They say breast is best, so it's hard to imagine a hospital advising a mom who wants to breastfeed that she shouldn't even attempt to nurse. But that's exactly what happened to a new mom in Oregon this month. Crystal Cain was told she couldn't breastfeed her daughter in the hospital because she's used medical marijuana since pregnancy.
Take note of the word "medical." Cain is not your garden variety pothead. She actually took the drug -- legally -- on the advice of her midwife as a means to control both anxiety and nausea during pregnancy.
Cain's daughter was born eight weeks premature and required a hospital stay before coming home. That's where the mom says she was told she couldn't nurse the child because of her marijuana use. She didn't want to stop the treatment because it was helping her, but she didn't want her child to miss out on the benefits of the breast either.
When Cain put up a fight, the hospital backed off, forcing her to sign a waiver that acknowledged the potential risks of simultaneous marijuana usage and breastfeeding.
It's about as happy a medium as you can expect, but the issue certainly opens up a debate for mothers across the country. Who gets to decide what moms are doing while breastfeeding, especially in respect to legal drugs such as marijuana? A mother? A doctor? Who?
Who decides what's worth the risk to baby and what isn't?
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As medical marijuana usage gains popularity -- and legality -- in various states, there are bound to be more and more moms who are nursing ... and inhaling.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics still advises breastfeeding moms to pass on the bong, the pharmaceutical means used to treat conditions such as anxiety also scare breastfeeding moms. The medical establishment seems to waffle on the safety of taking antidepressants while nursing so often that it's hardly surprising that a mom might choose a more natural option.
Some moms opt out of breastfeeding entirely, turning to formula, because they just don't feel the risk is worth it. But it's hard to say which is better for baby -- getting the benefits of nursing with the drawbacks of anxiety and depression treatment (of any form) or going on formula to avoid those risks but not getting the nursing benefits.
Unfortunately, there isn't much medical research on marijuana usage while breastfeeding. No wonder -- what mother wants to be the one who puts her baby at a potential risk for the sake of science? That puts hospitals in a sticky position. On the other hand, moms need to make the decisions best for them and for their babies, and we need to be trusted to make that decision.
Would you smoke pot and breastfeed at the same time? How about taking antidepressants?
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