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Ear Piercing in Babies: Should You Pierce Her Ears?

babies and ear piercingThe baby ear piercing debate is a hot button topic. It ranks up there with the breastfeeding versus breastfeeding debate, or the controversy over cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers. Everyone has his or her own opinion on this topic. Some parents are appalled and disgusted that you would even think about piercing an infant’s ears; others think those little diamond studs in your baby’s ears are cute.

Whether it’s due to cultural reasons or family traditions, some babies’ ears are pierced. If you’re thinking about piercing your child’s ears, you may be wondering,

How old does my child have to be? Is it safe to pierce a baby’s ears?

Why Choose Baby Ear Piercing?

Parents choose to pierce their baby’s ears for a variety of reasons. Some parents pierce their baby’s ears because they believe it’s less painful at such a young age. Others pierce for more practical reasons – It solves gender identification problems in girls. Plus, strangers on the street won’t mistakenly assume a girl baby is actually a boy. The little diamond studs tell it all.

Since it only causes a few moments of pain for the baby, and your child will quickly forget it, some parents don’t see the harm in baby ear piercing.

There’s also a cultural element to baby ear piercing. In some cultures or communities, it’s customary for a baby girl’s ears to be pierced. Infant ear piercing may also be a family custom.

You may want to choose baby ear piercing, since older children might be more hesitant to allow you to clean the ears or change the earrings. Babies may not notice that the earrings are there, making it easier for you to care for the newly pierced ears.

Why Choose to Wait Before Piercing?

On the other hand, you may decide to wait to pierce your daughter’s ears.

Ear piercing is sometimes held off so that it can be a special memory for mother and daughter to share. It’s also a rite of passage for girls. There are parents who want the decision of ear piercing to be the child’s choice.

Another reason you might want to wait – your baby’s ears haven’t completely grown yet. Piercing a baby’s ear can cause the hole to look lopsided. Maybe it’s too close to her face, or too far away. Waiting for the ears to grow just makes common sense for some parents.

What’s a Good Age to Pierce Your Daughter’s Ears?

Since this is such a controversial topic, everyone has her own opinion. Some parents are perfectly fine with piercing their newborn baby’s ears. If there’s no medical reason to wait, they don’t see what the big deal is.

The official word from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is that parents should wait until their daughter is old enough to care for the ear piercing herself. Plus, the AAP doesn’t recommend you pierce your baby’s ears, since there is a higher risk of an infant accidentally swallowing the tiny earrings.

If you are dead set on piercing a baby’s ears, the AAP recommends that you try to wait until two weeks after your baby has her first tetanus shot (which occurs at two months). So, if you want your baby to have gold studs, wait until she’s at least two months old.

Some pediatricians do recommend that you wait until all rounds of tetanus are given. (Infants are given tetanus shots as part of their regular vaccination schedule at 2, 4, 6, and 15 months old.)

How Old Do Babies Have to Be to Get Their Ears Pierced?

If you’re dead set on getting your babies ears pierced, I would highly recommend that you wait until she is two months old (or older). By this time, her immune system may be strong enough to handle mild infections that may occur. And she should have already received her first round of vaccines. (The tetanus vaccine is really important. Just in case the ear piercing equipment isn’t sterilized properly.)

Talk to your pediatrician about whether he or she performs ear piercings. If not, call around and find an ear piercing business that has the right equipment to handle working with babies. See my safety tips below.

Safety Tips for Parents

If you decide to get your baby’s ears pierced, you’ll want to keep a few safety rules in mind.

First, not all ear-piercing businesses have the proper equipment or staff that is trained in working with babies and young children. For example, ear-piercing guns aren’t recommended for piercing babies’ ears, since they cannot be sterilized. If your child is pierced with a gun, there’s a higher risk for her to contract hepatitis or another type of infection.

Some pediatricians will pierce your baby’s ears at their office (usually with a sterilized needle), or they may give you a recommendation to someone they trust. However, there are pediatricians are totally against ear piercing in babies. So, when you ask the pediatrician for his advice, just be wary that his answer can go either way.

When having your baby’s ears pierced, make sure that round gold earrings are inserted. The gold (14 karat) will lower your baby’s risk of having an allergic reaction or inflammation. All parts of the earrings should be gold, including the backings.

