A Piercing Question

My Puerto Rican mother said her parents pierced her ears before she left the hospital as a baby, but that wasn’t the case for me. And in a classic case of “he said, she said,” my mom insists that my dad didn’t want it done. When I recently asked him about it he said he didn’t really have an issue because it was done at the doctor’s office. Yet, the way the story goes is that my mom decided to pierce my ears when my dad was out of town. She took me to the doctor’s office when I was three months old. They numbed my ears, put in the earrings, she took care of them, and I’ve had pierced ears ever since.

When it came to getting Anabel’s ears pierced I hadn’t really thought too much about it. I think I just assumed we’d get them pierced at some point. Then I saw the flyer at the pediatrician’s office when we first met her. It stated that they pierced ears starting at three months of age, and to me, that sounded reasonable. My husband, however, had other thoughts on the whole thing. I don’t know why, but I was surprised that we weren’t in agreement on this. Yet, I proceeded to get it done.  

The procedure was scheduled for her four-month checkup, and I can’t lie—the actual piercing process wasn’t fun for anyone.

Our doctor’s appointment was during Anabel’s regular nap time, so she was getting cranky before it was even time to mark the spots on her ears for the earrings. We had a few minutes to look at them to determine if spacing made sense. Maybe it was also time to figure out if we really wanted to do it. The time came for the procedure, and of course a nurse needed to come in to help hold Anabel as the doctor maneuvered into position to pierce each ear. My daughter was crying, and the looks my husband gave me made me wish one of us wasn’t in the room. But it was done.

Do I regret doing it? I know that I regret not really having the conversation with my husband about his objections.

And had I heard him out, would I still have done it? Maybe, maybe not. I love my husband and respect him and his opinions, but at the same time it was a sort of forgone conclusion to me that it was going to happen early.

If I was to do it over again I would ask about the numbing solution. We weren’t offered it, and I didn’t ask; I didn’t even think about it being a thing. I also hadn’t really asked my mom how it went with me until after the fact. I wish I had asked beforehand—mothers are forever teaching us lessons. In our case there was no numbing, no nothing. We did her ears and then we did her four-month shots and that ended up being a lot for everyone for one day. It definitely would have been better for all parties involved to space everything out.

A hard morning leads to a sleepy baby.

Our doctor’s office used a system that uses a medical grade plastic, not metal, so there were no immediate worries about metal sensitivities or having to turn the earrings and use cleaning solutions. I think it was this system.

We changed out the earrings right at the six-week mark as directed by the doctor. Knowing what I know now, I definitely wouldn’t have been in such a rush. I ordered a pair of screw-back earrings from the internet that we used for the earring change.

Mistake number one: only ordering one pair. When the back was lost to one we had to switch out to some her grandmother had given her, and they were regular push-backs.

Mistake number two: still not having another back-up pair! I went to get her one morning and noticed an earring was missing. ACK!

Fortunately, we still had the plastic ones from the original procedure, and I got one of them back into her ear. Putting that earring back into her ear might have been worse than when it was originally done in the hospital because I think the hole was already trying to close up.

Honestly, I definitely wouldn’t want to go through that again. Now when the time comes to take the plastic ones out, I have three sets of the same screw-back earrings, because I won’t make that mistake a third time.

Pierced Ear

The ear that nearly undid us.

Given the tension this caused between my husband and me, it was ironically one of the few things I didn’t hem and haw over, or go to the blogs and pour over comments. This was something that I knew was getting done because I’d had it done, my experience as a whole has been good, and I wanted the same for my daughter.

What’s your story?

As it turns out, not every grown woman with pierced ears had them pierced when her mom took her to the doctor before she was a year old. Some people remember the experience because they were five or 10 or 13. I asked some other girl mamas what their thoughts were on ear piercings and in the process learned some of their stories too. Thank you to the mamas who shared…

Bring it on in babyhood

“When my daughter turned one, we got her ears pierced at the pediatrician’s office. I probably should have done it earlier because she knew something was up. I guess mine were probably pierced early, although I have no idea when. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Most of the Indian girls I know have them pierced early. That said, multiple piercings are less common.” —Mama S

“My mother pierced my ears when I was a month old. Having your ears pierced early is a Hispanic cultural thing, and growing up in San Antonio 35+ years ago it was extremely “normal” for babies to have their ears pierced. I didn’t have a single childhood friend whose ears weren’t pierced. It’s different here these days because we have become such a transient city. But I digress. Because I had my ears pierced so young, I’ve never had issues with them. I can literally not wear earrings for months and not worry about them closing up. I never thought of earrings as some rite of passage, etc. Therefore, I wanted to pierce my daughter’s ears as early as possible for the same practical reasons. By the time she is aware of them, they won’t be a big deal. If, later in life, she doesn’t want them, she can go without. My husband didn’t have objections or a strong opinion about it, and her ears were pierced at her two-month pediatrician appointment. I’m very happy I did it, and I have no regrets.” —Mama B

