North West, the 1-year-old daughter of of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, was recently spotted wearing earrings, sparking a heated Twitter debate on what age is appropriate to pierce a baby’s ears.
As a mom of a toddler, the ear piercing issue has already been part of the conversation at my house. Even though I begged my parents to get my ears pierced when I was a kid, I never ended up getting it done.
Turns out, I'm not alone in trying to navigate the "Pierce or Not to Pierce" issue for infants. When I posted a question about it in an online mom forum called “Ask the Chicks” hosted by pregnantchicken.com – and to my play group friends – dozens of moms weighed in on the matter.
I posed a handful of questions, including what ages moms would feel comfortable allowing their daughters to pierce their ears, and what led them to make that decision?
Multiple moms, including "Ask the Chicks" forum member Alicia Labhart wrote that the decision is in her daughter’s hands.
“As simple as ears are to pierce I view it as a body modification. We want our daughter to know her body is her domain so we've chosen to not pierce her ears,” said Ms. Labhart. “Once she is old enough to ask we'll consider it as long as her reasoning isn't ‘all the other girls have theirs done.’”
Another half-dozen moms commented that getting ears pierced should be a special milestone, a celebration of growing up, or a marker in the journey to womanhood. Included in those milestones is when a daughter can take responsibility for cleaning her own ears and taking care of earrings.
Jessie Zaruba wrote, “She can choose to get them pierced if she likes when I think she is capable of taking care of them by herself (by that I mean remembering to clean/disinfect them for the initial few weeks, keeping track of her own pieces of jewelry, etc.).”
That begs another question – other than the responsibility factor, what counts as a milestone in the journey to womanhood?
Some moms emphasized how ear piercing enhanced the appearance of their daughters, including Keri Hutchison-Gammill, who wrote, “Just had my 3rd baby girl about 6 weeks ago. With my first I got hers pierced at 9 months, my 2nd at 4 months and my third will be getting hers done next week!”
She added, “I think the earlier the better. None of mine pulled on them or had any problems. I think if I had waited until they were bigger they would play with them too much. We do it just for pretties. But they will only have studs (with their birthstones) until they reach the age of (at least) 10. No dangly or hoop earrings until they are much older!”
Growing up, I harassed my parents about getting my ears pierced from about age 6-10, saying that my friends all had theirs done and explaining how beautiful I would look with glittering jewels on my ears.
My arguments were always firmly rejected and I was told that I could get them done when I was 12, the same age I could join my church.
Within my husband’s family in Mexico, none of this same parent/child debate occurs when it comes to ear piercing. The tradition is to get a baby girl’s ears pierced right after birth because many believe babies don’t feel pain until they reach a month old. When my husband and I post photos on Facebook, or even when we meet friends and family members in person, they often ask if our daughter is a girl or boy because she doesn’t have her ears pierced.
The tradition is so ingrained in that culture that our little American girl sticks out for not following it. Before our daughter was born, I had assumed it would be like the US – each couple decides what’s best for their child – but in Mexico, traditional practices influence parents much more.
At the time, we had so many other things on our minds – our birth plan, childcare, maternity leave policies, budgeting, to name a few – that the subject of ear piercing never came up. In the postpartum haze in the first month after she was born, I turned down my mother-in-law’s offer to take our daughter to get her ears pierced. It was a reflex decision, born mostly of my sleep-deprived state, and I echoed my parents’ position to wait until she’s 12.
Now that the fog has cleared and my mom routine is set, there’s time for reflection. I still haven’t completely decided what my ear-piercing position is, though now my husband doesn’t want to get them done, since our daughter is now 14-months-old, well out of the newborn window.
When I finally did turn 12, after all those failed attempts to persuade my parents to pierce my ears earlier, I had lost interest in getting it done. It was the late ‘90s and I had adopted a grunge style to the extreme, so earrings didn’t seem to fit in with my cargos, camouflage print shirts, and cropped, boyish haircut (*shudder*).
Now my style has evolved to embrace my femininity, and I find myself wanting to get my ears pierced again. Maybe when my daughter’s a bit older and shows some interest, we’ll make a sweet outing of it and get ours done together.