How to Care for Your Baby’s Pierced Ears

Your baby will cry and wail after having her ears pierced. Just be aware that this will happen. After her ears are pierced, her body will sense that it is no longer whole and will try to heal the affected site. As a result, there may be some swelling, redness, or inflammation around the near gold stud.

Once you get home, it’s up to you to care for the newly pierced ears to reduce the risk of infection and to quicken the healing process.

  • At least twice a day, make sure that you gently rotate the earrings and clean the front and back of her ear lobes with rubbing alcohol, an antiseptic product, or an antibiotic ointment.
  • Do not remove the earrings for at least six weeks. This allows the ears to heal. After six weeks, you can change out the earrings. However, experts recommend that babies wear gold posts for the first year to prevent any infections.
  • If the area around the piercing becomes red or tender, this is a sign of an infection and you should call your doctor right away.

Potential Complications from Ear Piercing in Babies

There are medical complications that may result from piercing your baby’s ears.

Infection – After you get your baby’s ears pierced, you’ll want to pay careful attention to any signs of infection. This is the most common problem that parents encounter. Your baby’s ear lobes can get infected if the equipment used was not sterile, if the earrings used have dirty posts, or if the earrings are clasped too tightly. You can avoid infections by cleaning your baby’s ears with rubbing alcohol or antibiotic ointment on a twice a day basis.

Always contact your doctor if your baby’s ear becomes red, there is pus around the piercing, or your baby develops a fever for no reason.

Allergic Reactions – Sometimes, an allergic reaction to the metals in the earring can cause the earlobe to become infected. Nickel is typically the most common culprit of allergic reactions. For this reason, it’s important that you choose nickel-free earrings. Surgical steel and 14 karat gold are the recommended metals for a baby’s ears.

Keloid Formation – After the ears are pierced, the body will try to heal the area of trauma. You might notice redness or swelling near the hole, as a result. Keloids occur when the body over-defends itself and goes overboard, leading to large scar tissue. Keloids are often removed with the help of surgery or medical treatment.

Keloids tend to be genetic, and African-Americans tend to be more prone to them. They can, however, affect all ethnicities.

Choking Hazard of Earrings – If you decide to get your baby’s ears pierced, it’s important that you choose earrings that don’t fall out easily. Earrings are one of the top items removed from children’s ears. The sharp posts can accidentally fall inside the ear lobe and need to be medically removed. There’s also a choking hazard of earrings. Your daughter may “lose” an earring, and you later discover that she has swallowed it.

Tearing of the Earlobe – When a young child wears dangling or hooped earrings, she’s at higher risk of tearing her earlobes during play. The earring can easily catch on something she plays with, and this can lead to tearing. To prevent this, make sure that you only use stud earrings for your baby or young child.

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About the author: DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

{ 159 comments… add one }
  • K Sisko January 4, 2017, 11:50 am

    I’ve worked for 12 years in a store that pierces ears. First thing: DO NOT CLEAN YOUR EARS OR YOUR CHILD’S NEWLY PIERCED EARS WITH ALCOHOL OR PEROXIDE. The alcohol is too harsh on the skin and can dry out the tissue in the ears. The peroxide can strip the top layer of metal from the earring. The place you go for the piercing should supply you with ear care antiseptic.
    Another thing that people don’t seem to understand: The ear piercing gun never touches the customers ears. We the clean the gun with alcohol just in case but the earrings come sterilized in a cartridge that fit into the ear piercing gun. I have never in my 12 years had a gun touch someone’s ear.
    I personally don’t think you should pierce a child until they are old enough to know what’s going on and till their ears have grown some (but I do it because it’s my job and not my child). I have seen some majorly lopsided holes from doing it that young and it makes it harder to give them even 2nd holes and so on.

    • Janaya June 2, 2017, 9:58 am

      THANK God you mentioned the alcohol thing. I don’t think people should give advice on how to care for something unless they are a professional. Alcohol is a big no-no.

