Whether your kid has been begging to have their ears pierced since forever or you’re taking your baby to get their ears pierced before they realize it’s gonna hurt — à la Kylie Jenner and baby Stormi — some expert tips will help you both get through it.
Opinion was divided when Jenner shared a video on Instagram revealing her 5-month-old daughter had some baby-size ear candy. Some thought Stormi was too young to have her ears pierced, while others defended Jenner, pointing out that it’s common for teeny tots to get pierced ears in the United States. And Jenner wasn’t going against any medical advice — according to board-certified pediatrician Dr. Nadia Sabri, the earliest ear piercing should be done is after the infant receives their first round of vaccines to protect against tetanus. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends this at 2 months old.
"Anytime after that is usually fair game," Sabri tells SheKnows. However, she personally recommends waiting until after 9 to 12 months of age so the infant has had the initial set of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis) vaccines for more protection. "The earring is basically a foreign object going through the earlobe, so the more protection we can offer our kids, the better," says Sabri.
Sabri recommends doing your research to find a highly reputable piercing studio. At the very least, it should have sterile, hygienic practices, use new materials for each customer and have experience piercing children’s ears. If your pediatrician’s office offers ear piercing services, this is probably your best bet.
"Some parents feel it is better to have their child’s ears pierced at the doctor’s office, as it can be more sterile of an environment," Dr. Danelle Fisher, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SheKnows. "Some people also like the comfort of seeing a trained medical professional as opposed to someone they meet at the mall for the first time."
However, as long as the ear-piercing process uses clean instruments and a proper technique, it can be performed by anyone.
If your kid is still young enough to get distracted by a lollipop or a small toy, arm yourself with plenty of distractions to take their mind off the pain (the ear lobes are numbed before being pierced, but it won’t be completely pain-free). Don’t forget a pacifier and/or comfort toy or blanket for afterward. If they’re too old to be diverted by candy, invite one of their friends to come along. It might boost their confidence — or at the very least their bravado. Don’t tell your kid it won’t hurt at all, though — it’s best to prepare them by telling them it will hurt a little if they’re old enough to understand.
For a successful ear-piercing experience, it’s all about the aftercare to reduce infection risk (common signs are redness, pain, discharge and a foul odor from the earlobe).
"The cleaning of the earrings after the ears are pierced is the most important tip," says Fisher. "Earrings should be cleaned front and back with rubbing alcohol and then a small dab of antibiotic ointment. This process should occur morning and night for about a week. The earrings should also be rotated in the ears a few times a day."
If you’re still battling with your kid on a daily basis to get them to brush their teeth, aftercare might be the most painful part of ear piercing — for you at least. Paying for cute or funky — and yes, overpriced — brand-name ear-cleaning products might work in your favor over boring drugstore cleaner.
While a good aftercare routine will minimize the risk of infection (by far the most common post-piercing complication), you should also watch out for an allergic reaction to the metal. Sabri recommends using nickel-free or gold-plated earrings to minimize the risk of reaction due to allergy. "Signs of an allergy would be continued tenderness at the site, discoloration from the earring/post and redness," she says. If your child does have an allergic reaction, the best thing to do is remove the earring, clean the ear and leave it to heal fully before attempting to re-pierce the site with a different earring.
Finally, be aware that your kid will be desperate to change their earrings to something more exciting than gold studs. But the studs need to be worn for four weeks before changing them, so help your kid make a calendar to tick off the days, one by one. And then you can have the argument about whether 4-inch hoops are appropriate for school.
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