Are tattoos safe during nursing?

The Pediatric Insider

© 2013 Roy Benaroch, MD

“I’ve just recently gotten a tattoo and I’m still breastfeeding my daughter. Is it safe?”

There are two potential issues with getting a tattoo while nursing, though neither one is a huge risk.

One is that tattoo needles can theoretically transmit diseases like hepatitis C or HIV. However, legitimate tattoo artists use sterile or single-use needles along with other steps to ensure tattooing is safe. The risk of transmission if reasonable precautions are taken is very close to zero. So a back-alley tattoo is a bad idea, but a tattoo from a legit business that takes infection control seriously is unlikely to lead to unexpected diseases.

The other potential issue is from the tattoo ink itself. Tattoo inks are not regulated medically– that is, they’re not safety-tested to make sure they’re safe for injection. However, I know of no actual cases of babies being sickened from the chemicals in tattoo inks. In practice, tattoo inks have been used for many, many years and are probably safe. But there’s no medical authority watching over tattoo inks, and no one can guarantee that they’re safe for you or your breast milk.

I will say that it would be a bad idea to have a tattoo removed while nursing. Tattoo removal involves using a laser to break the ink pigment into little bits that can then be carried away and excreted by the body. That means that the tattoo ink bits will be in your blood, traveling around, and we really know even less about the safety of these little particles than we do about the safety of the intact ink. If you have a tattoo and you’re nursing, it is much better to leave it alone than try to have it laser-removed.

So: no one can guarantee that tattooing is safe while nursing, but with reasonable precautions it probably is, and if there is any risk it’s probably very, very small. The definite good health benefits of nursing both for you and your baby in my judgment mean that you ought to keep nursing, and don’t worry about it.

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3 Comments on “Are tattoos safe during nursing?”

  1. quadrophenic Says:

    Great information! As a non doctor but someone who is tattooed I would add that since there is of course a risk of infection with a tattoo, that if you’re concerned about breastfeeding while on antibiotics you may not want to take that risk.

    I was in the process of tattoo removal before pregnancy and stopped once I became pregnant. While nursing I called to see when I could resume and if they thought it was safe while breastfeeding. (My clinic is run by a doctor who I trust). They told me it was ok but I’d have to pump and dump for a given time. That didn’t really sit well with me because removal just breaks up the ink immediately while it takes weeks for your blood to pick up the ink and take it away (forgive my clumsy lay description). If my bloodstream is picking up ink particles for weeks, it didn’t make sense to pump and dump after the treatment then continue to breastfeed. Once I get around to resuming treatment I’ll share this info with them!

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  2. […] body (such as the AAP or WHO) have issued warnings against the practice.  I felt history and science indicated that it was a safe choice for me.  The considerations put forth in this article were […]

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  3. Mollie Says:

    Why would you risk ? yes, Tattoo removal is safe to an extent and I’ve got one from Toronto’s Beuti-med clinic. It involves a lot of laser and creams that might go harsh on skin. And why should not be getting it done if you are still breastfeeding is because if at all your skin gets affected there are chances that it can either spread to other parts or transfer the allergic reactions to the infant. Never do it if you’ve had history of skin allergies.

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