We’ve all seen adorable little babies with their ears pierced.
While some parents choose to have their baby’s ears pierced shortly after birth, others wait until their baby is a little older. And depending on who you talk to, some people are all for piercing a baby’s ears, while others are completely against it.
Furthermore, there are cultural ties to having pierced ears as early as infancy, which can make navigating the pros and cons a little tricky.
While we’re not here to create a hardline stance on baby ear piercing, we’re going to share the facts so you can make an informed decision.
Is there a right time to have your baby’s ears pierced? The short answer is: It depends.
Some physicians recommend waiting until your baby has received
However, even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t have a firm stance on when the right time is for ear piercings. While the group recommends waiting until a child is old enough to manage piercing aftercare on their own, they don’t explicitly say no to baby piercings.
In fact, the AAP concedes that piercings are safe at any age as long as the piercing is performed with sterile equipment and techniques. Plus, the parent or other caregiver must be consistent with aftercare to ensure that the piercings heal properly.
Aside from infection, which we’ll get to in a minute, there are few other risks to consider before taking your baby to have their ears pierced.
Assuming you’re diligent throughout the aftercare healing process, there’s no known association between having pierced ears as a baby and unintended side effects like uneven or drooping piercings.
Likewise, concerns about other issues, such as the development of keloids (excessive scar tissue) or potential allergic reaction to the metal used in an earring, haven’t been consistently linked to having pierced ears as a baby.
In fact, one study found that keloids are more likely to develop when ears are pierced after the age of 11 than before age 11.
If you have a family history of keloids, you should avoid having your or your baby’s ears pierced. But if you still have your heart set on the idea, experts recommend opting to have your child’s ears pierced in early childhood — rather than infancy — to avoid the risk of developing keloids.
If you’re going to get your baby’s ears pierced, you need to make sure that the provider uses sterile equipment and techniques.
For example, the piercer should use a needle instead of a piercing gun, the latter of which is more popular at jewelry stores, kiosks, and malls. Your best bet is to ask a doctor, nurse, or experienced technician to perform the piercing.
And make sure that the piercer inserts a gold post earring to help reduce the risk of infection and skin reaction to the metal. Also, avoid dangling earrings, as they could get caught on something and increase the risk of your baby’s earlobe tearing — ouch.
Finally, it’s best to use screw-back earrings to prevent them from loosening, falling out, and posing a choking risk
Just like with adult ear piercings — and any type of body modification, for that matter — how you manage aftercare will affect how well your baby’s piercings heal, as well as their longevity.
If you have any piercings, it might have been a while since you cared for them! So, follow these steps:
- Apply an antibiotic ointment to the piercing site twice a day using a cotton pad.
- Rotate the earring twice daily.
- Do not remove or change the earring for the first 4–6 weeks
You should only touch your child’s piercings after thoroughly washing your hands.
Good, consistent aftercare can help prevent infection.
With any type of body modification (and that includes ear piercings), there’s always a risk of infection. That’s why following the aftercare guidelines is so important.
Most people of any age who get their ears pierced pass through the healing process with minimal discomfort. That said, if you notice the following, your baby’s piercing might be infected:
- warmness to the touch
- a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
If your baby has any of these signs of infection, use a simple saline solution to clean the piercing. Avoid using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on your baby’s sensitive ears.
Continue to keep the piercing site clean, and turn the earring, too. Also, note that if the piercing doesn’t turn, that’s likewise a sign of infection.
You can start with home treatment, but if symptoms persist after 2 days, you need to call your pediatrician.
Unfortunately, any piercing procedure is going to come with some discomfort, and babies won’t understand what’s going on.
To minimize pain during the piercing process, go to an experienced professional who can perform the procedure as quickly as possible. Ask about applying a cold pack before and after the piercing to numb the area a bit.
Additionally, be consistent but gentle with the aftercare process. In the first few days, this may be uncomfortable for your baby, so have a distraction handy. This can be a special toy, favorite fruit slice (if your baby is eating solids), or sibling providing entertainment.
The good news is that piercing pain is generally very short-lived as long as the area stays clean and infection-free.
The AAP recommends using gold post earrings that are small, round, and as flat as possible for your baby’s first piercing.
While 14 karat (or higher) gold post earrings are more expensive than cheaper mixed-metal options that may contain nickel, they pose the least risk of causing an allergic reaction.
So, should you pierce your baby’s ears? There’s no right answer here, and often, the decision is influenced by a family’s culture and traditions.
If you decide to get your little one’s ears pierced, make sure you go to a professional who uses sterile equipment, and always thoroughly follow the aftercare instructions so that their piercing heals properly.