Tattoo risk while breastfeeding

We’re giving away some tattoo aftercare balm and a tattoo.  Seriously.  Keep reading.  But if you want to skip to the giveaway part, the short version is that if you’re using a safe, reputable shop, there is almost no risk to getting a tattoo while breastfeeding.  Which is good news if you’re breastfeeding and want to get a tattoo.  Woohoo!

open line work tree and bird arm tattoo


From time to time we’re asked on The Leaky Boob Facebook page about the safety of getting tattoos while breastfeeding.  While there isn’t a lot of information out there regarding studies done specifically on getting tattoos while breastfeeding, most health care professionals agree that as long as you are using a reputable shop that follows all the guidelines required for safe-handling and hygiene, there is no real risk to the breastfeeding relationship for the mother to get a tattoo.

Please note: don’t tattoo babies or small children, that would just be mean.

Just a few weeks ago, following Camp MommyCon near Denver, Colorado, I had a what has been a long planned appointment for my very first tattoo.  And yes, I’m still breastfeeding 2 year old Sugarbaby.  This appointment with Colin Kolker at Chroma Collective Tattoo Co. was in the works for a long time, generously gifted to help me realize a healing dream I’ve had for over 2 years to reclaim a spot on my arm scarred along my motherhood journey.  Colin helped me express my healing, inner strength, and the beauty that I have found along the way with a symbolic and meaningful tattoo that represented all of that to me.  You can read about the story and meaning behind my tattoo here.


open line work delicate tree and birds tattoo

Before I even made the appointment, I answered all the questions I could on breastfeeding and getting a tattoo.  Personally I decided that the risk, while minimal, was enough for me to want to wait at least until Sugarbaby was over 12 months old simply because should something happen she would no longer be dependent on just breastmilk.  Even though I was confident nothing would happen.  Finances and opportunity pushed it back another year.  At that point I felt I was well informed on any potential risk and what I could do to all but eliminate even that.  Confident that it was safe, the only nervousness I had going into my appointment that evening was that it would hurt.

It did hurt.  I had tattoolas to help me though.  Because support makes all the difference, don’t you know.  Also, people, stop comparing tattoos to giving birth.  It’s totally different and just because I can handle pain when necessary (and I can’t actually stop it anyway) in order to push out a baby does not mean I’m not a wuss about other pain.  To be clear, I’m a total wimp.  Tattoos hurt.  About like you think it would hurt to be repeatedly stabbed and scratched with a needle.  Because that’s exactly what’s happening.  But the pain was totally worth it and in some spots it even felt good, kind of like a tens unit.  Other spots felt like torture.  Still, not like giving birth, the sensation is much less than that of giving birth.

mom tattoo Chroma Tattoo

Shout out to the MommyCon Tattoolas Laney, Xza, and Alyssa!

Here’s what I considered in making my decision to get a tattoo as a breastfeeding mother:

  1. Ink molecules are too large to get into the blood stream and milk.  Sugarbaby wouldn’t have ink flavored milk but I did love that Chroma Collective Tattoo Co. used nontoxic vegan ink they were happy to show me and explain.  This also meant I was less likely to have an allergic reaction to the ink as an immune response and made me feel more comfortable with my decision.
  2. The shop I chose meets all safety standards, sterilizing the equipment and practicing good hygiene.  Breastfeeding or not, seriously, this is a minimum.  Avoid infection by going to a clean, licensed, reputable shop.  They should have an autoclave, single-use inks, gloves, and needles.  Look them up on review sites and check with the local department of health to see if they comply with health code standards.
  3. My health was in my hands, if I followed the protocol for aftercare I would further reduce any risk of infection or possible harm to me and Sugarbaby.  I followed Colin’s directions exactly and not only did I not have any issues, using the Motherlove Tatto Care, I healed surprisingly fast and with almost no flaking or peeling.
  4. Tattoos have been a part of various cultures for a very long time and is legally supported.  Some tattoo artists may refuse to give a breastfeeding mother a tattoo but no major recognized medical body (such as the AAP or WHO) have issued warnings against the practice.  I felt history and science indicated that it was a safe choice for me.  The considerations put forth in this article were helpful.
  5. I don’t tend to have allergies so I wasn’t personally worried that I was likely to have an allergic reaction to the ink.

delicate tree and birds tattoo and breastfeeding

Tattoos aren’t for everyone and some who may want a tattoo may still feel more comfortable waiting until their nursling has weaned.  For me going through with my ink dream is something I’m incredibly glad I did knowing the risk was almost nothing.

