Breastfeeding is known to increase an infant’s lifespan, enhance lifelong cognitive function, and bolster resistance to sickness and disease. However, while breastfeeding comes with several well-documented, scientifically proven benefits, it can be dangerous for infants whose mothers consume certain substances — including cocaine.
If you plan to breastfeed, it’s important to be aware of the risks that certain substances, including cocaine, will pose to your newborn. A great deal of what a mother consumes or ingests while breastfeeding will pass through to her baby through her breast milk — including illicit drugs like cocaine. By learning more about the dangers of using cocaine while breastfeeding and seeking professional care if necessary, you can make life better for both you and your child.
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Is it Safe to Use Cocaine While Breastfeeding?
While the high that people experience from cocaine use is relatively short, the drug can linger in breast milk for a significant amount of time. According to the book Counseling the Nursing Mother, after a mother uses cocaine, larger amounts of the substance are present in her breast milk than in her blood, so it is never safe to use cocaine while breastfeeding.
Babies’ bodies are extremely sensitive to cocaine because they lack the enzyme needed to break it down quickly. In fact, trace amounts of the drug can be found in an infant’s urine for longer than one week after they ingest it through their mother’s breast milk.
To help lower the risk that infants will be exposed to cocaine through breast milk, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine suggests that women who have abused cocaine should not breastfeed unless they have a negative maternal urine toxicology at the time of delivery and have been abstinent for at least 90 days.
They also recommend that mothers using cocaine enroll in a substance abuse treatment program, like those offered at The Recovery Village, before breastfeeding. While breastfeeding does benefit infants in numerous ways, feeding a child baby formula is significantly safer and better for their long-term health than risking cocaine exposure.
Side Effects Cocaine Has on Breastfeeding
Any mother who breastfeeds should not use cocaine under any circumstances. Even trace amounts of the drug can have both short and long-term consequences on infant health. Some of these side effects can even be life-threatening.
While the effect that cocaine has on infants hasn’t been studied extensively, some observed side effects include:
How Long Does Cocaine Stay in Your System?
The amount of time that cocaine stays in your system can vary depending on a wide range of factors, including the amount ingested, individual body chemistry and length of use. Length of use is particularly important, because with increased use comes the increased risk that cocaine will enter the body’s tissues, causing the drug to linger in the body for longer.
Typically, levels of cocaine in the blood peak within 30 minutes after it is initially ingested. Approximately one hour later, half of the cocaine originally ingested leaves the body. The remaining cocaine can take significantly longer to dissipate. On average, cocaine is detectable in a person’s urine for two to four days after initial use. For those who use cocaine regularly, the drug may be detectable in urine for up to 12 days.
What this means for breastfeeding mothers is that cocaine stays in the body long after its initial effects wear off. While the length of time that cocaine stays present in breast milk after ingestion isn’t certain, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine suggests that women who previously abused cocaine do not breastfeed until they’ve been abstinent for at least 90 days.
How to Stop Using While Breastfeeding
Cocaine poses a broad range of risks to health and happiness for anyone who uses it. However, once someone becomes addicted to the drug, discontinuing use can be extremely difficult. Because cocaine is physically addictive, people who use the substance over long periods of time experience harrowing withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop. This can make it hard for anyone to quit, but particularly challenging for mothers experiencing the stresses and difficulties that inherently come with being a new parent.
However, because of the life-threatening risks that cocaine poses to infants, any mother who wants to breastfeed must stop using cocaine. This is the only way to guarantee that none of the drug will pass to their child. The best option for new mothers is to either formula feed or breastfeed after completing a drug rehabilitation program.
Cocaine addiction is a disease, but recovery is possible. If you struggle with cocaine addiction, know that you have options. Treatment at a rehabilitation center like The Recovery Village can help you detox safely, work through the underlying issues that drive your addiction, and teach you the coping skills you need to continue recovery for life.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Your child needs you. Reach out to a representative today for more information or to get started. Same-day admission options are available, and there’s no obligation to begin treatment when you call.
Lauwers, Judith; Swisher, Anna. Counseling the Nursing Mother. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2016. Accessed June 24, 2020.
Cressman, Alex; et al. “Maternal cocaine use during breastfeeding.” Canadian Family Physician, November 2012. Accessed June 24, 2020.
Reece-Stremtan, Sarah; Marinelli, Karen. “ABM Clinical Protocol #21: Guidelines for Breastfeeding and Substance Use or Substance Use Disorder, Revised 2015.” Breastfeeding Medicine, April 2015. Accessed June 24, 2020.
American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Appropriate Use of Drug Testing in Clinical Addiction Medicine.” April 5, 2017. Accessed June 24, 2020.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.