  • Rachel Smith, RN October 21, 2016, 2:15 pm

    As a Registered Nurse and owner of a piercing studio in NYC that specializes in baby and children’s ear piercing, I wanted to add that your advice on the aftercare is a bit dated. Alcohol wipes are only used to clean the ears BEFORE the piercing. Never use alcohol on broken skin as it is way too drying and irritating for a baby’s skin. Also, using antibiotic cream as part of routine care is not advisable. Antibiotic cream should only be used in the event of an infection (which, btw, is extremely rare in baby ear piercing). Lastly, our earrings are made of medical-grade materials therefore they do NOT need to be rotated (one less thing for mom to think about!). We advise parents to use a gentle soap and water rinse in the bath once a day, and then pat dry. The only other thing we recommend for cleaning is a sterile saline solution, usually found in the form of a product called “wound wash”. I’d also like to add that after piercing thousands of babies, I can confidently say the piercing is very similar to getting a vaccination. In other words, the babies cry for about 10-20 seconds and are back to their normal and happy selves literally within minutes of the piercing.

  • Tiffany June 7, 2016, 1:54 pm

    I’m conflicted because on the 1 hand my own mother had my ears pierced when I was a baby and I’m glad she did because I like having pierced ears and I’m too much of a weenie to be able to convince myself to get it done as an adult. But on the other hand, I don’t think I’d have my own daughter’s ears pierced because it is her body and her choice and I don’t want to infringe on her bodily autonomy…especially since she may not grow up and enjoy having pierced ears and then it would have been for nothing.
    And for those shouting ‘abuse’… it is definitely not abuse!

  • Windmillbox April 29, 2016, 11:55 pm

    Hold on, “It solves gender identification problems in girls.”

  • Karinne March 28, 2016, 6:57 pm

    My mom got my ears pierced when i was 1 month old and I didn’t have any complications. As well my daughter, she is 2 years old and I pierced her ears when she was 5 weeks old she didn’t cry, just a little whimper 🙂

  • No, I wont pierce my baby daughter eard February 28, 2016, 5:26 pm

    And fuck the society and its crappy traditions. xD

    • Janaya June 2, 2017, 10:00 am

      Good for you.

  • Liz February 5, 2016, 3:08 pm

    I have 2 daughter’s, 3 yo and 3 wks old, and my husband and I decided not to pierce their ears. Both of us come from a cultural background where piercing an infant girls ears is the norm, so it was hard for many in the family to understand why we decided to go against tradition.
    Personally, I’m afraid to expose my child to unnecessary risk for aesthetic purposes. I would never forgive myself if something happened to her as a result of it. The most common argument people present when I ask why they believe I should pierce my child’s ears is “so people know she’s a girl”. But I can easily accomplish that by dressing her in pinks, purples and pastels, pretty dresses, and adorning her hair with barettes, bows, and colorful bands. Some people say that its better to do it in infancy so that the child doesn’t remember the pain. Well, I’ve been pierced twice in young adulthood, and the pain was nowhere near severe. It’s not like circumcision, where waiting until adulthood to do it would be far more painful, greater risk for complication, and increased recovery time. For me, waiting to pierce just feels like the right thing to do. I look forward to the day my daughters decide they’re ready for a piercing. It’s an experience I look forward to sharing with them. I don’t judge the parents who choose to pierce their babies ears. My parents did it to me, and I don’t resent them for it, nor do I believe they loved me any less because they did. I’m just making a different choice.

  • Anne January 19, 2016, 3:33 pm

    I will not put a hole in another human being without their permission. It strikes me as quite unethical

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  • I don't understand May 6, 2015, 3:30 pm

    Just a question. Why does it feel like getting ear piercings are mandatory if you’re a girl? It’s just for feminine aesthetic purposes, so there isn’t much purpose for it. There are things that a parent could do other than punching a tiny hole in an infant’s ear lobe in order to show that the baby is female, such as putting them in feminine colored/styled clothing. There’s no true purpose in doing it (outside of aesthetic reasons), so why bother with it?

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  • Tina March 16, 2015, 8:26 pm

    Any mother that would willingly make their baby scream in pain and suffer for the sake of something ‘looking cute’ should question their love for the child. It’s equivalent to abusing them!

    • Elle July 9, 2015, 3:25 pm

      Tina, comparing parents who pierce their children’s ears to abusive, uncaring parents is a step too far. Just outrageous, very close-minded, and absolutely judgmental. we recently saw a mother on the news forcing her child to drink beer…that’s ABUSE. But ear piercing? I think not.

