Mother banned from breastfeeding because of tattoo

Breastfeeding advocates shocked by ruling of Australian federal circuit court judge

A woman in Australia has been banned from breastfeeding because she got a tattoo. HIV and hepatitis B and C can be transmitted if tattooing equipment is not properly sterilised between users. Stock photograph: Getty Images.

A woman in Australia has been banned from breastfeeding because she got a tattoo. HIV and hepatitis B and C can be transmitted if tattooing equipment is not properly sterilised between users. Stock photograph: Getty Images.

 

A woman in the Australian city of Newcastle (two hours north of Sydney) has been banned from breastfeeding because she got a tattoo.

HIV and hepatitis B and C can be transmitted if tattooing equipment is not properly sterilised between users.

Federal circuit court judge Matthew Myers ruled the woman’s decision to get the tattoo exposed her 11-month-old to an unacceptable risk of harm, despite the mother recording negative results on HIV and hepatitis tests.

Judge Myers said the tests were not conclusive, as the 20-year-old, who is known as Ms Jackson for legal reasons, is in a “window period” during which a positive result may not yet show up.

Ms Jackson had the tattoo done four weeks prior to the court case.

The boy’s father, known as Mr Macek, is separated from the mother and involved in a custody dispute.

The tattoo shop owner, in a written submission, told the court “as a rule” he does not tattoo pregnant or breastfeeding women, but Ms Jackson did not tell him she was breastfeeding.

The court weighed up the benefits of breastfeeding for an 11-month-old baby against the life-long harm caused by contracting HIV.

“It is the view of the court that it is not in the best interests of the child that the mother continue to breastfeed the child, and in those circumstances the court will make the order sought by the father, that is, that the mother be prevented from breastfeeding the child,” judge Myers said.

Breastfeeding advocate Dr Karleen Gribble of the University of Western Sydney said she was shocked by the ruling.

“I think if it were reasonable then we would have very, very many women in Australia who would be quite horrified and perhaps child protection authorities should be taking action because many mothers who are breastfeeding get tattoos, very often of their children’s names,” she told ABC radio.

Dr Gribble said she is only aware of one case where HIV was contracted through tattooing. “That was somebody who had got a tattoo in Bali, not somebody who had gotten it in Australia,” she said.

“I think when it comes to mothers and breastfeeding, we need to consider that mothers are people, they do things … Most people consider that the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis from using a tattoo parlour, and particularly if they’ve been careful about checking it out, is infinitesimally small.”

Judge Myers said it was “disappointing” the mother had previously smoked cannabis while breastfeeding.

He ordered both parents not to use drugs in the 48 hours prior to or during the care of their son and not to “partake in any criminal activity” while the boy is with them.