When it comes to deciding whether to get a baby's or child's ears pierced, there are a lot of factors at play. Cultural and societal norms, the likelihood of infection, whether or not that child wants that type of body modification — all of these factors could cause parents to take the plunge or to hold off. As with so many parenting choices, this can be a tricky one to navigate. Luckily, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is offering recommendations that could bring some clarity, and these new guidelines on piercings could help you to decide whether your kid is ready.
The brand-new report from the AAP focuses largely on tattoos and piercings for teenagers and young adults, but it offers some valuable nuggets that can apply to any young person and his or her parents, as well. For example, the AAP recommends that teenagers who want to get tattoos or piercings talk it over with their parents or other responsible adults first.
A very young child who really wants, say, an ear piercing, would have no choice but to ask (and possibly beg and plead) for permission anyhow. And that could be a good opportunity for parents and kids to have another, related important conversation. In a piece for The New York Times on the subject, pediatrician Perri Klaus wrote that the idea of a getting a piercing or tattoo can "become an arena for discussing the nature of permanent decisions, body autonomy and personal health."
But what about when parents are considering having their kids' ears pierced before they could possibly consent, sometimes just days or weeks or months after they're born? The AAP previously recommended that parents wait until their kids are old enough to care for the piercings independently, Vogue reported, although it recognized having a baby's ears pierced doesn't pose any major risks. If parents do decide to go that route anyhow, the new recommendations dictate that doctors should inform them that there is a possibility that babies could ingest and choke on earring parts. To that end, ensuring that a baby's earrings have a back that locks or screws securely is a must.
In the United States, girls typically get their ears pierced when they're preteens, but that's not always the case. As Roxana A. Soto wrote for CafeMom, Latina moms almost always get their baby girls' ears pierced, and it "has nothing to do with vanity. It's simply a cultural tradition." Conversely, the practice in general has been likened to child abuse, with many people going bananas with outrage when Kim Kardashian posted a photo her daughter, North West, with diamond studs when she was about a year old.
But it's relatively simple to make sure that the process is safe for the kid. The AAP recommends that parents make sure that the piercing establishment is safe by making sure professionals there are using sterile procedures like putting on new, disposable gloves and using equipment from a sterile container. Klass also noted that those who are reputable will provide detailed instructions for follow-up at-home care.
Also, Baby Center noted that babies with ear piercings may be susceptible to infections if they touch their ears a lot; parents can combat this by washing the area several times a day with hydrogen peroxide. It's also a good idea to make sure that all parts of the earring that will touch a little one's ears are 14-karat gold. If the earrings are a cheaper material, they could end up with a rash, which is no fun for anybody.
At the end of the day, whether to pierce a kids' ears is a personal decision; different families will decide on different ages or stages of life for their kids to get it done, or not.
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