Put the baby down first! Okay, sorry, we couldn’t resist. But moms are asking us: can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding? In a word, yes. But is it your best move? We recommend waiting a bit and this article will explain why.
Think before you ink.
You’ve just given birth. You’re head over heels for your new little one and you can’t wait to announce it to the world with some ink, perhaps your baby’s zodiac sign, or date of birth, or some other symbol of the forever bond you share. You don’t want to wait, and why should you have to? Is it safe to get a tattoo while breastfeeding?
Good news, moms: The ink used in tattooing does not transfer to your baby through breastfeeding. The molecules are too big to pass into your breastmilk. Yes, trace amounts can travel through your own system, likely to the nearest lymph nodes for breakdown and processing, and it’s unknown how heavy metals in tattoo ink might affect your own health many years down the road, but tattoo ink is not a risk for your baby.
Why the caution then?
We can think of two good reasons (and one less compelling reason).
The first is an entirely mother-sided reason that might appeal to your confidence and self-esteem. Your body has changed a lot during pregnancy and breastfeeding. You’ve gained weight and changed shape in ways you might not have imagined if this is your first baby. If you’ve done this before, you know that your body is going to change again within a matter of months. You might never return to your pre-pregnancy figure (that is the topic of another article!), but your body will change. Unless you are planning to tattoo your feet or your hands, it might be worth it to give your skin time to bounce back and regain its elasticity before you get a new tattoo.
The second reason to put that tat off just a bit is the risk of infection. Most of us prefer to think it can’t happen to me, but infection is a real risk of tattooing and it can happen. For any new mom, but especially one whose baby is relying on her for milk, it’s a risk that’s difficult to justify. Your body is healing from an extraordinary effort and at the same time producing milk every day to grow your little one. And if you are like most moms, you are probably sleep deprived and possibly even nutritionally compromised, all of which increase your susceptibility to infection.
The third reason is that a reputable tattoo artist probably won’t ink you if you’re breastfeeding. We say this is a less compelling reason because it’s probably ill-informed. As mentioned previously, tattoo ink will not pass into your breastmilk. Nevertheless, you will likely be asked to sign a waiver stating that you are not pregnant or breastfeeding, to protect the tattoo artist from liability.
When a breastfeeding mom knows that tattoo ink cannot harm her baby, being told she can’t get that tat she wants can feel patronizing, to say the least. Breastfeeding moms should have good evidence-based information in order to make the best choices for themselves and their babies. While a tattoo per se cannot harm your baby, we suggest the risks of the process itself are not worth it in the early months of breastfeeding.