Many mothers choose to get tattoos before and after their pregnancy but might wonder if it is okay to do so while breastfeeding.
There is no rule or safety regulation against getting a tattoo while breastfeeding and the ink is sealed within the top layer of skin and should be unable to get into your milk supply because the molecules are too big to pass through. The primary risk involved is the potential for infection of the mother’s skin.
Does tattoo ink ever leach into breastmilk? And will tattoo parlors be okay giving you a tattoo while you’re breastfeeding? Keep reading to find out!
Is it okay to get a tattoo while breastfeeding?
If you’re breastfeeding and want to get a tattoo, you might find yourself wondering if the procedure is safe. After all, nearly every other aspect of your life has been affecting by breastfeeding: your schedule, your sleep, your diet. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to add one more thing to your “avoid while breastfeeding” list. You’ve likely gotten used to putting off certain activities until your life stabilizes once your little one gets a bit older.
Getting a tattoo while breastfeeding comes with some mixed advice. One big worry is that the ink from your tattoo might somehow leach into your breastmilk and make it unsafe for your baby to drink. Luckily, that isn’t the case. When you get a tattoo, an ink-coated needle is injected into the skin to make patterned designs. Molecules of tattoo ink are big enough that they won’t be able to contaminate your breast milk.
Although your breast milk is safe from tattoo ink, there are some other concerns to consider before finalizing your new tattoo design.
What are the risks of getting a tattoo while breastfeeding?
Even though tattoo ink won’t compromise your breastmilk, there are some risks to consider if you want a new tattoo while breastfeeding. Any time you get a new tattoo, there is a risk of infection. There are two types of infections that could occur when you get a tattoo: a local infection and a systemic infection.
Local infections occur immediately around the tattooed area, while systemic infections can spread through your body. Local infections won’t affect your breastmilk or your baby, but systemic infections can pass from your body to your baby via breastfeeding.
An unhygienic tattooing environment can cause infections such as hepatitis or HIV which are passed via infected blood. Both of these can be passed from you to your baby through breastfeeding.
Because of the additional risk to the baby, many tattoo parlors won’t allow you to get a tattoo while pregnant. Before you get a tattoo, you’re usually asked to sign a waiver. This waiver asks if you are pregnant or nursing, along with a host of other requirements. Tattoo artists usually don’t want to take on the extra risk that a breastfeeding mother might develop an infection she could then pass on to her baby.
When can I get a tattoo while breastfeeding?
If your tattoo artist gives you the all-clear and you feel comfortable getting a tattoo while breastfeeding, here are some things to consider:
- Try to hold off on getting a tattoo until your baby is at least a year old. At that point, they’re not completely dependent on your breastmilk anymore. If you do develop an infection, your baby won’t go hungry.
- Make sure that the tattoo artist or parlor has a good reputation, and is known for their cleanliness. All equipment should be sterilized, and the space should have good lighting.
- Go Natural. If possible, try to use natural inks and pigments. Industrial products are more likely to cause infections. Research has shown that some tattoo inks can even contain pigments used in printer toner or car paint!
- Give your new tattoo time to heal properly. Don’t expose your new tattoo to direct sunlight, and avoid drinking alcohol (which you’re probably doing already if you’re breastfeeding often). Keep an eye out for any infections, and get them treated as soon as possible if you notice any symptoms.
Is tattoo ink toxic to the body?
Although some ink pigments have been approved by the FDA for cosmetic purposes, they haven’t approved them for injection into the skin for tattoos. Because the FDA hasn’t approved tattoo ink, there can be a huge variation in the safety of the inks used for tattoos. Some tattoo ink has been shown to contain compounds that are toxic to the human body.
Tattoo inks can include heavy metals, plastic-based pigments, industrial organics, and other chemicals. Because of the variety, some inks can be more dangerous than others. The composition of these inks can lead to chemical risks to the body, in addition to the risk of infection from the tattoo itself. It’s not uncommon for people to experience allergic reactions to their new tattoos, including rashes, fever, and other symptoms of infection. Sometimes, treating these infections necessitates the use of antibiotics.
Even though tattoo ink molecules are too big to contaminate breastmilk, the molecules can still travel around the body. A small study reported that tattoo ink can migrate to the lymph nodes of tattooed individuals, where they can deposit pigments and heavy metals, some of which are known to be toxic.
Does tattoo ink enter the bloodstream?
In order to enter your lymphatic system, some components of tattoo ink can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.
In a study done in May, 2017, researchers tattooed mice with black and red ink. The ink was found not only in the lymphatic system but also in the liver cells of the mice. In order to get to the liver, the ink would have to travel through the bloodstream. Carbon black ink can break down into what are called ‘nanoparticles’ that can travel through the body. Titanium dioxide is a common ingredient in white inks, and can also break down into particles small enough to travel into the lymph nodes.
Even though some components of tattoo ink can break down and enter the bloodstream, most of the ink from a tattoo stays very close to the tattoo itself. If it didn’t, the tattoo would fade quickly after the initial injection.
Should you pump and dump after getting a tattoo?
Because tattoo ink can’t contaminate breastmilk, you should be able to continue to feed your little one normally after getting a tattoo. If you develop a localized infection around the tattoo, your milk supply might be affected, but you won’t need to dump your expressed breast milk.
If you develop an infection such as HIV or hepatitis as a result of your tattoo, you’ll need to stop breastfeeding your child immediately. Cracked nipples can transfer hepatitis to your baby, and HIV can pass directly from breast milk to your little one. If you’re concerned about the safety of your breastmilk due to any infection or illness, contact your doctor for further instructions. To be on the safe side, try to wait to get a tattoo until your baby is at least a year old and no longer completely dependent on your milk.
What about eyebrow tattoos while breastfeeding? (Microblading)
Microblading (tattooing your eyebrows) is just a specialized form of tattooing, and because of that, it comes with many of the same risks.
You can develop an infection just as easily with microblading as you can from a ‘regular’ tattoo.
As with many tattoo parlors, it’s unlikely that your aesthetician would agree to give you an eyebrow tattoo while you’re breastfeeding. Even if you aren’t concerned about the possibility of infection, a business won’t want to take unnecessary risks with their customers. It’s safer, from an insurance perspective, for them to minimize risks and hold off on microblading until after you’ve finished breastfeeding.
If you do find an aesthetician willing to perform a microblading procedure while you’re breastfeeding, follow the same rules as you would with getting a regular tattoo:
- Wait until your baby is at least a year old
- Make sure the parlor, spa, or office is clean and sterile
- Ask for natural pigments
- Take care of your eyebrows by following your aesthetician’s instructions