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Human Milk and Cannabinoids

Principal Investigator: Courtney Meehan, PhD. Co-PIs: Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, David Gang, Michelle McGuire, Mark McGuire, Janet Williams and Bethaney Fehrenkamp

We are in a period in the U.S. where we are experiencing rapid expansion of legalized cannabis and increasing use rates among pregnant and reproductive-aged women, yet we have remarkably little data on how cannabis impacts human milk, frequently the sole source of nutrition for infants, nor its potential associations with infant outcomes. This pilot study will work toward developing and validating methods to quantify cannabinoid concentrations in human milk and investigate how product type, use patterns, and maternal characteristics may or may not be related to cannabinoid concentrations in human milk. Specifically, we will investigate how factors, such as ∆9-THC concentrations, exposure form (inhalation versus oral ingestion), and frequency and timing of use are related to cannabinoid concentrations in HM. Additionally, we will explore the relationships between cannabinoid concentrations and select maternal characteristics, including time postpartum, age, health status, maternal adiposity, and rate of postpartum weight loss.

This study will substantially contribute to the current dearth of research that assesses risk of cannabis use while breastfeeding, providing medical professionals, public health workers, and families information needed to make decisions while addressing a significant health equity issue. Moreover, the project will coalesce an interdisciplinary team and provide initial data to pursue funding for a longitudinal research study on human milk, cannabinoids, and infant development.