I promised a giveaway.

nontoxic tattoo aftercare

And now… you can get a tattoo and take care of it too!  Motherlove Herbal Company is giving away their Tattoo Care to 3 lucky Leakies.  I used Motherlove Tattoo Care from the very beginning as part of my aftercare regimen.  Colin had instructed me to keep the area moist, not letting it dry out by rubbing in Motherlove Tattoo Care several times a day.  It worked like a charm.  Motherlove Tattoo Care is made with certified organic ingredients, handcrafted in Colorado using the same tried and true organic ingredients that have been trusted in other Motherlove products for over 20 years. This thoughtful formulation of herbs provides optimal moisturizing and healing properties, yet retains a consistency that is comfortable to apply. Unlike petroleum based products, Motherlove Tattoo Care allows the skin to breathe, promotes quicker healing, and allows ink to fully penetrate the skin.

Chroma Collective Tattoo Co. Giveaway

Tattoo in progress selfie!


We’re also giving away a 2 hour session with Colin Kolker at Chroma Collective Tattoo Co. in Parker, Colorado (outside Denver).  One lucky Leaky will win a  2-hour custom tattoo session at Chroma Collective Tattoo Co. in Parker, Colorado with artist Colin Kolker. Value: $300 but no cash value. Gift Certificate will be mailed to winner or can be picked up at the shop.  Some restrictions apply.  If the piece is more detailed/larger, the winner will be responsible to pay any remaining difference. If the tattoo takes less than 2 hours, the remaining balance cannot be rolled over into a second tattoo/session- good for one session only. Colin is booked pretty solid but has a few availabilities in Sept/Oct and on so there could be a wait time for an appointment.  Must be 18+ and the winner is responsible for their own transportation to and from the Parker, Colorado shop location.

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  1. Sarah vugrich says

    Something for my boys probably on my upper back or where I can cover it!

  2. Danielle M. says

    I have two tattoos. One on my foot, the other on the back of my neck. Now that I have reached the 12 month mark of breastfeeding, I’d love to get another symbolizing the journey and growth I’ve experienced since my son was born.

  3. Brittany maples says

    An infinity family tree with my babies names as the branches

  4. Danielle says

    I have 3 tattoos! My first was when I was 15 and my last was when I was 26 or 27. I have a palm tree on my stomach, a cross/dove on my foot, and a treble/bass clef on my wrist. I’d love to get another but haven’t decided what or where yet!

  5. Beth Gordon says

    Thanks for writing this piece! I have been DYING for new ink, but have been hesitant because I have been breastfeeding for the last 20 months. I wanted to mark both my parenting journey, and my personal journey with achieving my goal of playing professional football (in a women’s league, of course!). A few of the ladies on my team went out to get some ink at the end of last season, but I declined because I had NO idea if I could/should or not. Now I know I can celebrate those chapters in my life the way I want to, and still keep my Little Bear happily munching! Yay!!!

  6. I’ve been dreaming of getting a flight sequence of birds on my side.

  7. I have an all seeing eye tattoo with two scarabs. To me it represents the journey for truth both during this life and afterwards. It is on my chest and neck

  8. Courtney Hill says

    I dont have any tattoos yet but Ive been wanting a breastfeeding tattoo to represent to kids, and my career as a lactation consultant!

  9. I have a butterfly for my oldest. I plan on getting three peas in a pod for my three kids. I also plan in getting a breastfeeding tat. Going on 3 years with my youngest!

  10. Amber Green says

    I’ve been nursing for 20 months! I love that we have support out there for full term Breastfeeding! I share my family’s story in my blog as well! join our story!

  11. I would get a breastfeeding mother with my sons’ names somehow interspersed. I’m thinking on my side.

  12. Tiffany G says

    I have been waiting to look into getting one but with all this info I’m going start <3

  13. I don’t have any tattoos yet. Planning on getting a breastfeeding tattoo with my sons’ names.

  14. I’ve been wanting a tattoo of my three kids names in the shape of a heart on my back.

  15. I’ve planned to get the word joy on one if my wrists, but after a long struggle with infertility before my miracle baby, I think I’ll also get the word hope on my other wrist!

  16. Jessica Littlejohn says

    I love body modified mamas and papas !

  17. Amber Epps says

    I would get a bird of paradise flower on my mid back. I do not currently have a tattoo.

  18. Ashley A says

    Beautiful tattoo and awesome product for new tattoos!

  19. kayley thomas says

    Already have one planned. 5 cherry blossoms representing our family along with one cherry blossom bud to represent our Angel Baby.

