Can You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?

Tattoo While Breastfeeding: Is It Safe For You And Your Baby?

With a new baby comes a new set of precautions and worries.

New mothers, and especially breastfeeding ones, are constantly wondering if what they do will affect their baby's health.

One of the most common questions is: "Can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding?"

To answer, we must talk about the potential risks of tattooing and the harm that it may pass on to the breastfeeding baby.

Let's get started.

Is there a possibility of contracting HIV or other infections when getting a tattoo?

In the past, when sterilization procedures were not as robust, that was a possibility. 

If you get a tattoo at a tattoo parlor today, though, you have very little to worry about.

All tattoo parlors must pass health and safety inspections, which means that their equipment must be meticulously sterilized to avoid passing on infections.

Since the CDC began recording HIV transmission in the 1980’s, there have been no documented reports of anyone contracting HIV after getting a tattoo at a tattoo parlor (source).

But you must remember that tattoo parlors are sterile environments; your friend’s couch, however, is not.

If you get a tattoo in a non-sterile environment, such as someone's home, you run a greater risk for contracting HIV or other blood borne diseases. If you want to safely get a tattoo while breastfeeding, have it done at a reputable tattoo parlor, not at home.

Can the Tattoo Ink Harm the Breastfeeding Baby?

Another common concern is that the tattoo ink can get into the breast milk and harm the baby.

This takes a little bit of research on what the tattoo ink actually does to your skin.

When a tattoo gun punctures your skin and inserts ink, it only reaches the skin's dermis layer. The dermis is below the epidermis, which is your skin's outer layer.

Your dermal layer contains cells called fibroblasts that store the ink permanently, even when the outer epidermal layer is shed as the tattoo heals and peels.​

See this video for a detailed description on how tattoos work.

Ink molecules stay in the dermal layer forever.

The molecular ink structure is large compared to the tiny blood vessels, or capillaries, in your skin. Too large, in fact, to enter those capillaries and slip into your blood. 

Even if your tattoos are on your breasts, the ink will not leave the dermis or enter the breast milk. So, you don't have to worry about your baby ingesting tattoo ink, no matter where your tattoos are.

Healing a Tattoo While Breastfeeding

Tattoos are technically puncture wounds to our skin, and therefore, need time to heal.​

When you first get a tattoo, you will experience an inflammatory response. The skin will become red around the tattoo area and may swell slightly.

While you are breastfeeding and your body is producing milk, your body's immune response may be dampened, due to the body's prioritizing of creating milk over fighting off infection.​

What this means for mothers getting tattoos is that their bodies may not be able to heal the tattoo properly or as fast as a non-breastfeeding person would.

This is why many doctors do not recommend getting a tattoo while breastfeeding: they would like to make sure your body can properly heal a tattoo and keep you and your skin healthy.

For this reason, experts will recommend that you wait until 12 months after your child's birth to get a tattoo.

How to Safely Get A Tattoo While Breastfeeding

If you decide to get a tattoo while you're still breastfeeding, and you've waited at least 12 months after your baby's birth, you should still take some precautions for your and your baby's health:

1. Get your tattoo at a clean, professional tattoo parlor. 

How do you choose a parlor that you're positive will keep you safe and clean?

Ask questions.

Ask your tattoo artist if they follow universal precautions.

These are a set of rules that govern tattoo artists and dictate how they sterilize their equipment and keep their hands and chairs clean.​

In addition, you may want to ask if that artist offers organic, non-metallic tattoo ink.

2. Take care of your tattoo.​

Listen well when your tattoo artist tells you the after-care procedures and ask questions if anything is unclear.

Ask for written after-care instructions and follow them religiously. Always clean your healing tattoo to minimize the risk of infection.

Remember, the tattoo is a wound, and open wounds can become infected if you do not care for them properly.

Don't expose your new tattoo to anything that could infect it, such as dirt.

So, back to the main question: can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding?

The answer is not simple.

If you decide that you still want a tattoo, let's one more time go through the integral steps you should take to keep you and your baby safe:

  • Wait until 12 months after the baby's birth.
  • Get a tattoo at a reputable tattoo parlor, not at home.
  • Ask plenty of questions about the tattoo parlor’s safety and cleanliness procedures.
  • Follow every after-care step for the recommended amount of time.

What are your thoughts on getting tattoos while breastfeeding?

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