As a tattooed mum and a breastfeeding mum this is something quite close to me as I cannot wait to have my first gorgeous baby boys name inked onto my skin in permanent remembrance of how much I love him. I went to my artist who I have trusted with all my ink and he told me I had to wait until I had stopped breastfeeding my son. This upset me to start with but after doing some research and talking to him about it in-depth, I have decided to follow his advice.
I could go to another artist, there are plenty around that will just go ahead and ink you no questions asked, some will ask but don’t care and others will tell you the risks and let you choose, but I have decided for myself to trust my artist’s decision. He is, after all, the professional and just like any professional, you go to them because you trust them to help you make the right decision.
So what are the risks posed by getting a tattoo and how do they affect breastfeeding mums? There are several kinds of infection that pose a risk to anyone getting a tattoo, an infection from a dirty environment or unsterilized equipment and an infection from poor after-care, such as not keeping your tattoo clean while it heals.
As a tattoo is under the skin, there is generally always at least a little blood that leaks while being inked. Any infection you do get will be a blood borne infection, which will pass directly into your milk and in turn pass to your baby. This is also true for while it is healing, just like any open wound with a scab. If you do not care for it, there is a very real chance of infection, which will also be bloodborne and pass to your milk. Please be aware though, there is no risk of the ink passing into your bloodstream and into your milk.
Most reputable tattoo parlours do not pose a risk of infections such as HIV or hepatitis as they are clean, safe environments with well maintained, sterile equipment. When going anywhere to get a tattoo there are several things that are important to look out for to ensure you come away with a clean healthy tattoo.
- Good lighting ensures a clean tattoo as well as a good looking one
- Clean separate sink much like a commercial kitchen this is a standard hygiene requirement.
- Metal tool trays separate ones for new and used equipment. (NO PLASTIC!)
- Sterile single use gloves just like a doctor would never use the same gloves twice neither should a tattoo artist.
- Sterilization markers on packaging generally a colour indicator to show the contents are sterile
- Biohazard containers the yellow needle disposal bins. These must be clearly labelled, away from work areas and not too full of waste.
- Everything is opened in front of you when you sit down to have your tattoo drawn up and stencilled onto your skin there should not be open needles etc already, this should all be opened just prior to beginning the tattoo.
- A waiver you can understand most tattoo parlours make you sign a waiver stating that you understand the risks, if you don’t get one or don’t understand it, don’t get your tattoo until you do.
- Proper aftercare instructions your biggest risk of infection is during aftercare, if your artist doesn’t give you enough information or you’re not sure, ask questions until you understand completely what you must do to keep your tattoo clean and healthy.
If all of these safety and hygiene measures in place there is no reason you should get an infection from having a tattoo, but the reality of life is that things happen sometimes, even when we are super careful. I value my son’s health above all else, especially my own desires to get inked, so I will be waiting until I stop breastfeeding before I get another tattoo, but ultimately the decision is up to the individual.
Do you think it’s worth the risk? Would you do it or would you wait?
Here is a video of a tattoo being applied in slow motion!