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A Safe Age to Pierce Baby’s Ears

Little girl sleeping on the sofa on living room; pierced ears

Decisions, decisions, decisions . . .  bottle-feed or breastfeed, bassinet or crib, cloth diapers or disposable, co-sleeping or not? The amount of decisions that face new parents is completely overwhelming. As if that wasn’t enough, when you have a little girl, you get to add “to pierce or not to pierce” to the list! While it may not seem as critical as epidural or natural birth, daycare or stay-at-home parenting, ear piercing and when to do it is a hot topic that parents of daughters face. 

In many cultures, baby girls have their ears pierced at birth. In fact, in Spain and Latin America, tiny little earrings are often given as a baby gift, and a little girl will leave the hospital wearing them (Piercing Your Baby’s Ears.) While ear-piercing at birth is not a cultural norm in the United States, parents like to have this done for various reasons. Sometimes, parents want to pierce their daughter’s ears so her gender is obvious; other times parents do it when the child is young and won’t remember the experience or pain. Regardless of why you want to pierce baby’s ears, the question remains “when is the right time to do it?”

A couple of guidelines to help you make that decision: 

  • Always consult with your pediatrician. Why? Anytime you pierce the skin, you create the possibility for infection so you want to be aware of any complications that might arise. An infant’s immune system is still developing so your pediatrician can advise you of precautions or medical issues to consider. Your pediatrician also knows your child and is a trusted resource.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does say that there is little risk when the piercing is done well and done carefully. However, they do advise that piercing should happen when the child is old enough to care for the piercing on her own. In addition, there is always a risk that an infant could pull out or swallow an earring. However, if ear-piercing is something you want done while your baby is young, six months is often a good starting point because she has had her initial vaccinations and time to build up her immunity. Again, check with your child’s doctor.
One year old boy enjoys his birthday cake on his first birthday.
Considering a piercing for baby’s first birthday? Here are some other ideas for the momentous celebration.

If ear-piercing is a definite Yes for you while your baby is still young, here are just a couple of safety tips to consider:

  • Ask your pediatrician if their office does ear piercings. (Note: if your doctor advised against it, there is a strong chance that office does NOT). You can always go to another pediatric office that does do piercings if your doctor is not an option. What you want to avoid is a mall kiosk or a place that uses a piercing gun as those cannot be properly sterilized for your infant. Additionally, you want to ensure the place you choose has experience, not just in ear piercing, but with small children and babies. These are obstacles easily overcome if you choose a pediatrician’s office. 
  • You know your baby girl is a princess and her earrings will reflect the same! Fourteen-karat gold (14K) is a good choice and reduces the chances of allergic reactions. Stainless steel, titanium and platinum are always safe options. Certain alloys, like nickel and cobalt, can cause allergies so do your research and ask the experts. 
  • A doctor’s office can prescribe topical cream that will numb the earlobes, making the piercing experience better for your baby. 
  • The earrings you choose should be flat, very small and round with no sharp edges or corners. The fastener should cover the entire back part of the earring and the point itself should be rounded with a small, not too sharp, point at the end. The earring should be safe for the child to wear all the time without the risk of small, sharp parts poking, cutting or coming off. 
  • Regardless of your child’s age when you pierce her ears, you want to carefully watch and care for the lobes. If you see inflammation, irritation, fever or any signs of infection, you will want to call your doctor immediately. And of course, take care to follow the daily instructions of caring for and cleaning the earlobes and earrings.

As with all aspects of parenting, there is rarely a simple answer, even to a simple question like “when should I pierce my daughter’s ears?”  Do your research, ask your trusted circle, and as always, get recommendations. 

Happy Parenting!

Sources:

“Piercing your Baby’s Ears.” Babycenter. Com.  August 2016.  https://www.babycenter.com/0_piercing-your-babys-ears_10341560.bc

Port, Diane Roth.  “Ear Piercing for Kids.” Parents.com.  https://www.parents.com/health/ear-infection/ear-piercing-for-kids/

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