Somehow you’ve managed to stave off your tattoo cravings for the entirety of your pregnancy. Now that you’ve delivered in full, you’re wondering if you can maybe, just maybe, get that tattoo you’ve been pining for? But wait, that adorable bundle of joy is breastfeeding — can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding, or are you better off just waiting? Let’s talk about it.
What Are the Risks of Getting a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?
Most answers on the internet and the doctor's office are going to be to wait until breastfeeding is over to get a tattoo. This is not because there are any definite risks to getting a tattoo while breastfeeding. The warning comes because there aren’t enough studies done showing tattoo inks and tattoo pigments are safe for the baby, so most people go for the better-safe-than-sorry route.
Most tattoo data centers around after something has gone wrong. Someone has an issue, goes to the doctor, and becomes one of the few medical tattoo cases. Most tattoo studies have to do with allergic reactions to ink, and most of these allergic reactions have resulted in the body raising and rejecting the tattoo from the body.
A few cases have studied the movement of tattoo ink, which often ends up in lymph nodes. Certain pigments in tattoo ink have been found to be carried away by the lymphatic system. Beyond traveling from the area of the tattoo to the lymph nodes, scientists aren’t sure how or if it moves elsewhere, like into breastmilk.
Getting a Tattoo While Pregnant Versus While Breastfeeding
Getting a tattoo while breastfeeding is probably safer, or at least less uncomfortable than getting inked while preggo. While the specific risks of getting a tattoo while pregnant or breastfeeding may be unknown, the regular risks of getting a tattoo are going to be more inconvenient and possibly more detrimental while pregnant. And a bit less so while breastfeeding.
After delivering your baby, your body starts getting back to normal over the next six months while you are breastfeeding your child. Hormonal levels shift, your emotions fluctuate, and your body heals.
There is still a lot going on to recover from having a child. Because the child is not in your tummy anymore, there may be less risk in getting a tattoo now that they’re out, but the risks associated with getting a tattoo are still there and your body is more vulnerable than usual.
One of the main fears associated with getting a tattoo while breastfeeding is that the ink might get into the breast milk. Though like we said, there aren’t really a lot of studies that look at this, inky milk is highly unlikely. Tattoo ink molecules are thought to be too large to enter breast milk, at least initially.
The reason people worry is because of the lymph node studies that have shown tattoo ink in lymph nodes. Once the tattoo ink has been broken down in the skin, the lymphatic system may pick it up. It’s unknown whether that passes into breast milk or not. That would mean that old tattoo inks have more of a chance of being in breast milk than a new tattoo.
There is more concern for household chemicals and indoor toxins affecting your baby than toxins in breast milk, according to a 2007 study done that looked at breast milk compared to urban and suburban toxin levels in the environment.
If you really want to protect your baby, search your house for BPAs and phthalates (used in plastics), PFC (used in chemical cleaners), PVCs, and heavy metals.
You may also want to consider that your body is still physically fluctuating and recovering after giving birth. Getting a tattoo in certain places will be riskier at this time as your body tries to find its new normal. Typically, pregnant people can gain weight in their belly, chest, butt, and a little all over while pregnant. The skin also changes, stretching to compensate for the new weight.
After you give birth, your body isn’t going to bounce back to what it was before. While your tummy might be working its way back to normal, breastfeeding is still contributing to more weight in your chest.
It might be better for you to give yourself more time to see what your new normal is for your body before getting a tattoo.
If You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding…
If you get a tattoo while breastfeeding, make sure you find a trusted tattoo parlor and a trusted tattoo artist.
What does trusted mean? Trusted means respected within the community. Find an artist who you have no doubt uses sterilized tattoo needles, cleans their equipment between uses, wears gloves during the tattoo session, cleanses your skin properly, uses non-toxic tattoo inks, and chats with you about the pigments and possible risks associated with tattooing.
If you find a tattoo artist you trust, it is your duty to tell them that you are breastfeeding. You may not want to because they may refuse to give you a tattoo, but we think honesty is the best policy, and as much as you deserve autonomy for what you do with your body, so does your tattoo artist for what they do and don’t do within their place of business.
Take extra good care of your tattoo once you get it. Eliminate bacterial risk with our CBD Foam Soap and hydrate with our Sana Sana CBD Healing Cream (which can be good for soothing those mommy stretch marks as well!).
The main risks of getting a tattoo while breastfeeding are really just the regular risks associated with getting a tattoo, slightly amplified — and amplified because you’re recovering from literally growing an entire human in your belly, not because you’re breastfeeding.
So with that, it’s generally advised that you wait until after pregnancy and after breastfeeding to get a tattoo.
It’s also worth noting that a tattoo artist or tattoo studio is unlikely to take on the risk of tattooing a pregnant or breastfeeding person. They want to protect themselves in the rare case complications arise, and it’s easier and smarter for them to tell you to come back when you are done nursing instead.
If you really want to get a move on your tattoos, maybe do a little shopping therapy to hold you over until you can safely and confidently book your appointment.