Pierced ears seem to have become the norm, with many people sporting more than one hole in each ear. But what about babies and toddlers? Are they too young, or is it too cute?
One day — but not just yet
"Getting my ears pierced was a rite of passage," remembers Cam Bowman. "After begging my mom for years, I finally got my ears pierced when I was 16 years old. My mom had never had her ears pierced and couldn't understand why I'd want holes in my ears," she says. Her mother felt that Cam should be older to make such a permanent decision. "When I see very small babies with their ears pierced I cringe — for several reasons. It hurts, and it can also be dangerous," she says. "But what if your child doesn't want them pierced in the first place? I won't make my girls wait until they're 16. But I do want it to be a fun, special event," she adds.
Liz Jostes remembers her mom saying that she needed to be old enough to clean her newly-pierced ears herself before she was allowed to have her ears pierced. Now the mother of two girls, Jostes thinks that's a good rule of thumb. "So far, my 4-year-old has said she never wants holes put in her years and my 7-year-old seems scared off by the ear piercing process, even though she likes the end result," she says. "I think once she's in 3rd or 4th grade, if she wants them pierced, she's old enough and responsible enough to get them pierced."
Beverly had both of her daughters' ears pierced when they were one month old. "I was adamant about having a doctor pierce their ears in the office," she says. "My eldest had silver studs that were put on with an instrument. I was given an ointment and told to turn [the earrings] each day." The silver studs were removed a month later by the doctor, and diamond studs put in. Beverly felt strongly about having them pierced by a doctor. "I do not believe even to this day of going to a jeweler or some kiosk in a mall and having what I consider an ambulatory procedure done on your child," she adds.
Not anytime soon
Erin Blaskie is not a fan of piercing baby's ears. "As the parent of a 2-year-old daughter, I absolutely am against ear piercing for babies and toddlers," she says." The way I see it, it is not your body to modify in a way that you deem appropriate. You should wait until your child is old enough to request the ear piercing and have a discussion about it at that time. Their body, their choice — it's that simple," she says.
Jene Luciani decided to get her daughter's ears pierced last year, when her daughter was 2 years old. "When I went to switch out the starter studs, the backs of the new earrings became embedded in her earlobes and had to be surgically removed," she remembers. "It was kind of a nightmare. I had never heard of this before, but apparently it's quite common," she adds.
"Ear piercing in babies or toddlers has some health risks," says Deborah Gilboa, M.D — also known as Dr. G — a board-certified family physician, parenting expert, author and mother of four. "The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend against piercings in this age group unless it is considered a cultural necessity. If that is the case, wait until after at least the 2-month-old vaccines (which can be given as young as 6 weeks) and have the piercing done by a trained professional," she adds.
Gilboa says that some family doctors and pediatricians will do this procedure in the office. "Care of a pierced ear is outlined on healthychildren.org and is not hard for a parent to do for a small child. The biggest risk to piercing the ears of a baby or toddler is the choking risk of the post or the earring," she says. "This is a significant risk, partially because the choking may occur while the parent is sleeping."