Piercing A Baby's Ears

This piercer had thoughtful questions about piercing babies ears:

Hi Elayne,

I have your book, The Piercing Bible, and I consult it before I perform any piercings. I appreciate your cautious yet sensible attitude.

At the moment I'm looking for some information about piercing a baby's ears and I can't seem to find it in the book. Would you mind answering a couple of questions?

Is there a minimum age that you recommend the piercee should be? What gauge needle is optimal and is there a particular jewellery style which is preferable? Also, do you have any tips on how to hold the baby?

Many thanks. 

My Reply:

Hi A.,

Thanks for the positive feedback about my book; I appreciate it! Perhaps you'd be willing to post a review somewhere, or some comments on my guest book? If so, the entry form for a new posting is at the bottom of this page:

http://piercingbible.com/guestbook

I've never pierced an infant or anyone too young to consent. If you plan to do it, I would suggest looking for some online forums to get input from piercers who do pierce infants.

If you check in The Piercing Bible on page 251, you will find my perspectives clarified (though directed to parents rather than piercers):

Infant and Child Ear Piercing

The debate about piercing the ears of infants and children has two principal elements: the philosophical considerations, which include ideas about cultural identity and ownership of the body, and the practical aspects. As examples of different philosophies about body modification, Western parents readily subject their own children to bands of metal that painfully force their teeth into new positions, but they shudder to see youth of the Matsés tribe of the Amazon sporting sticks through their pierced lips. Similarly, many people think nothing of circumcising a male baby but condemn practices like female genital cutting, or female circumcision, in which the external genitalia of an underage girl is altered, or partially or entirely removed, for cultural or religious reasons.

Every society has its own customs, standards of beauty, and marks of identity; they are part of the glue that holds groups together. Parents naturally want to adhere to established norms and create their children in their own image. Piercing the ears of young girls is a fairly established practice in the Western world, and some piercers are amenable—but no ethical piercer would consider piercing any other part of a youngster.

I will perform piercings only on individuals who specifically consent to the act and agree to comply with maintenance procedures during healing. Obviously, this includes declining to pierce babies or toddlers who are too young to grasp the situation—and all animals, of course. I will pierce the earlobes of a child who is old enough to knowingly make the request for it. He or she must also comprehend the need to keep dirty fingers away during healing and promise to abide by my instructions, usually with a parent’s help. Many of my colleagues share my standards, though some are more accommodating, and others even stricter.

If you decide to proceed with piercing the ears of your child who does not meet those common minimum requirements, one practical consideration is that you might find it difficult to locate a qualified piercer who is willing to do the job. You may be tempted to visit a jewelry kiosk or accessory store that uses an ear-piercing gun. Don’t. Your best option may be to seek a sympathetic pediatrician or dermatologist who is trained in ear piercing.

If you are interested in having your child’s ears pierced, consider the following practical matters. 

The risk of infection is high if your child is not old enough to refrain from touching the piercings, either because she is too young to understand the instructions or she does not yet have the self-discipline.

A piercing positioned in the center of your baby’s earlobes sometimes ends up being too low or close to her face when she’s grown.

Established earlobe piercings seldom close completely, and they do leave a permanent mark (however small) if abandoned later.

Doctors blame the rise in nickel allergies on the popularity of ear piercings done with inferior quality jewelry. Once they have developed, these allergies may be severe and lifelong. For more information, see “Dermatitis,” page 212. 

The arrow on the photo shows an initial piercing that was done in infancy. Note that it is far too low on the ear, and also closer to the face than it should be.

This is somewhat characteristic of ear lobe piercings done in infancy.

Adult Earlobe pierced in infancy, and again in adulthood

She replied with the following:

Thanks, Elayne.

The information you've given me has been really helpful. I come from a culture that accepts the piercing of babies' ears, usually from about 6 months upwards. I think the logic is that the earlier a girl's ears are pierced the more control a mother has over keeping the piercing clean. However, I suspect it has more to do with distinguishing baby girls from boys! Either way, it's a custom that is frowned upon in general Australian society (where I live) but I find the disapproval hypocritical as you have pointed out in the excerpt from your book.

I, and many of the girls I know, had our ears pierced as an infant and the problems you mentioned are common. The eventual location of the piercing is not a big problem - most girls have their second earlobe piercing done as a teenager to even it out - but I have heard of some girls who cannot wear anything but gold due to allergies. So I suppose the most important thing is to choose appropriate jewelery.

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my query.  

Cheers