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Judge Stops Mother From Breastfeeding Because She Got Tattoos

Young mother told she put her baby in harm's way by getting a tattoo, despite getting HIV and hepatitis tests that came back negative.
June 18, 2015, 3:40pm
Photo by Sebastiao Moreira/EPA

An Australian judge just banned a young Sydney woman from breastfeeding her 11-month-old because she'd recently been tattooed on a finger and her foot — despite breastfeeding advocates insisting that the risk of contracting diseases from tattooing is low.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Matthew Myers told the mother she had exposed her child to "unacceptable risk" by getting tattooed four weeks earlier, according to Australian media. The ruling came despite the unnamed 20-year-old woman undergoing HIV and hepatitis tests, which came back negative.

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Meyers said the tests were not conclusive, because less than three months had passed since she was tattooed. He reportedly relied on information published by the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), which states that, "getting tattoos increases the risk of infection" of these communicable diseases, although the association added the "risk of infection from getting a tattoo is low, especially if done at a reputable parlor."

"Looking at perhaps the benefit to the child, who is 11 months old, breastfeeding, as opposed to what would be a lifelong issue in circumstances where the child contracted 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," Meyers said.

Related: :China Just Arrested 15 People in a Bust on an Adult Breastfeeding Ring

The ABA said it found the judge's decision "extremely concerning."

"Tattooing in and of itself, as long as it's done in reputable way and that the infection control procedures are followed, the risk is low," Rebecca Naylor, the association's head, told ABC Australia. "We would absolutely encourage women who have had tattoos to breastfeed their babies for as long as they choose to."

Naylor added that the judge's ruling had broader implications on the court's ability to encroach on the decisions or behaviors of mothers.

"Does that mean that women who expose themselves to any sort of risks around the contraction of a blood-borne virus… shouldn't be allowed to breastfeed?" she said. "Women do need to be careful…But it doesn't mean that you have to wrap yourself in glad wrap."

The court case reportedly arose after a bitter custody dispute between the woman and the child's father. The mother immediately launched an appeal, which will be heard in Sydney's the Family Court Friday.