Even though I consider myself to be completely bi-cultural and know the nuances of both the North American and Latin American traditions, it’s still a sort of a culture shock to me when I get asked when I got my 5-year-old-girl’s ears pierced. Many times this question is followed with a hint of judgment as soon as they find out I pierced her ears when she was only four months old. Some might even let out a gasp when I explain that by four months I was desperate to get her pierced and oh-so-annoyed that the nurses wouldn’t do it at the hospital when she was born.
See, it’s a tradition in Latin America that you carry your 14-karat gold baby earrings with you to the hospital when you deliver a girl. In fact, I had two pairs to choose from — one sent by my sister from El Salvador and the other a gift from my husband’s aunt in Mexico. It’s what we do. But rest assured that this tradition has survived centuries because it is safe and, in fact, we believe it’s just better overall for girls to get their ears pierced as early as possible, mostly for all the reasons I list below.
I understand many people seriously disagree that babies should be getting their ears pierced, especially since some argue it’s a form of mutilation. I disagree, but I will admit I have a cultural bias. Beyond that, I do have sound reasons. Let me tell you why ear piercings on babies are fine and then give you some tips I learned to get it done the right and safe way:
#1. It’s more sanitary to pierce a baby’s ears
Between 0 to about 4 months babies will not interfere with the piercing healing process by tugging and pulling the earring. You will have to make sure to clean the piercing with a cotton swab and it’s just so easy to do when they’re in that deep baby sleep. Once they are toddlers, they will be touching with those dirty little hands, increasing the likelihood of an infection.
#2. Babies won’t remember the pain
The older they get, the more they will remember the pain that comes with the piercing gun or needle. The pain is truly minimal — like any shot — but they could be shocked and remember the experience as unpleasant. Some people even report that after getting the first earring in, the girls will refuse to get the second one pierced! Babies can’t really object since they have no perceived sense of fears to needles, and you really don’t need to worry about it being too painful for them. If you want to make sure the discomfort is truly minimal, you can give your baby a bit of a pain reliever like ibuprofen before the shot, but it’s not necessary.
#3. Every girl wants her ears pierced
I have yet to meet a girl that doesn’t want her ears pierced! Nor have I ever heard any of my Latina friends complain that their ears were pierced without their consent because they were babies. Not one. Earrings are for sure the safest form of baby bling!
#4. There are professionals
Since hospitals in the U.S. won’t allow nurses to pierce baby’s ears before they go home, make sure you find a professional piercing salon or a pediatrician in your area that will do the piercings in their clinics. My pediatrician wouldn’t do it, so I went to a friend’s doctor who did it himself in his office. He told me he got so many requests for it, and got so tired of seeing baby girls come in infected from botched piercings from mall stores, that he decided to do it himself. At chain stores you run the risk of the equipment not being properly sterilized and no guarantee as to how trained the person who’s performing the piercing is. For a checklist on how to choose the right piercer, visit the Association of Professional Piercers site.
#5. Only use real gold or surgical steel
Buy 14-karat gold or surgical steel baby earrings. The difference with baby earrings is that the screw has a lock so that babies can’t take them off and you avoid any choking risks. In any case, if you’re getting them pierced in their early months of age, they won’t be pulling on them anyway, but it’s better to be safe and make sure the earrings won’t come off. The use of 14 karat gold and surgical steel is to avoid any allergic reactions to metals that are common with silver or gold-plated earrings which have nickel. It’s been reported by the Association of Professional Piercers that 15% or more of the U.S. population has an allergy to nickel.
#6. Do what feels right
Some pediatricians might recommend you wait until your baby is 3 months old so she’s already had her first round of immunizations. There’s no medical proof that this is necessary, but it’s a precaution that can be taken for peace of mind.
Like I mentioned, my girl got her ears pierced at four months and it was a breeze. She’s never had an infection or any type of problem with them. And now that she’s older, she can have fun selecting age-appropriate and fun earrings to wear.
Tell me in the comments: Did you or are you planning to get your girl’s ears pierced? How young do you think is too young?
And if you think I’m crazy, here are some celeb parents who also pierce their tots’ ears:
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Check out the forthcoming book I co-authored, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.
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