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There are numerous health considerations to make when you breastfeed, so you may wonder if tattoos are a factor. Preexisting tattoos don’t impact the breastfeeding process. Getting a tattoo and undergoing tattoo removal are different matters.

Take precautions if you want a tattoo while breastfeeding. It may be a good idea to delay tattoo removal while you breastfeed because it’s unknown whether the broken-down tattoo ink can get into your milk supply.

Read on to learn more about breastfeeding and tattoos.

There are no regulations against breastfeeding with tattoos.

The placement of tattoos does not increase any risks when breastfeeding, even if they’re on your breasts. The tattoo ink is unlikely to get into your milk supply and the ink is sealed under the first layer of your skin, so the baby cannot contact it.

Safety

There are mixed opinions on whether it’s advisable to get a tattoo while breastfeeding. No governing body or medical organization forbids getting a tattoo if you’re currently breastfeeding. Moreover, no research exists that provides negative evidence of breastfeeding and getting tattooed.

The Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health advises against getting a tattoo if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Tattoo establishments may not allow you to get a tattoo if you’re breastfeeding. They may be concerned about the possibility of increased risks, despite the lack of evidence. They may also be concerned about liability. If you do get a tattoo while breastfeeding, you may have to sign a legal waiver.

If you decide to get inked when you’re breastfeeding, let the tattoo artist know that you’re breastfeeding, and use the same precautions as anyone else seeking a new tattoo.

Risks

The tattooing process carries risks.

During the process, your skin is repeatedly poked with a small needle coated with ink. The ink is deposited in the second layer of your skin, known as the dermal layer.

Inks used for tattooing are not approved or regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this use. Inks can contain a variety of materials including heavy metals and chemicals found in printer toner and paint.

Some of the risks of getting a tattoo include:

Complications following tattoo application can require treatments that may not be compatible with breastfeeding. For example, certain medications cannot be used when breastfeeding. Additionally, you can transmit HIV through breast milk.

Precautions

Consider these precautions if you decide to get a tattoo while breastfeeding:

  • Use a licensed tattoo facility with a good reputation. A tattoo professional should use clean and sterile materials.
  • Be mindful about the placement of your tattoo. Your tattoo will take a few weeks or longer to heal. You may feel more pain if you get a tattoo in certain spots of your body while you’re breastfeeding. Think about how you hold the baby when breastfeeding and whether the baby will rub against the tattoo site.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have certain health conditions and are seeking a tattoo while breastfeeding. These include conditions like blood clotting, heart, and autoimmune conditions.
  • Keep your tattoo site clean while it heals. Wash the area with soap and water, and protect the tattoo when you’re in the sun.
  • Use safe pain-relieving medicines. Acetaminophen is generally considered safe while breastfeeding and can reduce pain.
  • While there’s no scientific data available on the safety of tattooing while breastfeeding, theoretical concerns exist regarding transmission of ink pigments to the infant during breastfeeding. Discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor.

Lasers remove tattoos over several sessions by breaking down the ink in the dermal layer of your skin into smaller particles. Your immune system sweeps these broken-down particles to your liver. Your liver then filters them out of your body.

No studies have examined whether those particles can enter your milk supply and be passed to the baby. To limit the risk that the baby might ingest the particles, wait to remove your tattoos until you’re no longer breastfeeding.

Given the uncertainty of the safety of tattoo removal and breastfeeding, it is unlikely that a doctor will agree to move forward with the procedure while you’re breastfeeding.

You may find that tattoos that you had prior to breastfeeding have changed in appearance. This is more likely to be from pregnancy than breastfeeding. Your body changes during pregnancy, and your tattoos may stretch and discolor.

Breastfeeding can cause your breasts to swell if you are engorged and could cause temporary distortion of a tattoo on the breast.

You may find that there are certain myths circulating about tattoos and breastfeeding. Here are a few.

Can tattoos harm your breastfed baby?

It’s not likely that tattoos you had prior to breastfeeding will harm the baby. The ink won’t transfer from the dermal layer of your skin to your breast milk.

Can you donate breast milk if you have tattoos?

You can donate breast milk if you have tattoos, even if they are recent, as long as they were applied with a single-use sterile needle, following the guidelines of the Human Milk Banking Association of America. A milk bank will screen your milk for safety eight days after any new tattoo.

You can breastfeed if you have tattoos, but there are mixed opinions on whether you should get a tattoo if you’re currently breastfeeding.

If you decide to proceed with a tattoo while breastfeeding, take precautions to make sure the process is safe, and contact your doctor if you have any concerns. Wait to get a tattoo removed until after you’re done breastfeeding.