I remember being traumatized at age five when I got my ears pierced. It hurt, and I was so scared. It was the most painful shock ever, and I didn’t want that for my girls. I knew they wouldn’t ever remember it, and they didn’t get infected like mine did. My first daughter’s were done when she was born and then we had to wait a couple of years for my second daughter’s earlobes to grow bigger. The pediatrician did both of them.” —Mama D

Like mother, like daughter

“I was thinking about it but got too nervous because my mom said my twin sister’s and my ears got infected all the time. We ended up getting our ears re-pierced at around age seven, so I’m guessing that I will do hers around that time as well.” —Mama M

To each their own, but for me I want my daughter to make her own decisions on whether she wants her ears pierced. However, I want her to wait until she is 13 to have them done. I was 13. I wanted to get them pierced before that age, but my mom said I had to wait. While I didn’t understand then, I do now. I want her to be old enough to make that decision about her body and also be old enough to take care of them herself.” —Mama B

“I’m going to let her make that decision when she turns 13 (that’s when I was allowed to).” —Mama H

I totally get the appeal of doing it when they’re infants and they won’t remember and won’t pull at or mess with them. I’m doing with my daughter what my parents did with me: when she’s old enough to ask for them and responsible enough to help care for them, she can have her ears pierced. It is really up to her. I was eight when I got my ears pierced and I cried (a lot!), but by that point a lot of my friends had their ears pierced, and I didn’t want to be left out.” —Mama J

My parents didn’t want to pierce my ears until I was old enough to take care of them and care about earrings, so I didn’t get mine pierced until I was nine. I think most people (at least that I have encountered in my life in Central Texas) associate piercing infants’ ears with culture, as the Hispanic culture tends to pierce earlier. I have no desire to add one more thing for me to watch and take care of, and I’m impressed that anyone would add it to their list. I’m probably not going to have my daughter’s ears pierced until she feels really strongly about it and/or can take care of [her ears] on her own. Before she arrived I think I just knew she wouldn’t have pierced ears until she was in middle school. Now, I think, if she cares about it, then it’s fine. It’s so low on the things to get worked up about.” —Mama H

“I feel that it’s more cultural for people from South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and India to pierce children’s ears early. I think little girls with ears pierced are adorable, but it’s also one more thing to keep up with for a baby. For me personally, my parents had to use ear piercing for me to stop sucking my fingers! I honestly don’t know if anything else would have worked. I could not wait until I got my ears pierced, and I got to do that when I was in fourth or fifth grade. Honestly, I suspect I’ll wait because I don’t want to run the risk of infection.” —Mama B

Hoping for a different experience

“I totally did it at three months at our doctor’s. I remember how horrible it was getting infected as a kid, and I have had friends who did it when they were older—12 or so—and pulled on the earrings and hurt themselves. For mine I remember having to go back to the doctor to slice the back of my ear when I was about seven because I didn’t clean them or turn them and the skin grew over the back of my earrings! And then I had to get them re-pierced…over the scars, and the pain was horrible. I didn’t want to chance it with my little girl. My husband didn’t care as long as I took care of them. She cried for maybe 30 seconds per ear and then was fine. No other issues. Now she excellent about letting me put in new ones whenever she inevitably loses one. We get to share special moments when she will touch my earrings and then hers and grin. My grandmother said some pointed and said not very nice things about [my decision to pierce my daughter’s ears so early], and my husband wasn’t initially OK with it, but his mom agreed with me!” Mama E

“I was five and went with my mom to one of those places in the mall. They did one ear and I instantly knew I wasn’t getting the other ear done. It hurt! Eventually, I was ready to do it again. My mom made sure they had two people to do it at the same time, and I got it done! My daughter got her ears pierced when she asked for it for her fifth birthday. She wanted two things: pierced ears and a goldfish. I knew we were going to a place in the mall, so remembering my experience, I called ahead to make sure they would have two people to do it. She plays sports now, so she doesn’t wear them all the time, and we found out she had an allergic reaction to nickel, so we have to be careful about the earrings she does wear.” —Mama H

Want to learn more?

If you are interested in learning more about getting your daughter’s ears pierced at any age, you should check with your pediatrician’s office. Ask about the earring material and if your doctor uses a numbing solution. Don’t hold your breath about it being covered by insurance, though, because this is most definitely an elective procedure.

If your doctor doesn’t do it, there are jewelry stores that you can still walk into to get it done.

The most common appear to be Claire’s and Piercing Pagoda. The minimum age is two months, and baby must have a second round of shots. 

It might be a good idea to call ahead and see if they offer a numbing solution. One store I called did and said it takes about 20 minutes to start working, so be prepared to wait a little bit. And if you want to make sure you’re leaving with both ears pierced, ask if they have two people on staff available to make the process go smoother.

If you got your ears pierced, when was it done? Did it impact your decisions with your daughter? Please share in the comments below.

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