Tattoos While Breastfeeding

*Posted as a blog entry June 19, 2009*

After three years of tattoo prohibitive pregnancy and constant breastfeeding, I finally got tattooed!  Sweet wonderful, joyous tattooing.  Any concern I had about the spiceyness of getting my neck tattooed went right out the window as soon as the needles hit my skin.  ‘Cuz of two words.  NATURAL.  CHILDBIRTH.  Hahahaha.  It was a great sit.  I didn’t even clench my teeth or tense up.  After feeling like my entire body was splitting in two with every contraction, starting from my butthole… the discomfort of tattooing suddenly pales.

TattooedLinework for now

Can’t wait to get it coloured in and do the other side.  I feel terribly asymmetrical!

So.  I waited until Maggie was 12 months old and eating more solids to get tattooed.  I never personally recommend nursing mothers (whose nurslings are getting nutrition PRIMARILY from the breast, ie 12 months and under) get tattooed because of the heavy metals. A contrary position to the LLL; from the very simple research I’ve done using MSDS info & the ingredient labeling on tattoo pigment, have found that the molecular weight is small enough to pass through breastmilk.  Unlike the LLL, I don’t believe getting tattooed while breastfeeding can be called SAFE, though I don’t think it is particularly risky either.

Exercise COMMON SENSE & PERSPECTIVE.  Tattoo pigment is not FDA approved, there are no studies.  BUT I don’t want or need the government to slap a safety label on everything I eat, touch or wear, I can figure it out myself, thanks!

So – I don’t sit for hours for tattooed while my nursling is primarily on the breast. In our shop, the decision is up to the woman’s discretion (unlike tattooing a pregnant woman – an unequival NO) and I would think it would be perfectly reasonable for a woman to decide to get some tattooing while nursing. The risk is theoretical, and very small.

There are SO MANY TOXINS in our natural world, in our living spaces. There are chemicals everywhere and while yes, it is (I feel) important to reduce our risk levels by reducing exposure, you get to pick your poisons. Our Britax Boulevard carseats off-gas, but that doesn’t mean I don’t use them. That ice cream cone on a hot summer day from the stand may not be organic, but it is sure delicious. And the heavy metals found in SOME tattoo pigments MAY impact my health if I pound enough of them into my flesh, but by gosh they sure do make me happy! Basic research and the powers of deduction show it’s certainly not akin to smoking butts or eating McDonalds daily, unless you’re talking about being tattooed from your nose to your toes, inside and outside, internal organs and all.

And EVEN THEN… The potential for health impact has essentially no negative impact on my choice to continue to get tattooed. It is a risk I am willing to take personally and I think it’s a pretty small one.  I am not going to expose my tiny little babies to that potential risk, but I am not going to be worried if/when they decide to get tattooed as adults.  I’d be seriously upset if either of my kids became smokers!

ALSO.  You can still make wise tattoo choices. There is no way that you should be getting tattooed with ink that contains formaldehyde or gluteraldehyde or anything like that. If your tattoo artist cannot have a dialogue with you about what is in their pigment, the choice is yours to find another artist. There are also a variety of pigment sources for a number of colours in the spectrum and some are definitely safer than others. You don’t have to be a scientist to realize pretty easily that glow in the dark and black light tattoos are probably not a hot plan.

Another also. The consensus seems to be “well it’s safe in the short term” (for most people, some do have allergic reactions) but what about “the long term” they ask. And about that perspective thing: one of the earliest evidence of Man on this planet, well he had tattoos. Born in ol’ 3300 BC. His body and the pigment placed into his skin were frozen in time. My point? While tattooing has only become really mainstream recently, it has existed for eons in sects of American, Polynesian and Japanese cultures (just to name a few). We’ve seen that this is absolutely one of safer activities man has taken up and has evolved appropriately over the last 53 CENTURIES!

Like anything else, make an informed decision. Use common sense and put things into perspective.