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Breastfeeding and Body Modifications: What Questions Should We Ask?

Body modifications piercings, tattoos, and laser removal of tattoos are increasingly popular, but are breastfeeding and body modifications compatible?

A 2017 article says that about 50% of millennials have at least one piercing other than the soft tissue of the ears. And, up to 20% of U.S. adults have at least one tattoo. Removal of a tattoo is another example of body modification. Whether you already have a body mod, or you are considering getting one, there are several questions you should ask when it comes to breastfeeding and body modifications.

Is it safe to breastfeed if I have a body mod?

You may need to make some decisions in terms of when and how, but thousands of women have found pregnancy, breastfeeding and body modifications to be generally compatible.

Will any of my body mods affect breastfeeding?

Possibly, yes. If you have pierced nipples, you might notice that milk is leaking or spurting out the sides of your nipples during lactation. Frequently, the amount of milk going out the sides of your nipples may be more than the amount coming out the front from your nipple pores. Is that a problem? In many or most cases, probably not.

Several years ago I sold a print version of a parent handout entitled What Every Parent Needs to Know About Pierced Nipples and Breastfeeding. While the print version is no longer available, I’ve resurrected the digital copy from retirement and made it available on my website. The handout can be found under the “Insider’s Club” area of the My Account page (create a free account if you don’t already have one).

Will breastfeeding affect my body mods?

Possibly, yes. When your belly or your breasts become enlarged, your body mods may be affected.

Your expanding belly or breasts may make it uncomfortable to wear your existing jewelry, and it may be difficult to remove it. In short, piercings may become more of a nuisance than you want to deal with.

Your expanding belly or breasts may cause a slight alteration in your tattoo’s appearance. Stretch marks may interfere with the appearance of your tattoo, but not so much that it’s ugly. Pregnancy, more than breastfeeding, can affect the overall appearance. But you may not notice much, if any, change in appearance. The effects of the sun have greater impact on the visual appearance of your tattoo than your “expanding body.”

Are there risks to consider?

Absolutely! Even if you are not pregnant or lactating, you should consider general risks such as allergies, infection, and more.

How do I find a reputable artist for my body mods?

Protect yourself against infections and any other potential consequences. The shop should be cleared by the local Department of Health. You should look for tattoo artists affiliated with the National Tattoo Association and piercers associated with the Association of Professional Piercers. That being said, complications can and do happen. Most clients first turn to their artist when complications show up, and often, it’s more appropriate to get medical help.

If I have a tattoo, will the ink get into my milk?

Don’t worry too much about this. The molecule of ink used in tattoos is so large that it is highly unlikely to be transferred into your milk. Should you worry about other elements in the ink? Maybe. Because the ink used in tattoos is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s possible that some inks contain heavy metals–including lead. I’m not saying they all do; I’m saying, ask questions and be sure you know what you’re buying.

Are there alternatives? Consider vegetable-based inks for your tattoo. Just remember that we don’t know much about how many years these inks will maintain their color and luster.

When can I have my nipples pierced?

Many piercing artists will ask you if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. They may refuse to perform the nipple piercing if they perceive it as a liability issue. You should feel free to advocate for yourself if you want the piercing. But first, you should consider several factors.

First, your nipples will be more sensitive during pregnancy and lactation. Even if you are not pregnant or lactating, see and hear how this video shows that nipple piercing is a very painful process. In our recent interview, Robyn Roche-Paull says that she has a very high pain threshold and was not pregnant or lactating when she had the procedure done, but that nipple piercing is too painful, and she would not have it done if she was pregnant or lactating.

It takes about 12-18 months for a piercing to heal. Ideally, you want the pierced track fully healed before you need to remove the jewelry. It’s important to remove nipple jewelry each time your newborn suckles (which is typically at least every 2-3 hours) to avoid the potential for choking or lacerations in the baby’s mouth.

What about laser removal of my tattoo?

Now that’s another whole story! Listen to my recent interview with Robyn Roche-Paull as she explains why laser removal of the tattoo can be a serious concern for breastfeeding mothers.

Bottom line is that breastfeeding is possible with body mods! If you are interested in getting a body mod, make certain that it is done in a safe manner, and give enough time for it to heal before you start breastfeeding.

Do you have a body mod? What has been your experience with your body mods and breastfeeding?

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