I LOVE tattoos and I have quite a few! Just call me, “the tattooed Lactation Consultant”!
Many women have asked me,
“Can I get a tattoo while breastfeeding? What are the risks involved?”
Tattoos and breastfeeding. Let’s start with some facts…
1. The molecular structure of tattoo ink is too large to pass through breastmilk. This means that even though the ink is being put into your skin, it will not actually pass through the breastmilk to your child. The needle is inserted into your skin and reaches the dermal layer.
2. If you look at the data, you will see that according to the CDC in the USA there have been NO documented reports of HIV transmission through tattooing since they first started keeping track of this in 1985
3. You are actually 300% more likely to contract hepatitis while at the dentist than while getting a tattoo .
4. While research shows there is strong evidence of the possibility that you can contract; hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, and syphilis while getting a tattoo, as mentioned previously there are no documented cases of HIV, 12 cases of Hepatitis (compared to 43 at the dentist) and through my research have not found any reports within Australia or the USA of people getting syphilis from tattoos.
5. People who follow the correct tattoo after-care and who are generally healthy, have a very low risk of getting an infection afterwards.
How to minimize the risks associated with getting a tattoo…
*These apply to EVERYONE!! Not just breastfeeding women. Yes we have an extra little being to think about but that does not negate the fact that every single person who gets a tattoo (breastfeeding or not) should follow these steps!
1. This one is so obvious is pains me to even write it…RESEARCH THE PLACE WHERE YOU ARE GOING TO GET A TATTOO!! Ask around! Talk to people who have gotten tattoos there before.
Ask the tattoo artists questions before you get inked!
“Can I please see your license?” (should be hanging up for all to see)
“How long have you been here?”
“How long have you been tattooing for?”
“Do you follow universal precautions to help decrease the risk of infections?”
“Where do you get your ink from? Is it possible for me to get a tattoo using non-metallic, organic pigments?”
2. OBSERVE YOUR SURROUNDINGS! Do they wear gloves? My tattoo guy changed his gloves about four times before he even started tattooing me. Do they put the ink in their own little containers (so they are not re-dipping in a communal ink pot), do they sterilize equipment in an autoclave, do they bag the ink gun and did they wash their hands before they tattooed you?
3. Follow the tattoo after-care guidelines! Follow the instructions that you are given! Research online! There are NO excuses for being slack on this. If you want to avoid getting an infection and have a tattoo that heals nicely then take the appropriate steps!
4. BE HEALTHY!! In all of my tattoo research I have never seen anyone write this but personally I feel this is also a crucial part to preventing an infection at your tattoo site while it is healing…take care of yourself! Just as with any other cut or injury on your skin, the healthier you are and the better you take care of yourself the less likely you are to get an infection! Simple as that. Do not get drunk and pass out in the bushes all night while your tattoo is healing. As a breastfeeding mother I would hope this is an obvious “do not do this” at this time in your life but I’ll say it for those not breastfeeding. 🙂
5. Consider waiting until your baby is a bit older. 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. The “healed from childbirth” opinion is one I find a bit of a stretch as there are many women who will heal quite quickly from childbirth and others who will take a long time. This has to do with your actual labour and birth, along with your general health…not the fact that you simply “had” a child. The argument for waiting due to the fact that your child is having less milk does sound reasonable but remember the molecular structure of the tattoo ink does not actually pass through your breastmilk. HOWEVER I do think that the concerns over the possibility of heavy metals in some tattoo inks are a very valid argument for waiting until your child is older and having less milk during the day (and/or night). Important to note though that to date, there have been no studies directly linking tattoos to health issues.
Bottom line? There are risks to everything we do in life, including getting in the car and getting a tattoo. It’s all about making informed decisions based on your own research! Ask questions and get to know your local tattoo artists…oh yes, and one more thing. Don’t get your tattoo in a place that wrinkles easily because you know what? When you are 85 you will still have this tattoo and you might want to show it off to your grandchildren. 🙂 The HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report is published regularly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most recent, published in December, 1997, is entitled “Estimated incidence of AIDS and deaths of persons with AIDS, adjusted for delays in reporting, by quarter-year of diagnosis/death, United States, January 1985 through June 1997.”  Hepatitis Surveillance, Report Number 56, April, 1996, Center for Disease Control and Prevention.