  20. I have many ideas for a tattoo! The next one I want to get is a mermaid along my ribcage/under my boob on my left side. the fluke would be over my sternum and the head on my on my side/back.

  21. Kayla Moreno says

    I have 2 tattoos. A clover and a stone peace sign around it. I wan to incorporate a tree of life and family info on the branches. Lots of fun ideas I’d like to do!

  22. Ganesha left shoulder

  23. Melissa Green says

    I have two tattoos. My favorite is one on my back that represents my relationship with my own mother. It’s a flower in her favorite color on top of a tribal design because she died right after I returned from Africa. She was my biggest supporter for that trip. I want to get another one on the back of my shoulder to represent my fight with infertility and a genetic disease that makes pregnancy a risky endeavor, my miscarriage, the child I have now, and the one that will be joining us in a few months.

  24. christine says

    I can’t wait to get a pelican on my upper arm, as part of a sleeve.

  25. I have always wanted to get the rose from amnesty international’s anti FGM campaign tattooed on my shoulder!

    • I want something that represents my family our heritage. I want the tree of life with my initials that match my daughter’s and my husband’s initials which will match our second child.

  26. This is awesome!

  27. I have 4. On my side between my waist & hip, on my inner ankle, and on the inside of my wrists. If I win I want a chest piece!

  28. Teri Evans says

    So happy i seen this, I’ve been trying to find out if i needed to waiter for a while. Thanks for the info

  29. I have been wanting to get a mommy/birth/personal strength tattoo for four years now, I’ve been planing something on my back or rib cage. I want forget me not flowers and something for my kids and their births. Really hope I can win the tattoo!!

  30. Darcy Dukes says

    I have been hankering for another tattoo ever since my Rowan was born–a rowan tree branch to start a sleeve of meaningful flowers/plants. And since I used to live in Parker, I’d love yet another wonderful reason to go back and visit.

  31. I’d get something to mark our upcoming 3year breastfeeding anniversary!

  32. I was planning to get my new tattoo on my 30th birthday but I was pregnant with my almost 1 year old then so I’ve been putting it off until after he’s 1. Still breastfeeding but I had similar thoughts to the article author.
    I’m getting an octopus on my hip.

  33. My husband and I both have been contemplating new tattoos and who would do them since our tattoo artist moved to Seattle. I’m really leaning towards and Anchor with some lyrics from It Is Well, signifying my life as a Navy wife, doing 2 deployments and trusting God that He will help through it, making it well with my soul even though it may not be well with my circumstances.

  34. Monica Powell says

    I’ve been wanting to get a pinup girl on my arm!!

  35. My husband and I have been planning a couple’s tattoo for over a year now. Of course, just a few weeks before our appointment was scheduled we found out I was pregnant so we had to put it off. I think we decided to do the same as you and wait until she is about a year old. We haven’t told anyone but our artist the exact plan, but we’re getting related phrases on our forearms.

  36. I would love a bright red shoulder cap flower!!! Has been my dream for quite some time 🙂 Maybe some black lace thrown in too!

  37. stephanie says

    I love tattoos, and am soo excited to get one with somthing for all my kids in it, I would love to be able to win 🙂

    • stephanie says

      I also have 4 already, I have Aries and Leo zodiac signs on my right leg and the Scorpio sign in my left with the m that gos with it for my daughter’s and myself. I really need somthing for my son thow.

  38. Great Giveaway! Your tattoo is beautiful. I would love to get something representing my motherhood journey even tho it has only just begun!

  39. I don’t want to alarm you, but you appear to be nursing a kitty!

  40. heather v says

    I have 4 tattoos currently. 2 sets of footprints from my older children, a tribal frog on my foot and a moon design my sister drew. My next tattoo is going to be my youngest childs footprints.

  41. On my upper shoulder… something about my kids

  42. Lisa Nuckols says

    I currently have a half sleeve that is nautical inspired – kracken, compass, anchor, mermaid…
    I would love to get a babywearing/breastfeeding tattoo on my other arm to represent all of the days spent with my 3 littles.

  43. Adeline enochs says

    The tattoo session will be perfect for my husband who has really been wanting a new tattoo also for emotional healing reasons

  44. Michelle S says

    I’m thinking 2 stars – 1 pink and 1 blue to represent my daughter and son. I just have no idea where to put it…maybe my shoulder. I’d like to be able to actually see it though! 2 of my 3 tattoos are on my back so I can’t see them unless I look in a mirror.