      There are many cultural and family traditions that some people follow which includes piercing a daughter’s ear from the get go. It does not mean these parents want to subject to children to pain. Just think about, many young boys gets circumcised. It’s not because there parents wanted them to be in pain. Just a choice the parents made due to personal of traditional reasons. Many parents allows their children to ‘cry it out’ when sleep training, but these parents are certainly not doing it cause their children pain.

      While my husband and I are waiting for our daughter to be a little older before getting her ears pierced, we very much support those parents who choose to do it earlier.

      • Monique July 14, 2016, 12:58 pm

        Elle, I couldn’t agree with you more. You hit the nail on the head. 🙂

    • andie December 18, 2015, 10:14 pm

      That’s a shame you think that way… to question the love fir my daughter? She gives me purpose and was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m guessing your against vaccinations too….it might be the equivalent to abusing them

      • jenny November 13, 2016, 3:18 am

        Andie, your argument re vaccinations is not a logical one. Vaccinations have a therapeutic purpose which could prevent the child from becoming ill later. Piercings do not.

    • legitthoughts May 11, 2016, 10:28 am

      Your an actual idiot

    • Mama August 3, 2016, 3:32 am

      Don’t ever say something like that! You are an extremely judgemental individual! My 3 year old is very intelligent and he wanted a piercing I explained to him that it would hurt etc and he still wanted it done so he got it done and loves it I got my other sons ear pierced when he was 2 he didn’t cry he was very excited and was saying cool look mama!so don’t you ever judge other people for getting thier children’s ears pierced and say they should question thier love for the child who do you think you are. I would die for my baby’s and do anything for them I am a good mum I don’t expose my children to alcohol smoking or anything like that I educate my children and protect them and always will, and I love my children to the moon and back. I think it is a personal decision just like breast feeding. I got my ears pierced when I was young I do see both sides to this debate and I agree with both but your comment is just nasty. Hiwever all the posts etc did make me think after they had them done when seeing all the posts I didn’t realise it was that much of a topic because if was just normal for my family.

    • Jen August 15, 2017, 9:47 pm

      It’s just a pinch, it’s not like they are doing a surgery without anesthesia… You sound very ignorant. Putting piercings on baby girls’ ears is in many cases a cultural tradition. It is done in my culture and family. It was done to me, and of course I don’t remember any of it, LOL. Btw, it is still a choice of the girl if she wants to wear them or not when she grows up. If she wants to wear them she already has the holes, if she don’t then she don’t wear any. I haven’t worn earrings in months, though I want to buy gold ones to wear earings that last a long time and I don’t have to change or take off.

  • Debbie March 15, 2015, 9:04 am

    I think it is up to the parents if they decide to have their daughters’ ears pierced when they are babies. I have two daughters and both had their ears pierced on the day when they were three months old. They had it done at my local hairdressers where the woman that does the ear piercing encourages all her cutomers who have little girls to let her pierce their ears once they have reached three months old. They had tiny gold studs fitted which they kept in till they were about five years old. We have had no problems with them at all and some of their friends who do not wear earrings are very envious of their friends who do. If you are seriously thinking about having your baby’s ears pierced, I would say go ahead and do it – you will not regret it afterwards. If you do not want your baby girl to have pierced ears, then do not do it.

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  • Tammy January 6, 2015, 11:28 pm

    I did not sift through comments, but I did want to mention that some of this information is incorrect (twisting of the earrings for example is damaging healing tissue). Please if you think you should have your babies pierced take some time to check out safepiercing.org you wont be disappointed, they are the APP (Association of Professional Piercers , very educated, and informative. I am a body piercer who chooses not pierce babies.

  • tiffany January 2, 2015, 11:49 am

    I personally do not think you should pierce a baby’s ear. This is because hardly anyone likes having something poked through their skin. I have gotten my ears pierce 3 times in my entire life before the fourth time, which finally stayed in. So, the first reason is that no mother would want to have their baby cry of pain just because they want the baby’s ears pierced. The second reason is that you would not want to risk the baby’s ears getting infected. This comment was brought to you by a 14 year old girl.

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