Wednesday , 13 December 2017

How Young Is Too Young for Pierced Ears?

Most women can easily recall the first time they got their ears pierced. Usually, each experience is some version of the same story: There’s a minimum age requirement set by the mother, typically around 12 to 14 years old. When the time comes, there’s a trip to the nearby Claire’s or Piercing Pagoda, which is filled with a mixture of dread and excitement. Then a shot of intense, lightning-flash pain and, suddenly, two shiny studs appear in the mirror.


I, on the other hand, have no recollection of my earrings initiation, as I was only a few days old when it happened. In every single one of my baby photos, save for the ones on the actual day of my birth, I am wearing tiny gold studs in my ears. According to my mother, a baby nurse administered the piercing using an ice cube and a needle. In Venezuela, where I was born, baby ear piercing is standard practice. In fact, the tradition extends to most Latin American countries. Brazilian Teen Vogue fashion director Marina Larroude had her baby’s ears pierced in New York when she was only 4 months old. She received many baby-size studs from friends and family in the lead-up to her daughter’s birth. “The minute I knew I was going to have Gloria, I already owned a very nice collection of earrings,” she said. Meanwhile, Karla Martinez de Salas, the cofounder of fashion line Piamita, who had twin girls two months ago, had her daughters’ ears pierced at the hospital before bringing them home. “It’s such a Latin thing,” Martinez de Salas said. “In the U.S., it’s more of a coming-of-age thing. But in Mexico, it’s just like, you’re a girl, your ears get pierced in the hospital.”

After having my own daughter last year, I was faced with the decision of when to pierce her ears. I assumed the hospital where she was born didn’t do it, so I didn’t even bother to find out. In one of her early checkups, I asked my pediatrician if he could do it, but he explained that his practice no longer performed piercings. In the meantime, my Latin friends continued to send me small earrings for my daughter. Her collection of tiny pearls, mini emeralds, and gold studs was so good, I couldn’t help but borrow a pair or two.

As the months went by, I kept postponing her piercing, not only because I couldn’t find someone suitable to do it, but also because I was unsure about my own feelings on the matter. Meanwhile, my mother and mother-in-law were thrown by the delay. “How are they going to know she’s not a boy if she doesn’t have her earrings in?” one of them asked over Christmas. (Apparently, wearing a dress and a bow on her head is not enough of an indicator.)

Maybe I had grown unaccustomed to seeing babies with jewelry because I had lived in New York for more than a decade. Or maybe I was afraid of being judged by other parents, like so many famous mothers who had decided to get their baby’s ears pierced. After Kim Kardashian West shared an image of her daughter, North, sporting a pair of diamond studs ahead of her first birthday, Twitter users were outraged. When Gisele Bündchen Instagrammed a photo of 7-month-old Vivian with gold earrings, commenters went wild. Wouldn’t I suffer the same wrath on the sidewalk or at the park?

After polling several of my coworkers, I learned that a few of them, born and raised in the U.S., also had their ears pierced as infants. Zoë Taubman,’s Associate Social Media Manager, got her ears pierced when she was a few weeks old as part of a Sephardic Jewish tradition. “The men had their bris and the women got their ears pierced,” she said. Senior Fashion Writer Marjon Carlos also had her earrings put in when she was a baby, as did most of the women in her family. Her sister-in-law, La’Keitha Daniels Carlos, recently took her daughter Sage to get her ears pierced when she was 3 months old. “She was a champ. She cried for a couple of seconds, and then they showed her a mirror and she made a cute face and stopped,” Daniels Carlos remembered of the experience. “Part of the reason I did it early was because she was starting to realize she had ears. I thought, we’ve got to get this done before she starts tugging on them.”

Medically speaking, there’s no ideal age to pierce a child’s ears. The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees there’s no risk in doing it as a newborn, although it recommends holding off until the child can take care of the piercing on her own. In the United States, however, girls usually wait until their preteen years, which is way past the recommendation. Lina Beltran, a Colombian-born mother of three American-raised daughters, recalled the downside of waiting until her eldest daughter turned 10 to get her ears pierced. “She was so scared. I had to take her three times,” she said. “So with my other girls, I just took them when they were 1.” Perhaps it did make more sense to get this over with sooner rather than later? After all, wouldn’t my baby forget the pain just as quickly as she forgets the sting from her monthly shots?

Jessica Sailer, fashion market and style director at Glamour, got her first pair of earrings earlier than average. “I got my ears pierced on my fifth birthday after begging my mom forever, and she finally gave in,” she said. Now that Sailer is a mother of two, she hasn’t made the decision to pierce her young daughters’ ears just yet, but she already knows she’s not going to make them wait until they’re 12. I asked if she remembered feeling scared when heading into Claire’s at such a young age. “It was really painful,” she responded with a laugh. “But I wanted them so badly, I refused to cry.”


One comment

  1. Son of a gun, this is so heufllp!

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