Mom Facts: Can You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding or When Pregnant?

tattooed mom carrying child

After nine months of being careful with your diet, physical activity and anything concerning your body, your baby is here and for the first time, your body may somehow feel like yours again. Granted, the baby still needs you but now that the pregnancy’s done, there are some things you can do again like drink coffee or indulge in a few treats.

But there are some pre-pregnancy habits that may cause you to wonder, “Can I actually do this?” For example, can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding?

Some moms would want to celebrate the birth of their child and the journey of their pregnancy by getting inked. Whether it’s a simple tattoo on the arm or daring breast tattoos, some moms would like to commemorate the experience with art. And some would reason, “Well, you can get a tattoo while pregnant right? Shouldn’t it be the same for when you’re breastfeeding?”

Today, we’ll discuss tattoos, breastfeeding and pregnancy. Can you really get a tattoo while breastfeeding? How about when you’re pregnant?

Can You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?

There are mixed views when it comes to answering the question “Can I get a tattoo while breastfeeding?” No medical organization or governing body explicitly forbids getting inked if you’re a breastfeeding mom. Also, there is no research that provides evidence against getting tattooed if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Some scholarly articles discourage getting a tattoo if you are breastfeeding.

For example, The Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health is against getting tattooed if you’re a breastfeeding mom.  Also, many tattoo establishments discourage breastfeeding moms from getting inked (the same applies to pregnant moms). Despite the lack of evidence, tattoo artists are concerned about the probability of increased risks to your health.

If you still intend to get a tattoo despite your breastfeeding status, let your tattoo artist know that you are breastfeeding.

Are Their Risks When You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?

Tattooing involves poking the skin repeatedly with a small needle coated with ink. The needle deposits the ink in dermal layer, also known as the second layer of your skin. The inks used for tattooing are not regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Tattoo inks can contain different materials such as chemicals and heavy metals found in paint and printer toner.

Some of the risks associated with getting a tattoo while breastfeeding (or in general) include:

  • Contracting a blood infection like MRSA, tetanus, hepatitis C or HIV. Unsterilized tattoo equipment can transmit these infections to you.
  • Having an allergic reaction to the inks.
  • Getting a skin infection. Signs of infection from a tattoo include redness, pus, itching or irritation on or near your tattoo.

Some tattoo-related complications will require treatments that aren’t compatible with breastfeeding. Also, you transmit HIV through your breast milk.

What are the Effects of Breastfeeding on Tattoos?

The tattoos you may have before breastfeeding will drastically change in appearance, especially breast tattoos. This is more likely due to the pregnancy than your breastfeeding. Since the body changes during the nine months, your tattoos will stretch and be discolored.

When you breastfeed, you’ll notice that your breasts are swelling. This can also cause a temporary distortion of your breast tattoos.

Can I Still Donate Breast Milk If I Have Tattoos?

You can donate milk even if you have a tattoo pre-breastfeeding or you recently got one. For the latter scenario, just make sure that your tattoo was applied by a sterile, single-use needle. Your breastfeeding donation must also follow the guidelines provided by the Human Milk Banking Association of America.

Is It Safe to Remove a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?

If you can get a tattoo while breastfeeding (up to your discretion, as well as per the advice of your doctor), can you get one removed?

Tattoo removal involves the use of lasers. The lasers shatter the tattoo pigment into smaller particles. The body’s immune system picks up these particles and filters them through your liver. The tattoo removal process can be time-consuming since it requires eight to 10 sessions spaced four to eight weeks apart.

Tattoo removal is also a painful process that causes scarring and blistering. Many of the risks associated with tattooing also apply to tattoo removal. You are still at risk for an allergic reaction to the “free” ink particles.

However, no studies indicate that the release of ink will affect your body’s production of milk. Also, it is unknown whether the ink particles will compromise the quality of your breast milk.

To eliminate the theoretical risks involved with tattoos and breastfeeding, it may be best to wait until your child has weaned before you get another tattoo or have your tattoo removed.

tattooed pregnant belly
Photo by Shvartsman Dmitry from Pexels

Is It Safe to Get a Tattoo While Pregnant?

OK, let’s go back to pre-breastfeeding. Can you get a tattoo while pregnant?

Similar to breastfeeding and tattoos, no studies or researches say that getting a tattoo while pregnant is bad for you or the baby. Tattoos have always been a gray area in pregnancy due to the lack of research on the topic. Some risks do exist.

Apart from the infection, other risks associated with getting tattooed while pregnant include the following:

  • Tattoo inks with heavy metals. Even though a tattoo needle doesn’t poke all the way through the skin, some ink contains heavy metals like lead, arsenic and mercury. These ingredients can pose a threat to your baby’s development, especially during the first trimester. This is when your baby starts to develop their primary organs. Exposure to heavy metals can also affect the child’s brain development, as well as increase your chances of having a stillbirth or a miscarriage.
  • Skin changes during pregnancy. Your body is constantly changing during pregnancy as it accommodates the baby inside. Depending on the ink that you get during your pregnancy, it won’t look the same after you have given birth.

The Bottom Line

If you want to get a tattoo while breastfeeding or when pregnant, always do your research first. Find a reputable shop and trusted tattoo artist before booking an appointment. Also, call before you book an appointment since many artists refuse to tattoo pregnant and/or breastfeeding women.

Make sure that the tattoo shop of your choice is clean. Read the reviews from the people who have gotten their tattoos done there. If you have friends or family members who were previous customers, best to ask them for feedback.

Once you’ve booked an appointment and an artist gives you the go signal, ask them if their ink contains heavy metals. If yes, best to wait until you give birth or have weaned your child.

 

Having a new baby is one of the best reasons to get a tattoo. But before you get inked, weigh the risks, be honest with your tattoo artist and talk to your doctor first.

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