The 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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