Ear Lobe Piercing – When Is The Right Time?
There was a very upsetting video circulating around the internet last week. It depicted a child being restrained by her mother as someone pierced her ears with a gun. The child was screaming and repeating ‘no’ over and over again.
People have been working themselves up about the mother’s behaviour, but the sad fact of the matter is that this is far from uncommon in an environment that offers no restrictions on who can be pierced or what state they need to be in for a piercing to safely take place. A responsible piercer needs to be willing to say no when no is the appropriate answer.
(You can practice at home. Costume optional.)
So when is the right time to have your child’s ears pierced? In the hospital, after their first set of inoculations, when people can’t tell if they’re a baby boy or girl, when they’re old enough to ask, when they start school, when they’re old enough to take care of them, when they’re old enough to drive, or never?
Like so many of the issues that parents (and non-parents) debate about child rearing, there is no singular correct answer. Every family (and every child) is different, and what works well for one child can spell disaster for another.
At our shop, we use the following guidelines:
- Are they old enough to ask for the piercing?
- Do they want to be pierced?
- Do they want it enough to walk into the piercing room and sit by themselves?
- Will they readily let us touch their ears to clean and mark?
- Can they grasp the concept of not touching the new piercings?
- Will they let us pierce them?
If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then we proceed. If the answer changes to no at any time, we stop. Consent to a piercing is 100% revocable, and we don’t allow a child to be forced or coerced into doing something that they do not want to do.
No matter your age, we want every single piercing to be a positive experience.
There are lots of things that can be done to make the experience pleasant for a first time piercee. Having two piercers available, that way both lobes can be pierced simultaneously, helps things go quickly and smoothly.
Some shops also employ a ‘no parents in the room’ rule, similar to many dental offices. We find this method very effective for small children. They feel like a big kid, and tend to be more brave. It also gives us time to focus 100% of our attention on them, while our receptionist reviews aftercare and answers questions with the parents.
But all of these techniques apply to children who are are least a few years old. Let’s talk babies for a minute.
Why pierce a baby’s ears?
People have their reasons. And some are better then others. Let’s review a few that we encounter frequently:
“They won’t remember.”
- Is it really that bad? An ear lobe piercing is hardly a traumatizing experience that we need to protect our children from. Done correctly, it can be a wonderful right of passage and positive memorable experience.
“They won’t touch them if they don’t know they’re there.”
- This can be true. If an infant never notices their earrings, they may touch them less then an older child would. However, the other side of that is that if they do notice them, you can’t simply ask them to not touch. They also can’t tell you if they piercings are irritated or hurting during the healing phase.
“People will stop mistaking my little girl for a little boy.”
- Again, is this really such a big deal? Like an ‘I need to modify my child’s body’ big deal? I’m no gender expert, but I feel like dressing your little lady is pink and ribbons would serve the same purpose.
“It’ll look sooo cute.”
- If the only reason to have their ears pierced is to appease your own vanity, just put your baby in a cute outfit and go get your own ears pierced. Your child is a human being, not your plaything.
- If you have no strong pull to have your child’s ears pierced, why not wait until they can decide for themselves? Perhaps a family member is pressuring you? Maybe this is an opportunity for you to set boundaries with the people you love, letting them know that this is your child and you will make the final decision.
“It’s an important part of our culture.”
- This is a tricky one. Tradition regarding piercings (and other modifications, like circumcision) are heavily debated in parenting circles. In some cultures, babies are pierced at the hospital, it’s like inviting that child to be a part of their community, and skipping out on this step can be viewed as cruel exclusion. Others see the piercings as barbaric and not appropriate
- One Spanish American mother wrote a very thoughtful article on both her personal experience, and why she chose to have her infant daughter’s ears pierced.
“See, my American mother did not pierce my ears when I was a kid. So when I moved to Spain at 5 years old, I was one of the few girls who did not wear cute earrings. I felt different and upset that my parents hadn’t pierced my ears.”
- Another mother from the UK wrote an equally well considered article about how she was condemned for allowing her 11 year old daughter to have her ears pierced. Her siblings, other children’s parent’s, her mother, and her mother in law (quoted below) all chimed in with disapproval.
“Well no, I don’t think it looks nice at all, but I was so disappointed I didn’t know what to say.”
Why not pierce a baby’s ears?
Many of the reasons that people give when arguing against piercing a baby’s ears are based on opinions or experience. Here are a few considerations based on fact over cultural bias.
- Your baby cannot tell you if their ears are sore or if something is wrong with the healing piercings.
- Your baby’s ears are small. What may seem like a centered piercing at that age, can be wildly misaligned when your child grows up.
- Your child may not want piercings when they are older.
- Many body piercing professionals do not feel comfortable piercing babies, but any hair dresser/costume jewelry sales person is fine using a piercing gun on your baby. (Piercing guns are unsanitary and bring with them a whole host of other concerns, which will be a dedicated post another day.)
- Most earrings available in malls, kiosks, and even expensive department stores contain nickel. (Even hypoallergenic or ‘nickel free’ jewelry can cause issues if the quality of the metal is poor.) Contact metal allergies develop over time, and the younger a person is exposed to these substances, the more likely they are to develop an allergy.
Doing it the right way
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to make sure that when your child does have their ears pierced (whether that be as a baby, a child, a teenager, or when they are an adult), that their piercing is done in the right way.
Everyone deserves to be pierced by a trained professional, in a safe environment, with quality jewelry.
So when the time is right, do your research, and find a professional body piercing shop with experienced piercers who only use quality jewelry, and are committed to providing you ongoing aftercare and assistance. Here are some questions you can ask to help you figure out if you’re dealing with a quality shop:
- How did you learn to pierce? (The answer should involve more then ‘I read a book’ or ‘I practiced on my friends’)
- How do you sterilize your jewelry and equipment? (They should be able to show you their sterile room – where they clean and process tools, if they use tools.)
- What kind of jewelry do you use? (Remember, the quality of jewelry varies substantially. Some stainless steel jewelry is made using machines that cost as much as a small island, while other stainless steel jewelry is made by tiny asian children and can be purchased in bulk on eBay for .99 cents.)
- How do you recommend taking care of the new piercings? (If they use the words ‘rubbing alcohol’ or ‘turning it five times a day’, hang up the phone.)
I hope all of you parents out there found this helpful! And if your child meets our guidelines above, we would love to give them a wonderful first timers piercing experience.
Now enjoy some happy, newly pierced kidlets: