Judge bans tattooed mum from breastfeeding

A custody case got ugly earlier this month when a judge banned a mum from breastfeeding her baby after she got a tattoo. 

Federal court judge Matthew Myers issued an injunction against the recently tattooed mum, legally prohibiting her from breastfeeding.

Judge Myers reasoned that the tattoo exposed the 11-month-old baby to an unacceptable risk of contracting HIV, regardless of the fact that the mother had previously tested negative for the virus. He cited her test result 'inconclusive'.

(Photo posed by model)
(Photo posed by model) Photo: Getty Images

The woman's former spouse had mentioned her tattoo in an attempt to undercut her parenting credentials during an acrimonious custody battle.

In ruling against the woman, Judge Myers referred to information published by the Australian Breastfeeding Associa­tion (ABA), stating that if there is inadequate sterilisation of the tattoo equpiment, HIV can be transmitted via tattoo needles. This applies to breastfeeding mothers insofar as "HIV ... is known to be able to be transmitted via breast milk".

But ABA spokesperson Nicole Bridges told The Australian the verdict was very disturbing, saying, "There's no evidence that the mother has contracted HIV or any other virus so there's no ­reason to think there's a risk to her baby."

She added that the positives of breastfeeding more than offset the minimal risk posed by a tattoo. "The National Health and Medical Research Council and the World Health Organization advocate breast milk to be the most important part of a child's diet until they're at least 12 months of age".

Another breastfeeding expert, Dr Karleen Gribble, adjunct fellow at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Western Sydney, said the decision was "just completely crazy. The rates of HIV in Australia are very low and it's extremely common for people to get tattoos".

Dr Gribble also mentioned research that reveals older infants use breastfeeding to placate themselves when stressed. She contended that a baby who was the subject of a hostile custody dispute, living between two homes, would fall into this category.

The case is being re-heard on appeal by a full bench of the Family Court in Sydney today.