  45. Such a beautiful piece and such beautiful symbolic meaning.

  46. I’m still waiting to get back to work on my Sandman=themed sleeve on my right arm:)

  47. Liana W. says

    I don’t know, specifically, what tattoo I would like next, but I’m constantly searching and planning for my “mommy tattoo.” It will either be a shoulder piece or an ankle/calf piece (and must be able to be added to, since we’re not done having babies, yet).
    I currently have two small tattoos: a cherub/angel on my back and a plumeria bloom on my left ankle. My husband isn’t a huge fan of tattoos in general, but he knows that this is important to me, so he his helping me design it (since he has an artistic streak in him), making him a part of the tattoo as well.

  48. Anne Perry says

    I would like a crab on the top of my right foot.

  49. I have a tattoo of a lily on my left foot and a rose on my right. I’m going to add my daughter’s name to the lily tattoo as soon as we’re done breastfeeding. I’ll put baby #2’s name on the rose someday.

  50. Katie Gilmore says

    I don’t have any tattoos yet and I am a bit terrified but have been wanting to get an ear print on my forearm. The idea being that I would get it in the same place where I would always get the impression from my son’s ear when I would hold hi while he nursed and slept.

  51. Rachael K says

    I have plans for a nifty tree tattoo on the opposite shoulder of my angel tattoo. Celebrating the lives I’ve created, of course!

  52. Amber Evans says

    I have an adorable tattoo of my daughters footprints as butterfly wings on my back, but I would love to get my sons feet as dragonfly wings with it 🙂

  53. I would get a babywearing, breastfeeding pinup tattoo to symbolize my beautiful journey in mothering my daughter.

  54. Virginia S. says

    Congrats on your ink! It’s a big step to permanently mark your body, and i love to hear about other people who thoroughly design their tattoos, too.

    My current tattoo had been a work in progress for somebody 20 years! It started small when i was 18, and I finally added to it a few years ago. It is turning into a target large backpiece That represents my life’s challenges and loves. Currently our is a large oak tree with a rope swing. The tree is surrounded by five butterflies of different colors and one fairy. The oak tree is for strength and having roots planted deep. The swing it’s tip reminds me to never lose a childlike sense of fun. The butterflies each represent a different challenge in my life that transformed me (two divorces, joining the army, serving in Iraq,and my dad’s death). And the fairy stands for my oldest daughter. Since my dad died years before my daughter was born, the fairy is holding the butterfly that represents my dad.

    But so many things have transpired in the few years since, that i need to add on. I really want add something to represent my youngest daughter, my husband, and finding my way through school to get my Masters degree. I would love the chance to add on, especially since funds get tight being in school and having a second child, and i really want to finish these updates before even more happen!

  55. I think it’s so amazing that you weighed all of the facts and decided to do something that is totally unique to you. The tattoo is gorgeous and Colin did a great job.

  56. I’m planning on getting my son’s name (Dean) on my right forearm for my next birthday :). Dean will be just over 2 years old by that point.

  57. Shakeeta W says

    I already have my 3rd tat picked out: it’s sort of a rockabilly mom nursing that I want to get on my upper back (arm is too small for it). I posted it on Pinterest:

  58. I would get an arrow on my rib cage.

  59. I’ve been collecting a corset of animal footprints (I’m a veterinarian). Before my twins, I started with a butterfly with tiger and human prints inside, then added western wildlife tracks. What I really need is some foliage, for them to be coming in and out of. Somehow, having twins has really slowed down my collection!

  60. I’ve been wanting a new tattoo for awhile, this looks like an awesome opportunity!!

  61. I loved the story and meaning behind that tattoo! Something you’ll always cherish for certain. I love tattoos that help with healing. I recently got one as a tribute to my grandmother who helped raise me 🙂
    My next one will be a babywearing while breastfeeding tattoo for my daughter. So many of our days are spent boobing in the sling! I couldn’t think of a more perfect tattoo to represent her

  62. Amy Carlson says

    I lost a son in infancy (4 months old) and have his name and angel wings on my left wrist. I’d love to expand on this and add more to my arm in his memory…

  63. Emily deVeer says

    I want to get a tattoo symbolizing my daughter and my two stepsons! I haven’t figured out how I want to join them together, but I’m looking into ways to show two families coming together to make one.

  64. Emily deVeer says

    And I want it on my back or my ribs! I forgot to add that!

  65. Ever since I was in college (over 10 years ago, yikes!) I have wanted a tattoo of a dove. A very simple, abstract dove outline on the ankle/foot area. The fact that I still want it is a good sign to me, it is certainly not an impulse desire!

