Tattooing clients that are breastfeeding

Many tattooists will be asked during their career ‘can I get tattooed if I’m breast feeding?’.

There’s not a lot of scientific research on the subject so it can be difficult to make an informed decision however some information by internationally recognised breastfeeding organisations most notably La Leche League International or LLLI is available.

It doesn’t seem that there is much risk to the mother or infant above the normal risks of getting tattooed. They do say  (LLLI) that you should wait till the baby is 9-12 months in age as a traumatic process can change the makeup of the breast milk and younger babies could be susceptible to this but not too much else that is based on science.

So besides the normal risks of getting tattooed such as allergic reactions or infection there is another risk worth considering, namely the migration of nanoparticles  in tattoo ink (the ingredients/chemicals in the ink).  This article delves into the migration of nanoparticles from the skin to lymph nodes and is worth reading, most notably  the statement which was found to be true, ‘particles in the ink had indeed migrated through the lymphatic system to the lymph nodes, which filter lymph, the fluid that carries white blood cells through the body to fight infections.’

Following this finding you couldn’t be faulted for questioning if nanoparticles from the ink could find it’s way into mammary glands and therefore into the milk a mother produces for her child.  We know that tattoo inks are currently under scrutiny from the ECHA (European Chemicals Agency) for the quantities of certain harmful chemicals in them and that in most countries the inks are largely unregulated.

It’s a shame that so little scientific research is available on how tattoo inks reside in our bodies.  I’m sure each tattooer will have their own standing on it . Breast feeding mothers don’t want to be told they can’t make certain choices like getting tattooed if there’s no evidence against it, but at the same time as a tattooer you may feel uncomfortable with the lack of scientific studies on it and information available or simply don’t want an increased risk of liability (tattooing the mother could in some way effect the well being of the baby if it’s dependent on breast milk).

For the time being a rule of thumb would be to refer the client to their doctor and let them make the decision, we’re not qualified for it and in this day and age you really want to cover all bases.

Hopefully the links below will provide some information on the topic and be of some use which ever way you decide to go.