When to pierce your child’s ears, how to take care of the piercing and what type of earrings you should choose are all common questions parents ask when considering whether to let your child to pierce her ears. While few hard-fast rules govern when a child can have her ears pierced, parents need to consider several factors.
In theory, you can pierce your child’s ears at any age. Even so, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests you should wait until your child is mature enough to handle the care and cleaning of the piercing on her own. Dr. Barton D. Schmitt, author of “My Child Is Sick,” agrees with waiting until your child is mature enough to handle the responsibility of ear piercing: “Pierced earrings should not be worn until a child is old enough (usually older than 4 years) to know not to fidget with them (which can lead to infections) or take them out and put them in her mouth (which can lead to swallowing or choking on them). Ideally, the ears should not be pierced until a child can play an active part in the decision (usually past age 8).” In some cultures, though, including Latino and Indian, piercing a baby’s ears is tied to cultural norms and ceremonies. In other cases, piercing a baby's ears might be an aesthetic preference and the act of piercing is safe, as long as you follow the proper care and precautions.
Choosing the Right Piercer
You can get your child’s ears pierced in several locations. The AAP recommends that your child has her ears pierced by a pediatrician or licensed piercer. The facility should use sanitized equipment, have a license displayed and have experience piercing the ears of children. Ensure that the piercing technician washes her hands, wears gloves and cleans your daughter’s ears with a bacterial soap or alcohol before piercing.
The Right Earring
Your child’s ears might be sensitive to the metals commonly found in commercial fashion earrings. The AAP recommends the earrings have a gold post and gold back. Gold reduces the risk of irritation and allergic reaction, something that will make the newly pierced ears uncomfortable and inflamed.
The First Six Weeks
After piercing, the original earring should remain in your daughter’s ears for at least six weeks. That time allows the pierced channel in the ear to heal and will help prevent the holes from closing when the earring is removed later. During the initial six weeks, clean the ear piercing twice daily using a cotton swab or cotton ball soaked in a cleaning solution containing benzalkonium chloride, which is available at body piercing shops. Dab the back and front of the piercing and rotate clockwise three times. Ensure that the back of the earring is not tight against the back of the ear.