Getting tattooed while breastfeeding is often discouraged by health experts. Learn what risks tattooing poses to breastfeeding moms and how long you should wait before getting inked.
Tattooing while breastfeeding is frowned upon – but is it dangerous? I had this very conversation with my OB towards the end of my last pregnancy.
As I sat on the exam table making small talk, my doctor noticed my new ankle tattoo. I told him that I planned to get another soon in honor of my daughter, just like I had for my son. He suggested I wait until my daughter was at least one year of age. He explained to me that while we don’t know for sure if getting tattooed while breastfeeding is harmful to mom or baby, there are risks.
After birth, the body needs time to heal. Most tattoo artists will not knowingly tattoo a pregnant or breastfeeding mother due to the risk of infection, allergic reaction, and possible tattoo rejection. Some experts also believe that the ink injected during a tattoo can seep into the breastmilk supply and affect the health of a nursing baby.
What the Experts Say
“The risks of undergoing tattooing during pregnancy or breastfeeding are unclear and rather theoretical. However, because a tattoo can always be performed afterward, we suggest delaying any tattooing procedure until the end of pregnancy/breastfeeding.”
– Tattooed Skin and Health, J. Serup, N. Kluger, W. Baumler
“Tattoo inks are made of synthetic or natural pigments and the FDA does not regulate them as they are not meant to be injected under the skin. Tattoos are permanent because the ink remains walled off within the body via the body’s inflammatory process, making the possibility of the ink migrating into the mother’s blood plasma and then into the milk-making cells of the breast, next to impossible.”
– Babies, Breasts and Body Mods, Robyn Roche-Paull, BSN, RN
“It is generally agreed upon that waiting until your baby is about 12 months old is a good idea. The reasoning behind this is because you will be totally healed from childbirth and your baby will be taking in less of your milk as most children at the age are eating a bit of solid foods.”
– Tattooing and Breastfeeding, Meg Nagle
“Tattooing in and of itself, as long as it’s done in a reputable way, and as long as infection control procedures are followed, are low risk. We would absolutely encourage women who have had tattoos to breastfeed their babies for as long as they choose to.”
– Is It Safe to Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?, Karleen Gribble
“The ink used for tattoos will be safe, as it primarily stays in the skin and does not get into the circulation. However, the needles used for the tattoo will pose a very small risk of transmitting hepatitis C. Recent research shows that a larger, multi-colored tattoo poses a higher risk than small black tattoos.”
– Safe to Get Tattoo While Breastfeeding?, James M. Sears, MD
Know the Risks
The primary concern with getting a tattoo while breastfeeding is the risk of contracting an infection, such as tetanus, HIV, or hepatitis. While the risk is minimal, local and systemic infections can occur if the proper safety precautions are not taken by the tattoo artist or tattoo parlor. Some infections may pass the breast milk to the baby. Other risks include allergic reactions to the ink which can a disruption in breastfeeding.
Choose Safety First
If you make the decision to get a tattoo while breastfeeding, you’ll want to follow some important safety guidelines. Check to see if:
- The tattoo artist is a registered practitioner
- Is wearing gloves while administering the tattoo
- Uses sterilized equipment
- All needles are new and made for single use only
- Floors and other surfaces are clean
- Dressings are unopened and sterile
- Ink used for tattoos are unopened and sterile packed
If you’re breastfeeding and considering getting a tattoo, you may be concerned about the risks involved. “Tattoo-related infections aren’t common, but they do happen,” says Dr. Daihung Do, a dermatology instructor at Harvard Medical School. “They can take various forms – I once saw a patient who developed warts as a result of a tattoo.” To play it safe, err on the side of caution and wait until you’ve finished breastfeeding before getting inked.