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Tiny Ears, Big Decisions: The Timing of Ear Piercing for Babies

Hello Moms, Dads and anyone who cares for a child 💕

 

Today we’re going to talk a bit about a bit of a controversial topic. It’s one that comes up frequently, and something I get asked fairly often. When can I pierce my baby’s ears? We’re going to dive into development, safety concerns, and readiness to help you make an informed decision with all the necessary information.


Little girl with pierced ears
Via: canva.com

What is piercing?


Body piercing is defined as the practice of puncturing a body part so that jewellery can be inserted. For the sake of this blog we’re referring to the ears, more specifically (I think), the earlobe.


The history of piercing


Body piercing is one of the oldest forms of what is called body modification. There is art and writing of jewellery and piercings which dates back to early history. Earrings have been found to have existed as far back as the Egyptian Pharaohs and were usually a symbol of royalty.

 

In the late 1950’s the trend of piercing reappeared amongst teenage girls. By the 1960’s some doctors offered piercing services in their practices. During this time, some jewellery shops in Manhattan, New York started to offer some of the first non-medical locations for piercing ears. By the early 1970’s it was common for women to have pierced ears.


The cultural significance of ear piercing


For interest’s sake – and before we are quick to judge a person who may (in your opinion) have pierced their child’s ears too early, here are some cultural reasons why a person my decide to have their child’s ears pierced.

 

Now, I’m no cultural expert, so please let me know if I haven’t gotten this part right but from my research I’ve found:


  • Indian/Hindu cultures: pierce the ears of infant girls to signify; learning, for health and to keep evil at bay, to awaken intellect and to bestow the child with blessings and prosperity (read more about that here).

  • Latino cultures: Latino and Latin American cultures usually have their baby’s ears pierced in hospital as a mark of femininity. I read somewhere that they don’t dress their babies in pink or blue so having pierced ears may signal whether the baby is a girl or not – I can’t actually find any information on if this is true or not.

  • Chinese/Asian cultures: from what I can see, they believe in the medicinal quality of ear piercing (like acupuncture) and so boys and girls are pierced at a young age (read more here).

  • I believe some African countries also have traditions around piercing their children’s ears.



Indian child
Via: canva.com

Health and safety concerns


As with anything related to our human body, there may be some health and safety concerns. These concerns, in my opinion are relatively minor and can easily be worked around

 

  1. The risk of infection: with any procedure where the skin is being opened, there is the possibility for introducing infection. I think that the best way to avoid this is to make sure that when you decide to have your baby’s ears pierced that you do it with a well-trained professional, at a reputable piercing place, and that you ensure that they use new and sealed equipment and earrings. Make sure that you also pay attention to the follow-up care. Rotate the earrings as directed, don’t change them too soon and make sure that you are able and willing to follow the correct procedure for cleaning the wound at home.

  2. Allergies: allergies to earrings are usually caused by the metal that the earring is made from. The most common allergen (allergy causing agent) is nickel. Nickel can be found in many metals, including white gold and sterling silver. Other earrings which may cause an allergic copper, brass, and even some plastics (read more on that here). To avoid these types of allergies, maybe consider piercing your baby’s ears pierced with hypoallergenic earrings made from surgical grade stainless steel, titanium or 14k gold.

  3. Healing time: remember that earrings take a couple of weeks to heal. If you choose to pierce your baby’s ears – the responsibility for healing rests solely on you. Make sure that you are prepared for the healing time and that you are available and willing to follow the correct cleaning and healing procedures.


Does early ear piercing cause damage?


Interestingly enough one study found that your chances of developing keloid scarring from piercing increased by almost 4 times if done after the age of 11.


Some studies have found that ear-piercing with a spring loaded piercing gun may cause damage, microfractures, earring embedding and can cause earlobe deformity. A problem I see a simple solution to - don’t use the gun.

 

One other concern that I have seen (see here) is that an earring that falls out becomes an obvious choking hazard. Whether in the cot or during play. Now this is something that I can’t ignore. They make a good point. Perhaps consider the screw in earrings or make sure you perform regular checks to make sure your baby or child’s earrings are still firmly in place.

 

One article suggests that piercings are not more harmful to babies than they are to adults. They found that complications from ear piercing are not determined by age and can happen at any age.


So when can you pierce your baby's ears?


According to what I have found – it seems that it's best to have ears pierced either relatively early or quite a lot later.

 

If you want to have it done as a baby then it’s recommended to wait until after the 6 week vaccines, which in South Africa include tetanus. This is just to ensure that your baby has some immunity to tetanus. Its best to wait until at least 3 months as an infection in the first 3 months of life will, most likely, lead to hospitalization. Some articles also suggest that this is a good time as a baby of that age will not yet tug on their ear.

 

If you would like to do it later then rather wait until well into toddlerhood (a child that is older than 4 will be able to help with care) so that your little one understands that they need to be cleaned and that they shouldn’t touch them.

 

I think the question of when is one that only you as caregiver can answer. I don’t believe that there are any safety concerns that can’t be avoided or worked around with good research, proper care and constant monitoring.

 

In my humble opinion (as a mom of two boys, I might add). Don’t rush. Unless it’s your culture, let your child let you know when they are ready. Make sure that they can express their desire for earrings, provide consent for what you are going to do to their body, and that they are mature enough to understand (even if only in simple terms) the commitment and responsibility of having earrings.

 

Whatever you choose though, is completely up to you. Don’t let anyone’s opinions dictate how you parent. If it is something you want to do – do it! Get a good pair of earrings and go to a certified, clean and reputable piercer.

 

 

Let us know in the comments when you pierced your child’s ears?


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