Breast-feeding moms can get tattoos, but there are some risks they should know about before they commit to getting inked.“Breast-feeding moms can get tattoos, but there are some risks they should know about before they commit to getting inked.© Dann Tardif/Blend Images/Corbis

Giving birth to a child is a momentous occasion in a woman’s life. As tattoos become more popular and accepted by mainstream culture, some women choose to commemorate this event with meaningful body art. However, breast-feeding women may want to know about the possible risks involved with getting inked. (And before we begin, just a reminder that this article isn’t intended to replace any medical advice from a physician.)

When you get a tattoo, your artist uses a machine with needles that insert ink into the second and third layers of the skin. The needles pierce your skin anywhere from hundreds to thousands of times per minute.

The risk comes from this process. Dirty needles can transmit infections, including hepatitis B and C and HIV. HIV is transmissible via breast milk. Always take the time to ensure your tattoo artist works with clean equipment — disposable needles, inks and gloves unwrapped in front of you.

One potential danger of getting inked while breast-feeding is the use of lidocaine. Kristin Bonafide, a New Jersey-based tattoo artist, said, "Certain sprays that are used during the process contain lidocaine, which even after the baby is born and the mother is breast-feeding, is considered a potential hazard."

Lidocaine is a topical spray painkiller many tattoo artists use during the inking process. Studies show that lidocaine seeps into breast milk, and the manufacturer of this drug urges caution to anyone administering this drug to nursing women. However, side effects of lidocaine on a baby are typically limited to allergic reactions [source:].

Lots More Information

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  • American Pregnancy Association. "Tattoos When Pregnant." January 2014. (March 8, 2015)
  • Ask Dr. Sears. "Safe to Get Tattoo While Breastfeeding?" 2015. (Jan. 21, 2015)
  • Bonafide, Kristin. Personal Interview. Jan. 15, 2015.
  • "Lidocaine Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Warnings." 2015. (Jan. 21, 2015)
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Hepatitis C in pregnancy." July 2008. (Jan. 21, 2015)
  • Smith, Anne. "When a Nursing Mother Gets Sick." Breastfeeding Basics. 2013. (Jan. 21, 2015)


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