Are you having a little girl and thinking about piercing her ears? When can your baby have her ears pierced? Is it even safe for babies to wear earrings?
When asking other moms whether it’s safe to pierce a baby’s ears, you will likely get varied answers. Some may bring out the judgmental mom-finger, and give you a scolding. Then there are others who will tell you it’s perfectly fine.
In fact, around the world, there are many cultures where they pierce the ears of newborn baby girls. Some even before they’ve left the hospital.
So does that mean it’s safe? Well, we’re here to find out.
Why Do Some Parents Do It?
There are plenty of reasons why some parents choose to pierce their baby’s ears. For many, it’s a matter of personal preference or even a family tradition.
Maybe they think it looks cute. Or perhaps they use it as a gender identification method, so strangers won’t come up and tell them what a lovely boy they have.
Other parents see it as a way to honor cultural values. Let’s take Latin countries and India as two examples.
In both of these cultures, parents usually pierce the ears of a daughter before her second birthday. Some prefer having a pediatrician do it soon after birth, even before leaving the hospital (source).
Many parents avoid dressing their newborn in gender-specific clothes, such as blue or pink. Instead, they will use gender-neutral clothing and pierce the ears of the girls.
Sometimes, it’s also because the parents believe that it hurts less the earlier they do it. Since it’s such a deep-rooted tradition, the girls will likely grow up and want their ears pierced anyway.
The Safety of Piercing Baby’s Ears
Whenever we puncture the skin, we run the risk of infection. Unfortunately, babies aren’t exempt from this rule of nature, so we have to be careful.
Yes, they come out of their mother’s stomach looking like a fully evolved mini-human. However, their bodies and systems are still developing. This means that a pierced earlobe could potentially trigger an infection much easier than it would in an adult.
When looking at it from this perspective, it might seem obvious to wait. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents wait until the child can take care of the pierced area themselves (source).
That said, experts do also acknowledge some parents want to do it before. In these cases, most suggest you wait until your baby is at least six months old. Others feel it’s better to wait until a child is old enough to decide on their own.
Piercings are usually considered safe, as long as you take proper precautions. This means enlisting a professional, using only sterile needles, and keeping the area clean.
Who Should Pierce My Child’s Ears?
Usually, when we want to get our ears pierced, we will go to a vendor, or sometimes a jeweler. But when piercing a baby’s ears, it’s best to seek help from a pediatrician.
One of the main reasons for this is that not all facilities offering piercings have the proper equipment or staff for these tiny customers.
Consider the ear piercing gun — it’s not always possible for the staff to sterilize it properly. In the worst case scenario, your baby could contract hepatitis or another disease that spreads through blood (source).
Therefore, you should either ask the pediatrician to perform the procedure or to recommend someone who can.
If the pediatrician does it, they will typically use a sterile needle. They begin by cleaning the area. Then they will likely make a small dot with a marker to know where to insert the needle.
Then the doctor will puncture the skin and insert a pair of sterilized earrings. These are typically made from hypoallergenic surgical steel and will minimize the chance of any adverse reactions.
Will the Procedure Hurt My Baby?
Babies feel pain in the same way we do, and if you’ve ever gotten a piercing, you know they tend to hurt.
For ear piercings, the pain is not excessive, which is also why doctors don’t give a shot of anesthesia. The injection of anesthesia would likely hurt more than the piercing!
Many moms say their babies cried more when they got their vaccines than the piercing.
What You Can Do
When my little one got her ears pierced, we did just that, and she barely noticed anything.
It also helps when a professional is doing the job. They know where to insert the needle, and can do it fast.
If your baby is older and eating solids, it’s a good idea to bring a favorite snack. This would be an excellent distraction or a tasty reward afterward.
But one way you can help is by simply holding your little one tight, so they won’t move. At the same time, talk to them gently, sing a song, or read a book with them. Remember to stay calm — if you freak out, they will, too.
Caring for the Area After Piercing
Following the procedure, it’s important to take extra care of the area. Ask your pediatrician what they recommend. They will usually tell you to let the earrings sit in the ears for at least six weeks, so the area can heal (source).
During this time you should:
- Wipe around the earlobes with alcohol: Ask your doctor, but they normally recommend wiping the area twice a day with rubbing alcohol.
- Twist or rotate the earrings: At least once a day, gently twist or rotate the earrings in the ear. This will prevent them from becoming stuck.
- Dry the area after each bath: It’s essential the piercings don’t stay damp. After each bath, grab a clean towel and gently pat the area dry.
- Don’t press on the ear: Avoid applying any pressure while cleaning or rotating, since this could be painful.
When Can I Switch Earrings?
After the six weeks are up, your little one’s earlobes should be healed. Now you can remove the first earrings and place your own.
You should still be mindful of the material of the earrings, especially if your baby is young. Many parents opt for metal earrings, including myself.
If you choose to use metal, gold or silver earrings are the safest option. Doctors generally recommend gold earrings that are at least 14 karats. These are less likely to cause an infection or other reactions.
Doctors usually advise against using earrings containing nickel, since it could cause an allergic reaction.
Here’s what else to look for:
- Shape: Choose earrings that are small, flat, and round, with no sharp edges.
- Fastener: The fastener of the earrings should cover as much as possible of the back side. Some earrings have screw backs, to reduce the risk of them coming off. Keep in mind, your baby could swallow the earring if it comes off and makes its way into the mouth.
- Avoid hanging or dangling earrings: At some point, all babies begin to tug at their ears. In this case, imagine the damage caused if your little one gets hold of a dangling earring.
Ear piercings certainly don’t come without risks. If you spot any of the following signs, consult with your pediatrician immediately for the best advice.
- Infection: The usual causes are either unhygienic piercing equipment, a tight clasp, or a dirty earring. If you notice your little one’s ear begins to swell, appears red, or your baby is running a fever, it’s essential you contact your doctor.
- Keloid: A keloid occurs when the skin over-heals itself. It’s a formation of scars that raise over the area and spread. If you see a round, solid mass on your little one’s ear, near the earring, contact your doctor. A keloid is not dangerous, but may require medical or surgical intervention to remove (source).
- Allergic reaction: Nickel earrings are often the culprits — your little one may develop small bumps around the area (source). It might itch, look red and dry, or burnt. In severe reactions, it may even form leaking blisters.
At the End of the Day
Piercing a baby’s ears is not at all unusual. Various cultures around the world see it as a sign of femininity and will pierce the ears of baby girls before their second birthday. Some may even do it while they’re still in the hospital following the baby’s birth.
Piercing a baby’s ears is, however, generally considered unsafe.
Always take the correct precautions such as enlisting a professional, and making sure they use sterile tools. Always follow any aftercare advice. Look out for adverse reactions and contact your doctor if something changes.
Did you have your little one’s ears pierced? Please leave your experiences below and, as always, please share with your friends and family.