Getting Tattoos While Breastfeeding: Risks and Precautions

Getting a Tattoo While Breastfeeding – Is It Safe?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sanjana Sainani (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

For new mothers, the safety of their baby is of the greatest priority. New mothers will take great care with everything they do, and all the lifestyle choices they make while pregnant or nursing a new-born baby. Some new moms, however, would like to get a tattoo in order to cherish this special moment in their life. In this article, we will look closely at some possible concerns with regards to getting a tattoo while breastfeeding.

Can Breastfeeding Moms Get a Tattoo?

Tattoos are created using a machine that has ink coated needles piercing the skin at a rate of hundreds of times a minute in order to create a design. These needles only penetrate to a few millimetres in the top layer of the skin and deposit ink just below the surface of the skin. While there is no conclusive study with regards to the dangers of getting a tattoo while breastfeeding, there are, however, some important safety considerations to be taken into account. The first of these would probably be the impact of the ink used for tattoo-making contaminating breast milk. This, should not be of much concern since the molecules of tattoo ink are too large to contaminate breast milk.

Can Breastfeeding Moms Get a Tattoo?

Another concern would be the risk of infections from the procedure itself. There are two possible types of infections that can occur on account of getting a tattoo. Local infection can occur on account of the failure to take the necessary care after getting a tattoo and may include swelling or scarring around the tattoo. Local infections pose no threat to the baby being nursed. Systemic infections are those that occur on account of negligence by the tattoo artist. Since tattooing involves the piercing of the skin by needles, equipment that is not sterilised and a generally unhygienic environment can cause blood-borne infections like hepatitis or HIV. While HIV can pass through breast milk to the child, a cracked nipple may transfer the hepatitis virus to the baby.

A tattoo on the breast while breastfeeding is not recommended, as it cannot be appropriately cared for while nursing; and if the tattoo does get infected, it would mean that breastfeeding would have to cease until the infection has healed.

Precautions You Should Take to Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding 

Certain precautions must be taken before you get a tattoo; these precautions are necessary for everyone, whether or not you are a nursing mom. The following precautions should be kept in mind while getting a tattoo during breastfeeding:

  • Ideally, wait until your baby is older than a year, and not completely dependent on breast milk.
  • Tattoos on the breasts should be avoided.
  • Some groundwork with regards to the reputation of the tattoo artist or parlour is a must.
  • Make sure that the tattoo artist is using sterilised equipment; the machine, ink cups, etc. should be prepared before you and should not be lying around when you walk in.
  • Ensure that there is adequate lighting in the parlour. This not only ensures a well-done tattoo but also a cleaner, healthier environment.
  • It is also important that you see the artist washing his hands before starting the process.
  • Insist on natural inks and pigments as industrial pigments may be unpredictable with regards to infections.
  • After getting a tattoo, some time and attention must be given to healing of the tattoo area, on an average a tattoo takes one to three weeks to heal. Precautions include protection from exposure of the tattoo to direct sunlight, refraining from alcohol consumption, the regular use of antibiotic gel and frequent inspection of the tattoo and surrounding areas for signs of infections.

Risks Involved in Tattooing While Breastfeeding

There are certain risks of getting a tattoo while breastfeeding, these include:

  • Although rare, sometimes, nursing moms may have an allergic reaction to the pigments and ink used for making a tattoo. An infection will cause a temporary halt in breastfeeding.
  • Since tattooing involves the piercing of a needle through the skin, certain infections may be caused. These include Hepatitis and HIV that can be passed on from the mother to the baby under certain circumstances. The only way to prevent this is to approach a reputed tattoo artist and ensure that proper hygienic procedures are followed.
  • A tattoo may cause more localised problems like bumps, scars or granulomas. While these infections pose no threat to the baby, the mother may need to visit a doctor and have them treated.
  • While getting a magnetic resonance imaging scan (an MRI scan) done, some people with tattoos can feel swelling and pain, in and around the location of a tattoo. These symptoms are mostly temporary and will disappear shortly.

Is It Safe to Remove Tattoos While Nursing?

The use of lasers for tattoo removal makes the whole process very easy, painless, and with virtually no side effects. The laser emits powerful high energy light beams that break up the ink into smaller particles; these particles are then flushed out of the body by the immune system. This procedure is safe enough to be used by nursing moms and many women have undergone this procedure while breastfeeding their babies.

Is It Safe to Remove Tattoos While Nursing?

Are There Any Temporary Alternatives to Tattooing?

Henna is a natural pigment that has been around for hundreds of years; it is usually used for colouring hair, but can also make for nice temporary tattoos on the skin. If you would like a tattoo during breastfeeding without having to be exposed to the risks posed by a regular tattoo, then a henna tattoo would be a wise choice. A permanent tattoo can always be pursued when you feel it is safe to do so.

Getting a tattoo while breastfeeding may not be proven harmful but it is still advisable that the decision is delayed till the baby is a year old and all the precautions and risks highlighted above have been duly considered.

Also Read: No Breast Milk After Delivery: Reasons And Diagnosis

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