Can You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?

Updated October 16, 2022
Young woman with tattoos holding and kissing baby boy

Maybe you have been successfully nursing for several months postpartum and you just aren't ready to wean your baby. But you're also dying to get a new tattoo. Can you get a tattoo while still breastfeeding?

While you would think it is a simple answer, the research in this area is lacking. There are several important facts that you will need to consider before deciding to hit your local tattoo parlor.

Guidelines Regarding Tattoos While Breastfeeding

You know there are dos and don'ts when you are nursing. Do eat healthily. Don't drink alcohol excessively. You do these things to keep your baby healthy and safe. But what about tattoos? There are several myths in this area, but it's the facts that are important. Unfortunately, solid evidence on the topic is lacking.

The Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health advises against getting a tattoo while still nursing. However, the publication does not offer further information regarding their recommendation. Furthermore, the Drugs and Lactation Database last revised in 2021 notes that there is no available data on the safety of tattooing and breastfeeding.

Tattoo Safety Concerns to Consider if Breastfeeding

Since there are no solid guidelines, it might be helpful to find out what is known about the safety of tattoos while breastfeeding to help you make your decision.

Transmission of Toxins

Information regarding the transmission of ink to your baby through your breast milk is conflicting. 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. However, it's unknown if ink can pass through the breastmilk as the body breaks it down months to years later.

Ink Safety

Another big issue with getting a tattoo while nursing is the ink itself. When you get a tattoo, ink is injected into your skin between the epidermis and dermis layers. While tattoo inks are approved by the FDA, the process of injecting them into the skin is not. The process of putting inks into the skin is regulated by local authorities.

This can raise some concern, especially if you are nursing, because some additives are not approved to contact skin, according to the FDA. The La Leche League notes that tattoo inks can include heavy metals like cadmium and manganese.

Risk of Infection

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 small 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 this reason, the La Leche League suggests not getting a tattoo until 9-12 months when the baby isn't solely dependent on breastmilk.

Tattoo Safety Tips to Follow When Breastfeeding

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. While it can't completely negate the risk of infection or allergic reaction, it can make sure any complications you might encounter are minimal.

Use a Professional

While it is important to always screen a tattoo shops, 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. They should also have a license through your state.

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. If done sooner, they will typically require you to fill out a waiver.

Avoid 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.

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.

Follow 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.

Choose Your Spot Carefully

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 of getting an infection or bacteria near your open wound.

This can include, but aren'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 the lower back, ankle, calf, foot, and possibly even the bicep.

Talk to a Healthcare Provider

Since there is very little research in this area, you might want to talk to your pediatrician or healthcare provider before getting inked. They can take a look at the research and give you their professional opinion, which can help you to weigh the risks.

Can You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?