Should you pierce your baby’s ears?

How safe is it to pierce your baby’s ears? By Lisa Witepski

One of the greatest joys of being the mom of a girl is playing dress-up with your real-life dolly. For many moms, that includes getting a pair of earrings for the little miss. For other mothers, ear piercing is a cultural practise. But is it safe?

The dangers

The short answer is no. That’s according to Suzanne Rossi, a paediatric resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the US. In a report cited on, Rossi lists the potential risks associated with ear piercing as bleeding, embedded butterflies, keloid scarring, allergic reactions, deformation of the auricle (the visible part of the ear) and post-traumatic tearing. The most prevalent symptom, occurring in 24% of all cases, is infection with discharge.

Due to the small parts involved, there’s also a risk of choking. What’s more, babies with congenital heart disease face a higher risk of infection.

 ALSO SEE: 10 surprising choking hazards for babies and toddlers

What moms say

Johannesburg-based mom Tarryn Cohen says she had her daughter Ava’s ears pierced when she was four months old, and “it was great!”

But Lara O’Flanerty, who hails from a South American culture where the custom is to pierce babies’ ears when they’re still very young (“probably because they argue that it’s less painful”) refused to follow tradition. “I always see posts from moms asking what to do when their baby’s ears get an infection,” she explains. “I think it’s largely a vanity thing – moms want to make sure people can see their little girl is, well, a girl.”

And another mom, who prefers to remain anonymous, says she feels it isn’t fair to pierce a baby’s ears until they are old enough to tell you that this is, indeed, what they want.

Next steps

If you do decide to go for a piercing, it’s vital the procedure is performed by a doctor, nurse or qualified technician.

It’s also important to keep the piercing completely clean. Applying rubbing alcohol or an antiseptic cream may reduce the chances of infection. You should also ask the person who does the piercing whether they advise rotating the earring; while some people recommend this, others don’t. And, while those unicorn earrings may be irresistibly cute, a plain round, gold stud is the best choice, again because it carries the lowest risk of infection.

First prize, however, involves waiting until your little one is old enough to care for her piercing herself. After all, it’s just a few more years, and means you’ll have one less thing to worry about during the whirlwind of nappy changes and bottles.

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