An Australian judge banned a mother from breastfeeding her child because she received a tattoo 4 weeks prior to the judge’s ruling where he believed the mother was placing her baby in an unacceptable risk to receive harm.
This unusual case was brought to court because the baby’s father expressed his concerns about the mother’s choice to receive a tattoo during a bitter parenting dispute.
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Judge Matthew Myers, a Federal Circuit Court Judge, made the decision to grant an injunction to halt this mother from nursing her son regardless of the fact her tests results proved she did not contract HIV or hepatitis from her most recent tattoo. Judge Myers still felt that she put the child in an unacceptable risk because the tests were not conclusive.
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In the aftermath of this court case, a few leading breastfeeding advocates came forth to share their concerns and frustrations with Judge Myer’s ruling. Rebecca Naylor, CEO of Australian Breastfeeding Association, said she is very worried about the dangerous precedent this could possibly set. Naylor asked the broader question – Does a judge have the right to control the risk-taking behaviors of women?
Naylor’s response to the ruling of this case:
“Tattooing is a regulated industry, so if you go to a tattoo parlor that is reputable then the chances of contracting an infection are very low. I think unless there’s evidence that she has contracted an infection as a result of that tattoo – then it is unreasonable. 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 and so no, we would absolutely encourage women who have had tattoos to breastfeed their babies for as long as they choose to.
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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? Of course, we have to consider the risk to babies, and I’m not in any way dismissing that. Women do need to be careful. They’re feeding a child; it’s going to be their main source of nutrition up until they’re 12 months of age, so you do have to be careful. But it doesn’t mean that you have to wrap yourself in glad wrap.”
Karleen Gribble from the University of Western Sydney, another breastfeeding advocate, was shocked by this court case. She said, “I have NEVER seen a case like this before”.
Gribble’s response to the ruling of this case:
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“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. I’m only aware of one case where somebody contracted HIV from tattooing and that was somebody who’d got a tattoo in Bali, not somebody who’d gotten it in Australia. I think when it comes to mothers and breastfeeding, we need to consider that mothers are people, they do things. Sometimes there’s a risk associated with what they do, but we generally think that they don’t need to protect their children from all risk and it comes down to considering, is this a reasonable risk? Most people consider that the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis from using a tattoo parlor, and particularly if they’ve been careful about checking it out, is infinitesimally small.”
Family Court has agreed to hear this mother’s urgent appeal against the ruling in Sydney on Friday.