Can You Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding: Exploring Tattoo Safety During Breastfeeding

Getting a new tattoo can be an exciting experience. However, if you are a breastfeeding mother, you may have some concerns about the safety of getting a tattoo. In this comprehensive guide, we will examine if it is safe to get a tattoo while breastfeeding, look at the potential risks, and provide tips to minimize any possible side effects.

Is It Safe to Get a Tattoo While Breastfeeding?


This is one of the most common questions for nursing mothers looking to get a new tattoo. The short answer is yes, it is generally safe to get a tattoo done while breastfeeding. However, there are a few important factors to consider first.

While tattoo inks and needles today are cleaner and safer than ever before, some risks still remain. The two main concerns with getting a tattoo while breastfeeding are:

  • The potential transfer of contaminants or toxins to the breastmilk: Tattoo inks contain chemical pigments, metals, and other ingredients that could potentially leach into breastmilk. However, most professional tattoo parlors use high quality inks tested for safety. The bigger risk is from contaminated equipment, unsterile needles, or unsanitary conditions in disreputable tattoo shops.
  • The potential effects of the pain and stress on milk supply: Getting a tattoo is still an invasive procedure that involves pain, swelling, bleeding and stress hormones. This could impact breastmilk production, especially if getting a larger or more painful tattoo. However, there are ways to manage and minimize these effects.

As long as you take the proper safety precautions (covered next), the current research shows fairly low risks from modern tattooing practices. Millions of women have gotten tattoos while continue to successfully breastfeed their babies. However, risks can never be fully eliminated, so it is a personal choice each woman must make after considering the potential trade-offs.

Tattoo Safety Precautions for Breastfeeding Mothers

If you do decide to get a tattoo while breastfeeding, here are some important safety tips to follow:

Choose a Reputable Tattoo Artist and Shop

This is by far the most important factor in minimizing risks. Only go to a shop with licensed tattoo artists who:

  • Have completed formal apprenticeship training in tattooing
  • Use sterile, single-use needles and tubes
  • Open needles and ink in front of you
  • Follow proper sanitation and disinfection practices
  • Are licensed in blood-borne pathogen training
  • Have a strong reputation for safety standards

Avoid “scratcher” tattoos by amateurs or in unsanitary conditions which often lead to infections. Research local tattoo parlors carefully. Many reputable shops will also offer free touch-ups if the tattoo fades or blurs once healed. This provides extra assurance on the overall quality.

Avoid Large, Complex Tattoos

Larger and more detailed tattoos will require more needle punctures and longer sessions, increasing pain, inflammation and stress hormone levels. Opt for smaller and simpler tattoo designs which require less time and trauma. This will involve fewer health impacts and healing complications.

Time the Tattoo Carefully

If possible, the best window for getting a tattoo while breastfeeding is around 3-12 months after delivery. This avoids the crucial newborn phase where milk supply is stabilizing and baby is building immunity. By month 3, supply is well established and baby’s own defenses are stronger. Be sure to factor in proper healing time as well so the tattoo finishes scabbing before needing to latch baby on the breast/chest area.

Stay Hydrated and Well-Fed

Drink extra fluids and eat regular, nutritious meals around the tattoo appointment to stay hydrated and maintain energy. The boosted circulation and nutrients will help your body handle any stress and promote healing. Avoid fasting or dehydration around the procedure.

Use Anesthetic Creams

Ask your tattoo artist about using anesthetic creams applied 30-60 minutes before the appointment. This will numb the skin in advance to help reduce pain during the actual needlework. Less pain means lower stress hormone levels and milk supply effects.

Nurse or Pump Before the Appointment


Try to nurse your baby or pump breastmilk immediately before heading to the tattoo appointment. This ensures your breasts and milk ducts are emptied beforehand. You want to avoid engorgement or leaking milk during the procedure, which raises risks of infection. Pumping/nursing ahead of time provides a “clean slate”.

