When my daughter was first born, the question of when I would get her ears pierced was immediately posed. I have family members (through marriage) who are from a culture where piercing a baby’s ears is just a given. To them, it’s unheard of that anyone would want to wait.

Except … I wanted to wait.

My reasons for not piercing my baby’s ears were varied. For one, I’m not a girl who wears any jewelry at all. My own ears were pierced when I was a child, but I don’t think I ever owned any more than three pairs of earrings total. And as soon as it was my responsibility to pick and change them out, I never wore earrings again.

As an adult, my holes never actually filled in. I don’t feel irreparably harmed by this fact. They’re just holes in my ears, and very small holes at that. But as someone who never had much interest in earrings, why would I assume my own daughter automatically might, just because she’s a girl?

Why would I make that decision for her?

Then there was the American Academy of Pediatrics’ position on child ear piercing to consider. They state that parents should wait “until the child is mature enough to take care of the pierced site herself.”

That made sense to me.

I was also uncomfortable with those in my life who seemed to feel this was a necessity so that others would “know she’s a girl.” That felt more like vanity to me than anything, and it just wasn’t something I was personally interested in playing into.

My baby didn’t need holes in her ears just so that I could rest assured that strangers would know she was a girl.

Still, the whole topic is one of those mommy war discussions that, to me, shouldn’t even be a discussion. I don’t have any judgment against those who choose to pierce their baby’s ears, just as I hope they don’t have any judgment against me for choosing not to. It’s all about what you feel is right for you and your family.

But I did start to wonder, what factors go into this decision for other people?

So, I decided to ask. And these were the responses I got.

Pro piercing

I chose to pierce. She was 3 months old, and barely cried. We decided to do it because I got mine done at an early age and loved being able to change them. My daughter is almost 3 and loves them too. She has never pulled on hers or mine.

- Kristie C.
I opted to get her ears pierced. Maybe it’s cultural? We went to a reputable tattoo parlor when she was 6 months old and really were impressed with our piercer. My little girl will be used to the earrings and hopefully be less likely to mess with them. No worries of infection. I love the way her tiny pearls look!

- Emma M.
I had my daughter’s ears pierced at 6 months at an ear, nose, and throat doctor’s office. To me it’s a sign of being a girl. My daughter is 3 now and loves her earrings. I have no regrets.

- Gena M.
I did not get my daughters’ ears pierced. I felt I should wait until they really wanted it. I actually regret that though, because when they did get it done around 11 years old, they didn’t clean them or let me clean them as well as needed to be done. So they developed infections. I feel if I’d done it when they were infants I could have cleaned and monitored the area far better. I also think it would’ve been nice at infant age in that they wouldn’t remember. My oldest daughter remembered both the piercing and the infections well enough that she won’t ever get it done again. For me, if I have another daughter, I will likely get her ears pierced at around 1 or 2 years old.

- Cristy S.
We are Mexican and it’s somewhat of a tradition. My ears were pierced at 6 weeks and I had my daughter’s pierced at 8 weeks. They closed up and I took her again at 2. When I have another daughter I will do the same thing.

- Alicia A.
I pierced my daughter’s ears at 2 months. Mainly because I’d always wanted to pierce my baby’s ears and thought they were cute. I figured if she decided later on she didn’t want them, the holes wouldn’t be that noticeable and she could take them out. However, she’s 2 1/2 now and absolutely loves them and asks to have them changed to different earrings quite regularly. When they were first pierced I cleaned them and turned them at each diaper change to ensure they didn’t get infected and we’ve never had a problem with them.

- Meisha H.
I had my daughter’s ears pierced at 7 months old by a pediatrician using a piercing system that’s sterile and uses titanium to prevent nickel allergies. My parents made me wait until I was 12, which meant I touched my ears frequently because I was so enthralled with them. A raging infection and a severe nickel allergy ensued. My daughter never even knew they were there, nor did her twin brother. There are many things my daughter might hate me for in the future, I doubt ear piercing will be one of them.

- Jennifer P.

Piercing can wait

I didn’t have my daughter’s ears pierced until she wanted to get them done. I figured it was her choice and I didn’t want to worry about infection or something like that when she was a baby.

- Erin F.
I really want to get my daughter’s ears pierced but my husband doesn’t want me to until she can understand what’s going on and that it will hurt.

- Kristine W.
We chose not to pierce our daughter’s ears as a baby. We decided to let her make the choice, but at the same time I wanted to be sure she wanted it done. She first expressed an interest in getting her ears pierced around her 6th birthday. Roughly a year and a half later we went and got them done. It was very much a rite of passage for her, and one I am now looking forward to carrying on with my 6-month-old daughter.

- Cara B.
We didn’t pierce our daughter’s ears because it’s a body modification that’s not medically necessary. I have many piercings and tattoos so I am not against it at all, I just feel that my child should have a say in something like that. If and when she decides she wants them done, I will happily take her. Not my body, not my choice basically.

- Beth S.
I’m just not crazy about how earrings look on little babies. Now that she is a toddler, I’m totally comfortable forcing things on my daughter that she doesn’t like (I’ve spent more time and money on her clothes and hair than I care to admit), so I’m definitely not one to judge. But somehow earrings just never appealed to me. She can be very stubborn, so I can’t think that the upkeep that would be required would be a fight worth having, given my so-so feelings on the subject. Maybe when she’s in elementary school?

- Elizabeth N.
When I was younger, I got my ears pierced as a birthday present around 9 or 10 years of age. So when we had two girls, I didn’t even think to pierce their ears when they were babies. We told them, obviously when they could understand, that pierced ears are a big responsibility. You have to make sure they stay clean or your ears will get infected. One of the ways we told them we would know they were ready was if they could keep their room picked up. Needless to say, our oldest girl has her ears pierced, but our middle child saw how it was done, and I don’t think she will ever want to do it! She also doesn’t like to clean her room!

- Erin H.
My mom regretted having done mine during infancy since they looked really uncomfortable (studs have probably evolved since then). If I remember correctly, the first set closed and I had them redone a few years later. And then in high school I got additional piercings. For those reasons and because it’s her body and her choice, I won’t be allowing my daughter to have her ears pierced until she is old enough to make the decision and take care of them. And I will do them at a reputable piercing salon.

- Jennifer P.

The takeaway

Obviously, there are a lot of different factors that go into making this decision. The key is in educating yourself and making a decision you and your family can be comfortable with.

Q:

From a doctor’s perspective, should I wait to pierce my child’s ears?

A:

Regardless of whether or not you decide to pierce your child’s ears, pediatricians generally recommend waiting until your baby is at least 2 months old. This is when they receive their first tetanus shot and when their risk of serious infections decreases. 

Karen Richardson Gill, MD, FAAPAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.