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To Pierce or Not to Pierce? The Baby Earring Debate

What do you think when you see a newborn with tiny earlobes decorated with even tinier studs, or a young girl waiting in a chair at the jewelry store while the technician loads earrings into the piercing gun? Are you looking forward to or dreading the day your daughter begs you for pierced ears, or have you already had it done for her and think it’s no big deal? Maybe you don’t have pierced ears or you had a bad piercing experience as a child and have already decided your daughter will never get her ears pierced.

When I had my young daughter’s ears pierced, it wasn’t a premeditated act—it was a spur of the moment trip to the mall with a friend and her daughter where I had made the flip comment, “Wouldn’t it be cute if we got their ears pierced?” But I had yet to grasp what the consequences would be for a four-year-old to care for her ears. I hadn’t considered how much time it would involve, just begging, threatening, and even bribing my child to “just let me look at one lobe to make sure it isn’t infected; I promise I won’t even touch it.”

While my daughter has had her ears pierced now for more than a year, we’ve had many talks and tears over keeping them clean and healthy. And while I am thrilled to see how proud she is of her earrings, I still wonder if I may have acted on an impulse that should have been squashed immediately.

Allowing or denying your child to get her ears pierced, or making the decision to pierce your baby’s ears before she can tell you what she wants, is a parent’s prerogative. When contemplating piercing, there are a few things to consider before you and your daughter rush to the mall for that cute pair of starter studs.

Reasons to Pierce …

Veronica Mullen of Tampa, Florida, had always assumed she would have her infant daughter’s ears pierced, just as she had her own pierced when she was an infant. “My heritage is Cuban, and the Hispanic tradition seems to be that most parents pierce their daughters’ ears as small babies,” says Mullen. While pregnant with her oldest daughter, Mullen casually mentioned her plan to her Irish mother-in-law. She couldn’t understand her mother-in-law’s negative reaction. “I had no idea it was such a sensitive topic. Not realizing the cultural differences at the time, I was at first insulted that she should take such a strong stand against something I considered to be natural, and a decision I had planned on making for my own daughter,” Mullen says.

When Mullen’s pediatrician explained they don’t pierce infants’ ears until after their four-month shots, Mullen began talking about piercing with other moms. One mom admitted to Mullen that while she was happy with the decision to pierce her daughter’s ears, sometimes it bothered her to see her sweet baby with jewelry in her ears while she was being bathed and changed.

Mullen’s daughters are now five and almost two, and while she has decided her daughters can have their ears pierced, her oldest is afraid to have it done. “Cultural preferences will probably end up dictating the decision one makes,” says Mullen.

For some mothers, ear piercing can be considered a rite of passage or a way to instill self-esteem, as described by Karen Marcum, of Corpus Christi, Texas, who let her daughter, Amanda, get her ears pierced at age 10. When Amanda was younger, she wore her hair short because of the Texas heat and was sometimes mistaken for a boy. “I thought it would make her feel special and look pretty with her short hair,” says Marcum. “Her self-esteem boomed, and I’m glad I did it. I don’t think we harmed her by letting her have her ears pierced at that age.”

Erin Brown Conroy’s oldest daughter was bald until she was almost two, and many people assumed she was a boy. “Piercing her ears saved me, and others, from embarrassment of mistaken gender. It was really worth getting rid of the negative energy spent on the issue,” says Conroy.

Conroy, of Schoolcraft, Michigan, who is an author, life coach, and mother to 13 children (six of them daughters), thinks it’s appropriate to have ears pierced at any age as long as the care needed is implemented. “If a child is younger, the care often falls to the mom; if we understand and expect that care in our daily routine, then we don’t get bent out of shape from what can be viewed at bothersome,” she says.

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