Avoid Infection During Healing

Follow all aftercare instructions closely during the healing period. Use the recommended ointments, keep the tattoo clean and let scabs naturally slough off. For tattoos located near the nipple/areola, avoid nursing on that breast until skin is fully healed. Pump that side instead and nurse only on the non-tattooed breast to prevent infections in damaged skin or milk ducts.

Are Tattoo Inks Dangerous for Breastmilk?

This is a common concern given tattoo inks contain various chemical pigments, carriers and preservatives. However, here are some reassuring facts:

  • Most reputable tattoo artists use high quality, low toxicity inks designed for skin use and safety. Pigments today are more purified than past decades.
  • Inks are injected deep under multiple skin layers where minimal absorption into blood/fluids occurs. Only miniscule amounts of ink reach breast tissue or milk ducts.
  • No evidence exists yet of harmful levels of tattoo pigments transferring into breastmilk. Only trace levels of certain elements like aluminum or cadmium have been found.
  • By following proper aftercare, you let tattooed skin heal fully before nursing again. This reduces any ink remnants left behind.
  • Any small amounts of pigments consumed by baby are likely broken down and eliminated without issue. No adverse effects on infants have been reported.

Overall the consensus is while more research is still needed, tattoo inks – when used properly on healthy skin – do not pose a significant toxic risk to breastfeeding. The bigger health impact comes from potential infections, not the inks themselves.

Tips for Pain and Stress Management

The pain, swelling and stress of getting a tattoo could impact milk supply or composition in some cases. Here are tips to manage discomfort and anxiety:

  • Use numbing cream – Apply topical anesthetics to the area 1 hour before appointment. This reduces initial pain.
  • Hydrate with electrolytes – Drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes to replenish during the session.
  • Eat a nutritious meal – Don’t get a tattoo on an empty stomach. Eat a balanced meal beforehand.
  • Focus on your breath – Use deep breathing to stay relaxed and minimize anxiety/tension.
  • Communicate with the artist – Tell them up front if you need breaks at any point.
  • Bring distractions – Listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks during the session.
  • Nurse/pump before/after – Clear milk ducts fully right before and after the appointment.
  • Take pain relievers – Use only compatible OTC pain meds like acetaminophen if needed during healing. Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • Get adequate rest – Take it easy and get enough sleep while your body recovers.
  • Watch for signs of infection or inflammation – See a doctor promptly if wounds seem infected.

The bottom line is planning properly, taking a “breastfeeding-friendly” approach to pain management, and allowing full healing time can make getting tattooed while nursing much safer and easier.

Tattoo Aftercare Tips for Breastfeeding Moms

  • Follow all your artist’s aftercare instructions closely during healing. This means:
  • Wash gently with a mild, fragrance-free soap and water. Avoid soaking the tattoo.
  • Apply a thin layer of recommended ointment 1-3 times daily.
  • Keep the tattoo clean and dry using sterile gauze pads. Air exposure is good once scabs start shedding.
  • Avoid picking scabs or scratches that can remove ink and cause scarring.
  • Wear clean, loose clothes over the area. Tight clothes can stick and rub off scabs.
  • For foot/hand tattoos, cover with bandages and avoid socks/gloves that rub.
  • No swimming, hot tubs or sun exposure until skin heals fully.
  • Before nursing baby on tattooed breast/chest:
  • Always wash skin and hands thoroughly.
  • Express some milk first and discard to clear any ink remnants from ducts.
  • If skin is cracked or leaking fluids, pump that side instead and avoid direct nursing until healed.
  • Watch carefully for any signs of infection or inflammation and see a doctor promptly if needed.

With proper sanitation and healing time, you can safely resume breastfeeding as normal. If you have any concerns about your milk supply, pump from the tattooed side to store extra milk as needed while your body recovers.

How Long Should You Wait to Nurse After a New Tattoo?


