeding (n = 17 original research papers; n = 2 systematic reviews), and 4 articles were specific to cannabis (n = 2 original papers; n = 2 systematic reviews). The most common outcomes associated with alcohol consumption and breastfeeding included changes in sleep patterns, reduced milk production and flow, lower milk intake, and impaired immune function. Maternal outcomes related to cannabis consumption included panic attacks, delayed response time, increased heart rate, reduced short-term memory, dizziness, and impaired motor performance; infant outcomes associated with maternal cannabis use and breastfeeding were reduced muscular tonus, poor sucking, and growth delay and restriction. Mothers should be advised to refrain from substance use during the lactation period for the health and safety of their children.

*Corresponding Author: 

Dr. Jamie A. Seabrook, Brescia University College at Western University, 1285 Western Road, London, N6G 1H2, ON, Canada. Tel.: +1 519 432 8353/Ext.28284; Fax: +1 519 858 5137; E-mail: