The life of a new mother is filled with so much joy, but it can also bring some worries for her baby. One particular worry relates to physical appearance, in the form of protruding ears. In this article we will shed some light on this issue and explain how to tackle it as calmly as possible.
Protruding ears: the real causes
Protruding ears do not cause any hearing or health problems. They are simply a slight aesthetic defect, but as they are particularly noticeable, they may be a source of worry for a new mum.
One of the most exciting aspects of pregnancy is imagining the face of your baby down to the last detail. The unruly hair, the dark eyes like Daddy's, the little button nose, the heart-shaped mouth like Mummy's, the chubby cheeks and the soft, little ears.
When the baby is born, he is even more beautiful than you could have imagined: simply perfect, ears included. Then suddenly, after a few weeks, you notice that his ears seem to stick out more than they used to. You start to focus on it and become worried that your new-born baby is getting protruding ears.
The cartilage of the outer ear in the first six months of life is very soft and may become slightly misshapen. If your child always sleeps on his side and the pinna (the visible portion of the outer ear) remains folded on itself for hours every day, after a few months it may tend to protrude a little from the head. This is actually a temporary change, that usually goes away as the baby grows.
The main reason for this imperfection, when the ears are really pronounced, is not the baby’s positions: it is actually genetics.
Protruding ears start developing when the baby is in the womb, around the sixth month of pregnancy. So, if genetics is involved, there's not much we can do to counteract it, apart from dealing with it calmly!
Of course, there are methods to tackle the problem: they can be pretty invasive, some originated in medical circles while others are more like modern versions of grandma's remedies.
Anyway, since the cause of protruding ears is mainly genetic, this begs the question: can we get rid of them or prevent them?
Can protruding ears be corrected?
Although it is now known that this imperfection is mainly due to genetics, several remedies for protruding ears have been devised over time. Some are more drastic, others are gentler – though perhaps they are less effective.
Let's explore all possibilities:
- If you're afraid that your new-born baby will develop protruding ears due to a misshaping of the cartilage while the baby is sleeping or breastfeeding, the solution is simple. Just make sure that the ear does not remain folded under the head while he sleeps or feeds.
Of course, you'll argue that you can't stay up all night checking that it doesn't move... and you're right! The solutions that you're about to read were designed with this in mind.
- The new-born baby bonnet is a big step up from the bandage (grandma's go-to remedy which was all the rage in the 1970s) and the beret. This is a net bonnet that keeps the ears close to the head that the baby has to wear for most of the day, especially while sleeping.
The advantage over the bandage is that it doesn't move or cause headaches, plus it lets the scalp breathe – something a normal bonnet doesn't do.
- Another idea that could be called an evolution of a grandmother's remedy is that of ear splints.
Grandmothers used to suggest using tape to stick the ears down – and even today patches for protruding ears are still available on the market. The evolution instead is the silicone splint, to be fixed with special adhesives so as to gradually reshape the cartilage.
In a few weeks to a few months, this method can solve the problem of babies' protruding ears.
- The most invasive solution for protruding ears is obviously surgery. From the age of 6/7, a child can undergo otoplasty to permanently eliminate the problem. This is a real surgical operation, so it should not be taken lightly and should only be tackled if the protruding ears are causing the child major self-esteem issues.
Protruding ears in new-borns: learning to live with them
The main question to ask yourself before trying to correct a baby's or child's protruding ears is: is it really worth it?
Of course, a new mum like you obviously wants the best for her child, there's no doubt about that. But are we sure that focusing on an imperfection like protruding ears is helpful?
At the end of the day, it is not a health problem but just a small aesthetic defect – those defects that can actually make a new-born baby even cuter and more endearing.
Of course, he will grow up and you may be worried that he will be teased by his peers. But let us tell you something: some research, including one published by the magazine JAMA Network, has proven quite the opposite – that children with protruding ears are often perceived by others as more pleasant and intelligent.
Consider this: if you deal with this small defect in your child calmly, he or she will also grow up not giving it a second thought. His self-esteem will not be affected: the ears, protruding or otherwise, will simply be a distinctive feature.
After all, every child is beautiful, and it is the little details that make them unique!