Can You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding

mother nursing daughter

Maybe you have successfully been nursing your child for several months now, and you just aren't ready to wean your baby just yet, but you're dying to get his or her name permanently etched on your body. Should you get a tattoo while still breastfeeding? While you would think it is a simple answer, the research in this area is lacking. Therefore, there are several important facts that you will need to consider before deciding to hit your local tattoo parlor.

Safety of Getting a Tattoo While Breastfeeding

You know there are dos and don'ts when you are nursing. Do eat healthy, and don't drink alcohol excessively, for example. You do these things to keep your baby healthy and safe. But what about tattoos? Strangely enough, there isn't an official word on whether you should get a tattoo or not, even from the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Family Physicians. There are several myths in this area, but it's the facts that are important. Find out what is known about the safety of tattoos while breastfeeding to help you make your decision.

Transmission of Toxins

If anyone has told you that you can transmit ink to your baby through your breast milk, this simply is not true. According to the la leche league international, the ink molecules will not pass through a mother's breast milk because they are too large to migrate through the mother's blood plasma to make it into the milk. This is true of both fresh and established tattoos.

Understanding Ink Safety

Another big issue with getting a tattoo while nursing is the ink itself. Here is where things can get a bit tricky. When you get a tattoo, ink is injected into your skin between the epidermis and dermis layers. First of all, while tattoo inks are approved through the FDA, injecting them into the skin is not.

This can raise some concern, especially if you are nursing, because some additives are not approved to contact skin, according to the FDA. The most toxic pigment is typically red because it can contain carcinogenic substances like lead and mercury. However, depending on the color and brand, the risk is typically low.

Consider the Risk of Infection

Tattoo Artist Making Tattoo

A major concern when getting a tattoo is getting an infection. Even if you follow all the aftercare instructions to the letter, there is still a miniscule chance that you could get an infection. This is because you are piercing the first layer of protection in your body's intricate defense system. Even with the greatest of care, you are still putting yourself at risk.

For example, while there haven't been any documented cases of HIV transmission through tattooing, human milk donation banks will not take donations from mothers that have had a tattoo in the last 12 months because of the risk of infections or bloodborne pathogens, according to la leche league International. Therefore, the risk for a local or systemic infection, while small, is very real. By getting a tattoo while nursing, not only will you be putting yourself at risk, but also your child. This was the main reason that a court in Australia banned a woman from nursing her child anymore after getting a tattoo.

Taking the Proper Precautions

If you've weighed the options and decided to get a tattoo, there are a few precautions that you will want to make sure to take as a breastfeeding mother.

Screening Shops

While it is important to screen shops at all times when getting a tattoo, it is doubly important while you are breastfeeding. Ensure that the shop is certified by the Red Cross and following all the recommended guidelines for sterilization and bloodborne pathogen prevention. It would be beneficial to sit down with the artist and discuss your situation. This would be the perfect time to explain that you are a nursing mother and discuss options.

Allow Time to Heal

Ensure that you have had ample time to heal. Many tattoo artists believe that the human body needs time to heal after childbirth. Therefore, many artists will require a mother to wait 9-12 months after birth before considering a tattoo. Many suggest as much as 18 months.

Consider the Possibility of Allergic Reaction

After childbirth, your body can change. Therefore, allergic reaction and ink rejection is a real concern, even if you didn't have a problem prior to having children. Since it is unknown how this might affect your milk, you must take this into consideration when choosing to get a tattoo.

Tattoo artist

Research Inks and Consider Less Toxic Brands

To alleviate the risk of a reaction or toxic materials, you'll want to investigate the inks that are used by the tattoo shop and the artist. Possibly find an artist that uses brands that are considered to be less toxic.

Proper Aftercare

Follow all aftercare instructions offered to you by the artist. Be diligent in watching for infection and caring properly for the healing skin.


Maybe you've waited the appropriate time, scoped out the perfect shop, and you know exactly how you want your angel's name. But where should you put it? It might seem like common knowledge, but if you are considering getting a tattoo while nursing, your breasts and nipples are pretty much off limits.

Additionally, you'll want to avoid places that your child might accidentally scratch, touch, or rub, since this can increase your chance for getting an infection or bacteria near your open wound. This can include, but isn't limited to: your forearms, chest, shoulders, and ribcage. The tops of your thighs might be a little iffy as well, depending on the season. Additionally, if you use any type of covering that might rub on your shoulder blades, it might be best to avoid those areas as well.

Some places that might work well for a nursing mother include lower back, ankle, calf, foot, and possibly even the bicep.

Weighing the Risks

While there has been very little research in this area, there are some facts and myths about getting a tattoo while nursing. While the ink will not transfer through your breast milk, some of the inks can be toxic. Additionally, the risk of infection is always a possibility when you puncture the skin. However, by doing your research and taking the proper precautions, you can mitigate most of the risks for that must-have tattoo - so the choice is yours.

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Can You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding