Ear piercing in babies
There are many decisions to be made as parents. Whether it is food, clothing, choice of daycare and school or even religion, many elements are completely in the hands of those responsible for the education of their children.
In Quebec, and in many other cultures around the world, especially Latin countries, another question is added for infants, and sometimes infants; that of the piercing of babies' ears. There are two elements to this question.
- "Are we going to have our child's ears pierced?" Which is rather ethical.
- “And if so, when and how? Which is more medical and practical.
The piercing dilemma is more controversial than before and every parent will have to make up their own mind. In a context of society where consent and the integrity of the body are the subject of major reflections, here are some elements that will enlighten you on the subject.
Recommendations from piercing professionals and medical organizations
The Canadian Pediatric Society does not offer official recommendations. However, several doctors suggest waiting until the baby has received its first doses of vaccines to reduce the risks, although low, of tetanus and hepatitis B, so after 4 months. Our American neighbors at the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest getting children's ears pierced when they are mature enough to care for the pierced site themselves.
There is no consensus among piercing professionals, each with their own internal rules. Despite everything, many piercers and health professionals recommend waiting to perform this body modification. They therefore prefer that the child makes the request himself, which generally occurs around 5 or 6 years of age. Consent, bodily and gender integrity are then respected.
For a great drilling experience
What about the pain of this procedure? First, it is wrong to think that a baby feels pain less, he just remembers it less. The argument of piercing earlier to avoid pain is less valid. However, you have to put it into perspective, because the pain of an earlobe piercing is felt like a sharp pinch similar to vaccines or banging your big toe. It is therefore a tolerable pain, especially if distraction methods are used and the procedure is done calmly. In addition, many parents use an anesthetic gel before piercing, which reduces this pain practically to zero.
Also, the ritual of having their ears pierced can become an important moment and a pledge of pride for the child who made this decision himself, so why not wait a few years for him/her to choose? Additionally, if the child is old enough to be able to take care of their new curls themselves, it can encourage them to take responsibility.
Once the decision is made, how to proceed?
First, have the piercing done by a competent professional piercer with sterile, disposable equipment, whether needles or gun cartridges. It is important that he sterilizes the earlobe before the procedure. Thus, the risk of infection will be minimal. After the piercing, you will then have to follow these few hygiene tips:
- Avoid touching curls during the day.
- With well-washed hands, twist the curls in their hole once a day.
- Apply antibiotic ointment or alcohol twice a day for the first few days.
- Keep the same earring for at least 6 consecutive weeks to allow proper healing.
- Avoid swimming in pools, spas, lakes or seas if possible.
- Consult a healthcare professional if there are signs of infection
On the aesthetic side, some piercers claim that to optimize good alignment of the holes and good healing, one should wait until the baby's earlobes are large enough to be pierced, therefore often after 3 months.
Buckles should also be made of surgical steel, titanium or 14, 18 or 24K gold to avoid the risk of contact allergies. Nickel is the main metal to avoid.
Finally, the risks of piercing, namely: bleeding, infections, allergies from contact with metals, traumatic lobe tears and ingrown earrings, will be greatly reduced by following these simple tips.
So what is the right decision for your child? Ear piercing remains a personal and family choice, but I hope this information will fuel your thinking and allow you to make a well-informed decision.
Dr. Claudia Munger,
February 24, 2022
Family doctor, Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada
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