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Why do Spanish parents pierce their babies’ ears?

Piercing babies' ears is a controversial subject and one that people in many countries are very much against. In Spain however, it's common to see baby girls with pierced ears, so why do the Spanish do this?

Spanish babies typically wear earrings
Why do the Spanish pierce babies' ears? Photo: Javier Pincemin/Flickr

While in other European countries it may be more common to pierce children’s ears when they’re slightly older, in Spain it’s still a common tradition to pierce them shortly after birth, when they’re still babies.

While the issue does cause controversy for many, in Spain the matter of piercing a baby’s ears has been ingrained into the culture for decades if not centuries, passed down for many generations.

Spanish mothers who have had girls are often given a pair of baby earrings as a christening present for their little one.

It is also customary for the first gift from the grandparents of the girl to be a pair of gold studs.

READ ALSO: The strange things Spanish parents do raising their children

Often the presence of earrings on Spanish babies acts as a way of indicating whether the baby is a boy or a girl.

Many Spanish parents will be asked (typically by members of the older generations) if their child is a boy or a girl if they’re not wearing earrings. 

In fact, up until a few years ago, Spanish state hospitals would actually offer this service for babies who had recently been born.

These days however only private health centres offer this service, or it can get it done at some pharmacies and piercing salons. 

READ ALSO – Readers reveal: What it’s really like to give birth in Spain

How do Spain’s baby ear piercing rules and traditions compare to other countries?

In Latin American countries, India, as well as some nations in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa,  it’s considered a cultural or religious tradition to pierce a baby girl’s ears, one that’s harmless to the infant.

But in other Western countries it’s often frowned upon, with some parents putting it on a par with mutilation. 

In Germany for example, the legal age for getting piercings is 16 with your parent’s consent and 18 without, meaning that the subject of piercing a baby’s ears is not even talked about.

Despite many piercing salons imposing their own legal age restrictions and a 2015 petition against the practice that gathered more than 84,000 signatures, there is no UK-wide age limit for ear piercing.

The only law is in Scotland, where anyone wanting a piercing before the age of 16 must have their parent’s consent.

Spanish grandparents often give their granddaughters studs as a baptism gift. Photo: Celeste García M./Flickr

Even though there is no law against it, according to family news site MadeforMums, the average age for ear piercing in the UK is seven years old.

While it may be frowned upon and not practiced in many countries, few actually have a law prohibiting the piercing of babies’ ears.

Both Italy and Sweden for example have no official age limit.  

Is the tradition in Spain changing?

Up until recently piercing a baby girl’s ears was an almost unquestionable tradition in Spain. But views are gradually changing as more parents have started to question whether it’s really worth it just for the sake of cultural norms and not being asked by passers-by if the baby is a boy or a girl.

The fact that the service is no longer offered for free at public hospitals is also a reason for the drop in the number of parents getting their baby’s ears pierced.

There may be no law prohibiting the practice in Spain but it doesn’t mean that all piercing salons or pharmacies will agree to pierce a baby’s ears.

On Barcelona Babies & Kids Facebook group one parent wrote that many salons there will not pierce the ears of anyone under two years of age, while pharmacies will often do it for younger children. 

One reader told The Local Spain that she took her two-year-old sister (with her mother’s permission) to a piercing salon in Mallorca and they refused, stating that it would be too dangerous if she decided to turn her head.

Could it be that the tradition of piercing babies’ ears is slowly dying out in Spain? 

Is it safe to pierce babies’ ears?

Just like parents’ opinions on it, medical views on baby ear piercing also vary depending on who you ask or where you look.

The theory according to some medical professionals is that babies’ ears are much softer soon after they’ve been born, so they don’t feel as much pain as they would if you waited until they’re older.

According to midwife Maite Navarro, the ideal time to pierce a baby’s ears is a few weeks after birth. At that age “the skin of the lobe is softer, which greatly minimises the small discomfort it may suffer.” She recommends that the lobe be pierced during the first six months of life.

However, the Spanish midwife website advises not to pierce your baby’s ears during the first two months of its life, because the size of the earlobe will change.

While the American Academy of Paediatrics, suggests “to postpone the piercing until your child is mature enough to take care of the pierced site herself”.

Some sources say there’s a possibility of infection, allergic reaction and other minor problems but the general consensus is that the risk is low. 

The Spanish Association of Paediatrics for families states that “from the point of view of paediatrics, there is no scientific study which has analysed this matter but deciding whether to pierce your baby’s ears is not a reason to see a doctor”.

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For members


How people’s jobs can determine who they vote for in Spain

As Spain is set to start six months of election fever, sociological research has revealed that people's profession can determine who they are most likely to vote for in Spain, and there are some surprising results.

