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Is Getting Tattooed Safe If You're Breastfeeding?

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Artistic body modifications like piercings and tattoos are at the height of popularity today. With many mothers practicing extended breastfeeding – nursing their children beyond their first birthdays – it is possible that your desire to get a tattoo may coincide with a time in which you are still nursing. But, is getting tattooed safe if you're breastfeeding?

Despite there being no evidence that it has any adverse affect on breastfeeding, getting a tattoo is not without risk. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that anyone who gets a tattoo is at some risk for infections, an allergic reaction, scarring, granulomas, and future complications when getting an MRI. A breastfeeding mom must weigh the potential risks to her body, no matter how small, before deciding to get a tattoo. Contracting a severe infection or experiencing an allergic reaction requiring medication or even hospitalization, may affect a mother's ability to continue nursing.

It's important to note that according to its own website, the FDA "has not approved any tattoo pigments for injection into the skin. This applies to all tattoo pigments, including those used for ultraviolet (UV) and glow-in-the-dark tattoos. Many pigments used in tattoo inks are industrial-grade colors suitable for printers' ink or automobile paint."

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The FDA also reported that research has shown that some pigment migrates from the tattoo site to the body's lymph nodes. However, according to La Leche League International's (LLLI) Breastfeeding Today, the possibility of tattoo ink migrating to the milk-making cells of the breast is negligible because of the size of the ink molecule.

Even if the overall risk is small, LLLI noted that most tattoo artists will not knowingly tattoo a pregnant or breastfeeding mother. Many feel that the body needs time to heal, which is more difficult to do when a mother is recovering from childbirth or breastfeeding. It has been suggested, according to LLLI, that mothers wait until the child's first birthday to give their body's a chance to completely recover after child birth. Also, nursing toddlers are less vulnerable to potential infections or reaction than a newborn.

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If you decide to get a tattoo, Anne Smith, IBCLC, from Breastfeeding Basics recommended that you screen the shop carefully to make sure they are following all safety procedures. You should also make it a point to follow all of your post-tattoo care instructions to minimize the risk of infection.