Can I Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?

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People get tattoos for many reasons: as a form of self-expression, for artistic or spiritual purposes, to honor someone they’ve lost, or to sanctify a special relationship. Many new parents get tattoos of their children, or of their growing families.

If you are a new parent who’s breastfeeding, you may be considering getting a tattoo of your sweet baby. You may even want to immortalize the breastfeeding experience through your tattoo. Or maybe you’re simply at a point in your life where you are ready to get the tattoo you’ve always dreamt about. Either way, you are wondering if getting a tattoo while you are still nursing your little one is safe.

The truth is, there is not much research on the topic of getting a tattoo while breastfeeding. Experts are divided, with some saying it should be avoided until breastfeeding is over, others saying you should delay it until your baby is older, and still others saying that getting a tattoo is likely not a problem. All experts agree that if you do get a tattoo while breastfeeding, you should take precautions, and consult with a doctor or midwife before doing so.

We consulted with two experts—Natasha Spencer, OB-GYN with Orlando Health Physician Associates, and Ashley Georgakopoulos, IBCLC, lactation director at Motif—to discuss the safety of getting a tattoo while breastfeeding, and any precautions you should take.

Getting a Tattoo While Breastfeeding

Currently, there is no data on the topic of getting tattoos while breastfeeding, and no major medical organizations have put out statements on the matter. This can make it difficult to make a decision about whether or not getting a tattoo is right for you.

Dr. Spencer’s reservation about recommending tattoos to breastfeeding parents is the risk of infection from the needles used during the procedure. “The main concern with tattooing is the risk of contracting an infection such as Hepatitis B/C and HIV,” she says. “These infections can be transmitted to the baby through the breastmilk or cracks and bleeding on the breast while breastfeeding.”  

However, the ink itself is not usually a concern for the baby. “The tattoo ink is unlikely to get into the breastmilk supply and the ink from tattooing is sealed under the first layer of skin and deposited into the second layer of the skin called the dermis,” says Dr. Spencer. Still, she cautions, there are instances when tattoo ink is tainted with bacteria or the ink itself causes an allergic reason.

For these reasons, Dr. Spencer advises waiting until your baby is older (9-12 months) and not exclusively breastfeeding anymore. She also recommends taking precautions if you do get a tattoo while you are breastfeeding, such as making sure the tattoo artist is licensed and uses clean, sterile equipment.

Georgakopoulos agrees that similar precautions should be taken if you are considering getting a tattoo while breastfeeding, but believes the procedure to be generally safe. “There are no breastfeeding-specific risks associated with getting a tattoo,” she says. “Breastfeeding parents should observe general safety precautions when getting a tattoo that they would regardless of breastfeeding status.”

While she agrees that there is a risk of infection while breastfeeding, the risk is small, and the antibodies in breastmilk are protective against those infections.

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about getting a tattoo while breastfeeding.

Benefits of Getting a Tattoo While Breastfeeding

Getting a tattoo doesn’t offer specific benefits to a breastfeeding baby or to breastfeeding itself. But getting a tattoo may feel personally gratifying or fulfilling to a breastfeeding parent, which is certainly valuable. Sometimes parents feel like they lose their sense of self when they are parenting small children, and getting a tattoo may be a way to recapture that feeling of independence and self-expression.

Safety Precautions

Many parents will choose to wait until their babies are past the newborn stage to get a tattoo, or simply delay until they are done breastfeeding. If you do end up getting a tattoo while breastfeeding, there are some precautions you can take to decrease the risks involved.

Only Use a Licensed Tattoo Artist

Most states have licensure regulations for tattoo artists and tattoo parlors. Dr. Spencer recommends that you do some research before deciding to use a particular artist or facility. “Make sure they are licensed with a good reputation, look into their quality control measures as well as their citations and violations from the health department,” she says.

You should also make sure all the equipment they use is clean and sterile. Dr. Spencer says you should tell the artist you are breastfeeding, as they may ask you to sign a legal waiver before you get your tattoo since many establishments don’t allow tattooing while nursing.

Discuss the Procedure with a Healthcare Provider

Whether or not to get a tattoo while breastfeeding is something you should discuss with a healthcare provider. While Georgakopoulos argues that getting a tattoo is usually a low-risk activity for breastfeeding parents, she cautions that parents who are at high risk for infections, or who have compromised immune systems, should wait till breastfeeding is over to get a tattoo.

You may also need to discuss the risk of possible infection to your newborn with your pediatrician. As Dr. Spencer mentions, the main risks to your baby are infection with Hepatitis B, C, and HIV.

The Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) and the CDC say that maternal infections with hepatitis B and C are not transmitted via breastfeeding, but that HIV infection is. That doesn’t mean becoming infected with hepatitis B or C is a risk you should take, however, and your baby may have particular health vulnerabilities that a pediatrician can discuss with you.

Additionally, as Dr. Spencer points out, bloodborne infections like hepatitis B and C, or HIV, can be transmitted to your baby if your nipples become cracked and bleed during breastfeeding.

When Can I Resume Getting a Tattoo?

If you decide or a healthcare provider decides that getting a tattoo while breastfeeding is ill-advised, you can certainly get one after you have weaned. If you are breastfeeding long-term, you may decide that getting a tattoo while your breastfeeding baby is older makes more sense for you.

In addition to the possible safety risks involved in getting a tattoo while breastfeeding, Dr. Spencer advises that waiting might make sense just in terms of the appearance of your tattoo. This is because your body goes through many changes during pregnancy and the postpartum period and you might want to wait until your body returns to a new normal.

“A tattoo may look nice initially but can become distorted or lopsided after you regain your pre-pregnancy shape, especially if it is in a location that is prone to expand as the pregnancy grows like the belly and hips/side,” Dr. Spencer says.

A Word from Verywell

When you have a new baby, each decision you make can feel weighty, and you might feel unsure about the best decision for you and your baby. Deciding whether or not to get a tattoo while you are breastfeeding can be confusing, especially when there is little clear guidance out there about whether or not it’s safe.

Still, what is known about getting a tattoo while breastfeeding points to the fact that while doing it may be a low-risk activity in certain circumstances, it is not a risk-free activity. That’s why it’s important to discuss the prospect of getting a tattoo with a healthcare provider rather than making the decision on your own. If you do decide to get a tattoo, make sure you take all safety precautions necessary to decrease the potential risks.

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Article Sources
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  1. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Tatooing. Updated June 21, 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B or C Infections. Updated March 31, 2020.

  3. Healthy Children. Serious Illnesses and Breastfeeding. Updated November 2, 2009.

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