How people's jobs can determine who they vote for in Spain

The latest barometer from Spain’s Public Research Institute (CIS) has shown that there are jobs in Spain that make you more or less likely to vote for a particular political party, and given an interesting (if not slightly surprising) sense of the political climate ahead of regional elections in May and a general election by the end of the year.

GUIDE: Elections in Spain in 2023

Often the CIS polling analyses Spanish voting intention along more familiar demographic lines: age, gender, location, religion, to name just a few.

Another very interesting and revealing one is people’s jobs and the effect it has on their voting intention.

Though far from a perfect study (the methodology doesn’t differentiate between levels of workers within a sector, for example, and can use quite vague descriptors) it nonetheless provides a useful broad strokes picture of the political landscape as we advance into this bumper political year.

So, what did the CIS find, and which professions are more likely to vote for which party?

Who is loyal to the two-party system?

Of the two main political parties that have dominated Spanish politics since the end of the Franco dictatorship, there are clear splits.

Support for the Socialists (PSOE), the incumbent party of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, scored on average 22 percent support among respondents, and scored best not among workers, but among retirees and pensioners, from whom they received 30.4 percent, as well as people who are ‘economically inactive’ (30.2 percent), unpaid domestic workers (23.6 percent) and the unemployed (23.4 percent).

PSOE was supported by 59.7 percent by voters over 64 years of age. The main opposition party, Partido Popular (PP) also polled fairly well with older voters, on 45.4 percent. PP has a greater impact with voters between the ages of 35 and 64, with support of 63.4 percent compared to PSOE’s 58 percent.

PP, which on average had 19.9 percent support, surpassed PSOE among directors and managers (32 percent), administrative support personnel (26.8 percent) as well as farmers, agricultural, forestry and fishing workers (24.1 percent).

Popular Party (PP) leader and presidential candidate Alberto Núñez Feijóo (C) has the vote of many company managers as well as people in the fishing and agricultural industry. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)


Who are militant Vox supporters?

The CIS data also showed that there is only one professional category for which the two-party system is broken and neither PSOE nor PP leads: in the military and police force, of which a whopping 38.5 percent say they would vote for far-right party Vox if there were general elections tomorrow.

The far-right party, led by Santiago Abascal, also far exceeded its average support (which was 8.4 percent) among farmers and other primary sector occupations (21.4 percent), as well as among students (13 percent), and Spaniards working in management positions (12.6 percent).

Perhaps most interestingly, since the last general election, held in November 2019, the average age of voters backing Vox has decreased. In fact, according to CIS findings it is set to be the party that will benefit the most from the new cohort of voters voting for the first time in an election. Vox would, if an election were held today, impact on 20.1 percent of those ‘new’ voters; a figure that, when translated into votes, would be almost 360,000 young people.

Vox utilities a very effective social media campaign to appeal to young voters, and has around treble the numbers of followers that PP and PSOE do on Instagram.

Leader of the far-right party Vox Santiago Abascal has a lot of support in the military, the police force and young people who haven’t voted before. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Who supports Spain’s far left?

This was also the first barometer since deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Díaz formally launched her Sumar platform, something that has been dividing the parties to the left of Sánchez’s PSOE.


Sumar scored an average of 8.4 percent, and Podemos, the junior coalition partner in government, 5.1 percent. Both far-left parties ahead their highest levels of support among professionals, scientists and intellectuals (13.5 percent for Sumar and 9 percent for Podemos), as well as with students (7.1 percent and 7.4 percent respectively).

It remains to be seen if the two leftist factions will find an agreement and unite the electoral bases before the general election.

Spanish Minister of Labour Yolanda Díaz (C) is Spain’s most popular politician, opinion polls have shown. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

Which parties do Spain’s workers not like?

It is also interesting to consider where each party polls worst compared to its average data.

PSOE does worst with the military and police (8.7 percent).

For the PP, the worst figure is that of machine operators and factory workers assemblers (10 percent), while Vox polled just 2.4 support among domestic workers.

Who do Spaniards want as Prime Minister?

CIS also asked respondents which party leader they would prefer as Prime Minister. The results roughly mirror the partisan support figures, with some subtle differences. Pedro Sánchez is the most popular overall (21.3 percent average), and his support among retirees and pensioners stands out (30.2 percent). Alberto Núñez Feijóo, leader of PP, is the preferred candidate of 14.6 percent overall, and among the managerial class 28.1 percent.

But the leaders at the political extremes seem to have the most loyal support among specific groups in Spain. Vox’s Santiago Abascal is the favourite leader among a single group of voters, that of the police and military (27.8 percent support, compared to just 5.8 percent on average), and the second most popular among a specific section of the electorate was Yolanda Díaz, the favourite of professionals, scientists and intellectuals (22.3 percent, with an overall average of 13.2 percent).