What to Know About the Risks of Getting a Tattoo While Breastfeeding

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on November 04, 2022
5 min read

Tattoos are a fun and expressive way to show your interests, emotions, and what you care about. They're a form of body art that, for the most part, permanently marks your skin. There are, however, temporary tattoos that you can get, like henna, which places ink on top of your skin that fades over time. 

When it comes to permanent tattoos, though, ink is placed underneath the skin, typically using a needle or another sharp object. 

Tattoos are popular worldwide, in many different cultures, for many different reasons. In America, the popularity of tattooing your body has risen, and over 50% of Americans under the age of 40 have tattoos, some more than one. 

The significance, meaning, and reason behind why someone has a tattoo can vary. Some like getting tattoos as an art piece, while others have tattoos as souvenirs or reminders. Some even get tattoos to honor family members, to bring awareness to certain diseases, or just because they can. 

For an expecting or new mother, a tattoo may be a way to express their love for their unborn or newborn child. You might be wondering, "Can I get a tattoo while breastfeeding or pregnant?" Unfortunately, you should avoid getting tattoos while breastfeeding.

Tattoos are a great way to express yourself. Especially if you’re into art, tattoos can be a fun and quirky way of representing and expressing that love. There are many tattoo artists available, each with their own unique style of art, and some that even allow you to design your own piece and bring it in to have it tattooed wherever you like. 

Some factors to consider before getting a tattoo include: 

  • The piece: Tattoos are permanent, and, unless you plan on getting them removed or covered up with another tattoo, they are also forever. Because this permanence is on your skin, you want to make sure that the piece you get is carefully thought out. Don’t choose something on a whim. Really think about what you want, how big you want it, and if you want it black and white or colored.
  • The placement: As important as the piece itself, you want to make sure that the place you get tattooed is a place where you won’t mind yourself or others seeing it all the time. Many people also want tattoos to be easily covered, especially if they have a job that frowns on tattoos and has strict dress-code policies. Additionally, some places are more sensitive when it comes to pain, so if it’s your first piece, choose a place that might not be as painful to get a tattoo on.
  • The artist: Finally, the artist needs careful consideration too. Artists should have the proper certificates to ensure that they are doing everything by the book and practicing safety, including using clean and sterile needles. Also, you’ll want to choose an artist whose artwork you like and won’t mind having displayed on your body permanently.

There are also many situations where getting a tattoo may seem more enticing, like:

  • Memorable events: Many people choose to get tattoos as a momentum of a memorable event. Some events memorable enough to make a tattoo out of include graduation or the birth of a new child. Of course, expectant mothers and new mothers currently breastfeeding should exercise caution as getting tattooed while carrying an unborn child or breastfeeding can negatively impact your child.
  • In honor of someone: Have you lost someone recently? Or maybe you just really love and appreciate someone. Either way, many people get tattoos in honor of a loved one. Whether it be a parent, grandparent, sibling, child, friend, or even a pet, being able to honor someone with a piece of you is a special occasion. Additionally, some people get tattoos to symbolize someone that has autism or has beaten cancer.
  • Representation: Representation is another popular reason to get a tattoo. Are you a member of the LGBTQ+ community? Or maybe your faith or spirituality means a lot to you, and you want to express that. Many people get tattoos to represent a part of their everyday life.

There are also a few instances where the timing of getting a tattoo is off, and it might be better to wait, such as when pregnancy happens, or if you’re currently breastfeeding. Other factors that may make you want to wait on getting a tattoo are if you’re currently on blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder.

Some expectant or new mothers might be curious about any present tattoos they have and if they would affect their pregnancy or breastfeeding. Generally, preexisting tattoos don’t cause harm to unborn or newborn children. One concern is that the ink could migrate into the milk supply, but it’s nearly impossible for the ink to transfer from the parent’s bloodstream into the breast where the milk is made.

Even so, there’s still some concern about whether ink can transfer into breastmilk, especially since the ink tends to break down in the body during the months and years following the tattoo procedure. For this reason, it’s important that expectant and breastfeeding mothers wait to get a tattoo. 

There are also risks associated with getting a tattoo when pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Risks of Getting a Tattoo While Breastfeeding

What are the risks of getting a tattoo while breastfeeding?

One of the main risks of getting a tattoo while breastfeeding or pregnant is infection. Even for those who are not currently pregnant or breastfeeding, infections are one of the most common side effects of tattoos. Both local and systemic infections can occur with tattoos. Strict aftercare is recommended in the form of cleaning the tattoo with mild soap and water, avoiding picking at scabs, and keeping the tattoo away from the sun. 

Local infections happen when you fail to follow the proper aftercare regimen. Systemic infections happen when the tattoo artist fails to follow universal precautions, like using a clean and sterilized needle. Systemic infections can result in tetanus, hepatitis, and HIV

You may also experience an allergic reaction to the ink. Red inks are typically the most common ink type to cause reactions. 

Infections can harm your unborn or nursing child, so it’s important to wait to receive a tattoo. Additionally, your body must have time to heal after a tattoo, and you should put it under the stress of pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Another infection that can be contracted with tattoos in methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. And medications used to manage these infections are often unsafe for breastfeeding parents to use.