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.

bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

24 comments

  1. cay · May 1, 2010

    Hello-I love the pictures of you getting tatooed with your baby in your arms! They are precious! I go to a breastfeeding support group and the woman who leads the group collects pictures of woman breastfeeding in public or in unusual places (the train, restaraunt, etc.). Could I share your pictures with her?

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  5. minnie · May 1, 2010

    hey i want to get one my daughter is two months is ok to get one noe

  6. Twwly · May 1, 2010

    Hi Minnie, it was my personal choice to wait until my daughter was mostly eating solids to get tattooed, for the reasons posted above. :) This would be 9-12 months or more.

  7. -k- · May 1, 2010

    I had just made an appt today and started to have doubts!! My son is 3mos old and I am ebf…which is why I paused for a moment after the excitement of adding to my my bodyart died down. Now…I think I will wait. No need to be stressed out unnecessarily, right?! Thanks for being so open.

  8. ramona · May 1, 2010

    hey thanks for this info it muchly helped as everywhere else i looked didnt realy have any straight information as my bub is 5 weeks prem with a 15 mnts at home ive been waiting awhile already and now knowing alittle more about the ups n downs of it all wats another 6-12 mnts wait till my girls on mostly solids or off the breast to get another tattoo as much as i want one now thanks again

  9. betsy · May 1, 2010

    blacklight ink is actually safer than regular ink, in a lot of cases. in the US it is the only ink that has been tested and regulated by the FDA. the pigment is actually suspended in tiny capsules and never touches your skin, unlike regular ink. i had a long talk with my tattooist about safety concerns before getting tattooed when my daughter was 6mo. i chose UV ink specifically for safety reasons (ok, and also aesthetics). i was too tense to nurse during, but i held her the whole time and nursed right after.

  10. Twwly · May 1, 2010

    Betsy, you’re making the assumption that tattooers using non-regulated inks are using shit, which is largely false. Many use pigments mixed with ingredients that are entirely safe. You’re also assuming people tattooing with UV pigments are using the “approved” ink, and last I read, the one and only FDA approved pigment was only approved for use in FISH.

  11. Randi · May 1, 2010

    Hello. You wrote this article some time ago. I’m thinking of getting a tattoo. I haven’t yet looked into where to get it done, but am looking for information prior to making an appointment. The connection between breast-feeding and tattoo ink shockingly never crossed my mind. do you have any updated information aside from this post?

  12. Twwly · May 1, 2010

    Hey Randi, nothing has changed in tattoo pigment or breastmilk that has altered my opinion on this matter since I posted. :)

  13. Margaret · May 1, 2010

    Hi! I found your blog through a fan on my page. I’d love to know if you have any breastfeeding tattoos? Please email me! My page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Inktlactivism-Intactivist-Lactivist-Tattoos/165714413523003

  14. Mimi · May 1, 2010

    Nice article : )
    What does MSDS stand for?

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  16. sam · May 1, 2010

    Just wanna say I have a 6 month old and i’ve been very anxious to get a tattoo for a while now and I started her on solids a couple weeks ago, and I only breastfeed her once, or twice a day now. Would it be safe if I would get a tattoo? Just wondering on your thoughts…

  17. Anonymous Coward218 · May 1, 2010

    MSDS= Material Safety Data Sheet
    EVERY product manufactured has one, but YOU have to ask for, and often demand one, but by law, they have to give you one…then YOU get to research the components listed…in other words, it was a LOT of work for Twwly to answer a question that SHOULD be easy to find an honest, and simple answer to!

  18. Anonymous Coward218 · May 1, 2010

    I stumbled into this blog while doing an image search, but was curious….what is the tat on your leg? Actually, your right shin…it pixelates too much when I blow it up….
    ;)

  19. Twwly · May 1, 2010

    Bride of Frankenstein as the Virgin Mary. :)

  20. Michelle · May 1, 2010

    Beautiful!!!

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  22. 2013 ??????? ?? · May 1, 2010

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  23. Sophie · May 1

    I don’t think its a good idea..ii totally disagree about this post..Actually i consider that after baby and while pregnancy you should not get tattoo on body.

  24. Robert · May 1

    Woman have to care after baby and during pregnancy and if she loved to tattoo then she have to forget to do this while the above situation because its a harmful for mother and baby also.