To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo While Breastfeeding
Your baby’s arrival is certainly something to celebrate, and if you’re like some parents, you might be thinking about commemorating their birth with a new tattoo. While this urge is understandable, postpartum tattoos come with some amount of risk—especially if you’re breastfeeding and/or pumping.
Can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding?
Tattoos pose serious infection risks while you’re still recovering from childbirth. The realities of postpartum life, like hormonal changes and sleep deprivation, may lower postpartum parents’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to infection in the first place. So when you add a tattoo into the mix, you may delay your overall healing. Plus, a tattoo that isn’t kept properly covered (adhesive barriers tend to fall off when you have a wiggling infant in your arms) is more likely to become infected. Medication to manage an infection, i.e., antibiotics, might not be compatible with breastfeeding or pumping, and there is also the danger that you could spread an infection to your baby.
If you’re already tattooed, you’ve likely signed a waiver listing the potential hazards associated with skin ink, including scar tissue, allergic reactions, bacterial infections, and even HIV. While these dangers are unlikely in a legitimate professional studio that takes the necessary safety and sterility precautions, they’re still possible—and they’re all the more troubling when you’ve just given birth. Most of these waivers also include fine print warning you to not get a tattoo while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Beyond the health risks associated with postpartum tattoos, there are practical reasons not to mark a rapidly changing body. Depending on where you were thinking of inking, you’ll probably be more pleased with your new tattoo if you wait until your body stabilizes and the surface area in question stops expanding or shrinking so quickly. It’s also worth noting that tattoo aftercare takes some energy, and for lactating parents, energy tends to be in short supply.
Finally, if you’ve already been tattooed while breastfeeding and you’re only finding this research now, don’t panic. Talk to your doctor or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant about how to best avoid infection and keep yourself and your baby safe. While tattoos during breastfeeding are not recommended, you probably haven’t done any irreparable harm, and a doctor or IBCLC can help you take proper precautions from here on out.
Considering all the aforementioned risks, it’s better to wait to get that tattoo until after you’re finished nursing and pumping. In the meantime, though, you can start dreaming up the tattoo you’ll get to salute this milestone in your life.