  66. I want something to honor the baby I lost and remind me that I am still a strong mother

  67. Rachel Metzger says

    I would get a tattoo that was symbolic of my children. They’re the light of my life. I am planning a half sleeve on my left arm (that’s my less milky side so it wouldn’t hurt to not nurse as often on that side lol)

  68. Britney L says

    I have a few tattoos. My favorite so far is a white ink tattoo on my wrist that says ‘create’. But, I’m planning a tattoo for my kids and live in Denver!! I would LOVE to win this!!

  69. Linda Gregory says

    I have a lot of tattoos already. But I’ve been wanting to do a huge chest piece. Something very feminine. Lots of pretty colors, flowers, butterflies. ..

  70. Jelissa Niezgocki says

    I’d get something to commemorate the birth of my second child. I have my first born’s footprints and name on my feet. I’d either get this one on my shoulder blade or calf.

  71. Thank you so much for sharing this! It had helped me to realize that I want this for myself eventually! You are such an inspiration to so many mothers! !!

  72. I have 4 and can’t wait for more!

  73. I would get a mermaid for my miracle baby girl. I had a molar pregnancy with her which is very rare. It was stressful the whole pregnancy because no doctors I saw (which were a lot) had seen it before. She was also my VBAC baby so that was a bit nerve wracking but exciting. I would get a mermaid because when she came out she was born in the caul also known as a mermaid birth and since she’s so unique. I want it on the back of my arm. I loved your post about your tattoo and the story behind it!

  74. I would live to get a piece in my arm not sure exactly what but I would want a sparrow Orion and arose incorporated because those are my kids middle names

  75. I have my son’s handprints along with his birthdate on my shoulders <3

  76. I have a few tattoos but I would love to get one to celebrate my kiddos. I’d get it in the crook of my arm where their little heads rest when they breastfeed, their names.

  77. alexandra haas says

    I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, getting a tattoo. I have an idea of two turtles, with my girls initials on them, and a dragonfly for the little one we lost at 12 weeks.

  78. Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been debating getting my first but am having trouble committing to an image and finding an artist I can trust.

  79. Brianna Denbow says

    I’ve been waiting to get my next tattoo until my son was done breast feeding, but I like the point you brought up about waiting until 12 months. If I’m able to get one while I’m still nursing, I will definitely wait until then. Thanks for the info and the giveaway!

  80. I have the illustration of the orphanage from the story book Madeline on my shoulder because I’m named after it and have always had a close connection to the book for that reason. I would really love to get a bunch of hydrangeas on my arm with a hummingbird and dragonfly incorporated because each element has a special meaning to me.

  81. Hubby and I have been planning an almost matching tattoo of the sheet music from our wedding song. We were going to get it done early this year until I found out I am pregnant! So I will not be getting it until after the new baby turns a year old, but by that time we will actually be living in Colorado so this would just be so awesome to win!

  82. Samantha says

    I have two I have one on the back of my neck it is a butterfly with my moms name and I have a tiny little butterfly on my ankle I would like to get something that represents growth for the person I have become and in my family.

  83. I would get a tattoo on my shoulder 🙂

  84. Yes I already have a tattoo on my arm, back, behind my neck and wrist. I would get another tattoo on my shoulder, and it would be of my future baby’s name, or some kind of symbol to represent him/her. 🙂 I always loved tattoos, they are beautiful art.

  85. Jess Herrera says

    I can’t decide yet! I want it to be something that can commemorate my changed body and mind after pregnancy and a very difficult delivery. I also think it should help depict my changing role in my family from just wife to wife and mother 🙂

  86. Jacqueline Ibarra says

    I would love to get all three of my children’s names and a beautiful piece to tie into it

  87. Denise Taylor says

    I have a list of 5 tattoos that I hope to finish in the next couple of years. My next will either be the completion of the tree on my back or my right shoulder and upper arm, which will be a giant squid 🙂

  88. I have 2 of my kids’ names on my wrists and a skull design on my back. My next tattoos will be of my other kids’ names after my 4th is born!

  89. I do have two small tattoos already. They aren’t necessarily symbolic of anything aside from the memory of that the time in my life when I had them done, which was 15 years ago and before I became a mother of three. I would love to have a new tattoo, post children, to symbolize my new identity as a mother.

  90. How old was your baby when you actually got the tattoo? I’m currently still breastfeeding my 1 year old and I am scheduled to get a tattoo this Saturday. I have read so many mixed reviews on tattoos and breastfeeding that it’s just become confusing. I plan to continue to breastfeed for as long as my baby wishes but I just hope I’m making the right decision to carry on with the tattoo. Your article made me feel safer about it! How did the aftercare go for you? I know they worry about weakened immune systems….

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