Piercing a Baby’s Ears: When and How to Do It Safely

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Piercing a baby’s ears might be incredibly common, depending on where you live. Many African, Latin American, and Indian communities do it. Are you interested in piercing your baby’s ears? This article will teach you all you need to know about it.

sleeping newborn with earring after piercing a baby's ears

Is piercing a baby’s ears abuse?

Many people believe piercing a baby’s ears counts as abuse. The arguments spring up about how much pain the baby will go through, the baby’s inability to consent, and contamination risks. Despite critics’ opinions, most experts do not view baby ear piercing as abusive. 

Piercing babies’ ears is a treasured rite of passage in different cultures, much like infant baptism. Parents in these cultures take reasonable precautions to ensure safe piercings and reduce the risk of infections or any adverse effects. 

Plus, in most cases, children with ear piercings grow up and don’t have a problem. And if they do, they can always choose not to wear earrings and let the hole close on its own.

💡 Keep in Mind: Unlike tattoos, earlobe piercings are not permanent and only bring a few seconds of pain (like vaccinations do). Most importantly, though, deciding whether or not to pierce a baby’s ears is one of many personal decisions parents make for their infant children.

At what age should you pierce a baby’s ears?

The age at which parents decide to pierce babies’ ears varies depending on personal preferences and local cultural practices. For instance, in Latin America, babies’ ears are pierced at the hospital before they get discharged. But in India, parents may wait till the Mundan ceremony, when the baby gets their first haircut, to pierce their ears.

Some experts recommend getting a baby’s ears pierced after the two-month mark when they have received their tetanus vaccines, while others recommend waiting until after the 6-month mark when babies have received more vaccinations.

💡 If you’re deciding when to get your baby’s ears pierced, it may help to talk to your pediatrician first. They’ll know whether your baby needs to take any additional unique factors into consideration.

You should also consider the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP recommends that ear piercing be delayed until the child is more mature. This suggestion is because the kids can care for the piercing at an older age. Still, the AAP mentions that piercing at any age is OK, as long as the site is kept clean.

Where should you get your baby’s ears pierced?

The AAP recommends that a pediatrician or an experienced nurse perform infant ear piercings.

Professionals begin by washing their hands, wiping the work area, and putting on a fresh pair of gloves. Next, they apply a topical anesthetic or numbing gel to the ears and wipe them at the front and back with an alcohol swab to sterilize the area. They mark the spot to be pierced and wait for you to approve the positioning before they proceed. If you would rather have it in another spot, the piercing professional will wipe the area and select a new site. Once all is set, they do the piercing.

In these situations, they also provide necessary aftercare instructions. These include when and how to clean the site and how long to leave the earrings in before taking them out.

Having the ear piercing in a controlled and sterile environment reduces your baby’s risk of infection. This means that getting your baby’s ears pierced at a jewelry store like Claire’s would not be a good idea. Also, unless a professional will be available to do it for you, we don’t recommend piercing babies’ ears at home.

Risks of Baby Ear Piercings

Although most baby piercings succeed without any complications, the procedure is not entirely risk-free. Knowing about the possible risks can help you take the right precautions if you decide to pierce your baby’s ears. Here are four of the most common risks.

Bacterial infection

Piercing infections are the most common risk of ear piercings. Ear piercings can become infected for several reasons such as: 

  • Using unsterilized equipment in piercing 
  • Touching the piercing site with dirty hands
  • Not cleaning the piercing regularly while it’s healing
  • Taking the earring out before the wound is healed fully

Earlobe infections occur with about 20% of piercings, but when caught on time, they can be treated. Redness, swelling, pus, excessive bleeding, and a high body temperature after the piercing may indicate possible infection. If you notice these symptoms:

  • Apply a saline solution to the infected area
  • Use an antibiotic ointment or cream
  • Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible

Infants below three months are often hospitalized when they have fevers. Even when the child is older, a fever is distressing. All of this can be prevented with better hygiene while ensuring the piercing and surrounding area are clean and sterile.

Allergic reaction

Some babies are allergic to certain metals and react poorly when their skin comes into contact with them. Allergic skin reactions can show up as rashes, red and itchy skin, pain, and some weeping skin.

Nickel allergies are the most common. To avoid an allergic skin reaction, ensure that the earring used doesn’t contain nickel. The AAP recommends using gold posts, but other hypoallergenic metals, like sterling silver or titanium, can also be used.

Even where hypoallergenic earrings are used, there is a slight chance your child might be allergic. Take the earrings off if you notice any rash, itching, or redness after the piercing.


Keloids are caused by an excess of collagen formed during healing. They appear as thick, raised, and (in some people) reddened growths that deform the skin’s appearance. Surgical procedures can remove keloids, but there is a high risk of recurrence.

To avoid keloids, it might be safer to pierce your child’s ears earlier.

💡 Studies show that the risk of keloid formation is higher in children older than 11. If your child is already past that age and you have a family history of keloid formation, it may be best to avoid piercings entirely.

Earlobe ripping

In rare cases where young children or infants wear large earrings, the weight of the earring can gradually stretch and split the ear lobe. Also, if the earring snags on clothing or other surrounding objects, this can also cause earlobe ripping. Always use firmly screwed studs rather than loose studs or dangling earrings for young children.

Our 8 Top Tips for Safe Baby Ear Piercing

Piercing your baby’s ears doesn’t need to lead to complications for the baby. Here are some tips to ensure the process is smooth.

  1. Use a local anesthetic or numbing creams can help reduce pain during piercing. The pediatrician, nurse, or piercing expert will usually apply a numbing agent to your baby’s ear about 30 minutes before the procedure. Sometimes, they may use ice to numb the area instead.
  1. Ensure that all piercing equipment is sterilized before piercing. This reduces the risk of bacterial infection. 
  1. Use hypoallergenic earrings after piercing. Hypoallergenic metals don’t contain nickel and have a low risk of causing allergic reactions. Metals like sterling silver and 14-, 18-, and 24-karat gold rarely cause allergic reactions. If you notice any rash or redness after the piercing, those could be signs of a reaction. Take the earrings off.
  1. Only use studs that you can fix tight to the ear lobe. Loose studs can come off easily. Dangling earrings can snag on fabrics or other objects and in rare cases, cause an earlobe injury. Check out our top 10 recommended earrings for babies.
  1. Clean the site with a mild disinfectant or alcohol two to three times daily. Your baby’s pediatrician will suggest the best product to use. By constantly cleaning the piercing, you prevent bacteria from getting in, reducing the risk of future infection.
  1. Try not to touch the piercing site unless your hands are clean. Dirty hands come with the risk of all sorts of bacteria. By ensuring you keep them away from the piercing, you can prevent an infection.
  1. Watch the piercing for any signs of allergic reactions. Take out the piercing if you find any redness, or bleeding.
  1. Do not take out the earring in the first six weeks after the piercing. Avoid rotating the earring unless absolutely necessary while cleaning. Also, do not attempt to change the earring. It’s best to let the wound heal fully before attempting to remove the earring. This way, you lower the potential risks of infection.

It’s Your Choice

Even with all the controversy surrounding piercing a baby’s ears, it is a common practice in many cultures. Like with piercings at any age, there are associated risks, and you can avoid them with lots of care. 

Remember to let a professional handle it in a sterile environment. Make sure you provide the needed aftercare for your baby and take the earrings off in the event of any reaction. Remember that the final decision is yours and that your child’s ears will heal with the proper precautions.

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