The recommended waiting period depends on tattoo size/location:

  • For small tattoos on arms/legs – Wait 24 hours after getting the tattoo to nurse on that side. For example, a wrist or ankle tattoo would mean pumping that side for 24 hours and nursing on the opposite breast only.
  • For larger tattoos on shoulders/back/chest – Wait at least 4-7 days before nursing on an adjacent chest or breast area. Tattoos around the ribs, upper back or sides of breasts require allowing more healing time and tissue swelling to subside first.
  • For tattoos near nipples/areola – Avoid direct breastfeeding on that side until skin is fully healed, up to 2-4 weeks. Only pump that side during the healing period to avoid infection risks to damaged nipple skin and milk ducts.
  • For tattoos far from breast/chest areas – No required wait time if tattoo site is on legs, feet, arms or hands. Just avoid direct skin contact of the tattoo with baby during nursing sessions.

Always discuss expected healing times for your new tattoo and when you can safely resume breastfeeding as normal with both your tattoo artist and pediatrician. Monitor for any signs of infection closely and contact your doctor with any concerns on your health or baby’s well-being.

Is It Safe to Breastfeed Right After Getting a Tattoo?

Breastfeeding immediately after getting a new tattoo is not recommended. Wait at least 24-48 hours before nursing directly from the breast on the tattooed side of your body. This allows some initial healing and gives your immune system time to start forming protective scabs.

Putting a fresh wound against a baby’s mouth raises the risks of:

  • Transferring blood, plasma or lymph fluids with contaminants into breastmilk.
  • Infecting damaged nipple skin and milk ducts which have direct access inside the breast. Tattooed skin is especially prone to infection for the first few days.
  • Potentially exposing the infant to blood-borne diseases if needles were contaminated.
  • Lowered milk supply if soreness or stress from tattooing causes short-term production issues.

To be safest, pump and store milk for 24-48 hours after getting a tattoo, then let your artist check the healing before resuming nursing on that side. Avoiding direct skin contact until some protective scabbing develops is the best way to reduce possible health risks to both you and your baby.


Getting a tattoo can be done safely by breastfeeding mothers as long as proper precautions are taken. Choosing a reputable tattoo artist, allowing adequate healing time, practicing good hygiene and following aftercare instructions closely after the procedure can minimize health risks and let you keep nursing your baby successfully.

While more research on tattoo safety is still emerging, millions of women have chosen to get inked during the postpartum period without issue by being fully informed of any potential risks. As always, discuss any concerns thoroughly with your doctor as well.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tattoos and Breastfeeding

Will tattoo ink pass into my breastmilk?

Minimal amounts of tattoo ink may be detectable in breastmilk. However, reputable tattoo inks today have low toxicity and absorption levels. No harm to infants has been reported yet from the tiny exposure. The bigger risk is potential infection if proper aftercare is not followed.

How long should I wait before nursing again after a tattoo?

Wait 24-48 hours for minimal scabbing on small tattoos before nursing on that side. For larger chest, breast or nipple tattoos, wait until skin is fully healed, up to 2-4 weeks.

Can I get any pain medication for a new tattoo while breastfeeding?

Yes, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is considered safe for pain relief. Avoid ibuprofen, aspirin and other NSAID pain relievers which transfer into milk. Also limit use of topical numbing creams.

Will getting a tattoo affect my milk supply?

It can temporarily. Pain, stress hormones and inflammation from a new tattoo may impact milk production short-term. Once your body recovers and you remove milk fully from ducts again, supply should bounce back.

How can I avoid infection when nursing after getting a tattoo?

Always wash skin and hands before nursing. Let fresh tattoos heal adequately first. Watch for signs of infection closely and avoid nursing on that side if skin appears infected or inflamed. Seek medical care promptly if needed.

Is it safe to get a nipple or areola tattoo while breastfeeding?

This area is higher risk for infection and milk duct damage if tattooed while breastfeeding. Healing takes longer so nurse only on the opposite breast and pump the tattooed side until fully healed.

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