Removing body jewelry from a navel piercing can cause the hole to shrink rapidly, even within seconds, according to the Association of Professional Piercers. This can make changing your belly button ring for the first time a frustrating experience. Most professional piercers are willing to change jewelry for free or for a small fee, though swapping out body jewelry on a healed navel piercing at home is possible, using care and consideration for the delicate nature of the piercing.
Change your belly button ring for the first time only after the piercing is completely healed. Healing time varies from person to person. A navel piercing can take as little as two months or as long as one year to heal, according to Elayne Angel in “The Piercing Bible.”
The Initial Piercing
The belly button ring initially used in the piercing is designed with safety and the healing of the piercing in mind. Starter belly rings are made of inert, bio-compatible material to allow the piercing optimal time to heal without interference from irritation caused by metal alloys or compounds. Therefore, most starter rings for navel piercings are plain and without adornment. They are also longer than standard jewelry to accommodate for the initial swelling that accompanies the trauma of piercing. Changing your belly button piercing for the first time allows you to customize the look of your piercing by choosing different metals, colors, gems and charms to adorn your navel.
Choose jewelry of the correct gauge. Gauge refers to the diameter of the shaft of the belly button ring -- the smaller the number, the larger the jewelry. The body treats jewelry that is too thin like a foreign object and starts to push it to the surface, a process called rejection. If the replacement jewelry is too thick, trauma and stretching of the piercing can result. Choose body jewelry that is the right length for your piercing; a belly button ring that is too small can cut off circulation to the area, while a ring that is too large can cause bruising and trauma. Look for high quality materials, such as gold or silver, when choosing jewelry to make the switch, as even healed piercings can become aggravated by a metal allergy.
Use soap and water to scrub your hands for 15 to 20 seconds. Swab your belly button with a sterile saline wipe to remove bacteria and micro-organisms. If you have a hard time grasping the jewelry, wear a pair of latex or nitrile gloves to get a better grip on the ring. Unscrew the ball from the top of the belly button piercing. Grasp the lower ball and slide the piercing out from the bottom. Swab the area with another sterile wipe, and do the same for the new jewelry. Unscrew the top ball of the new belly button ring. Slide the belly button ring into the piercing from bottom to top, taking care not to force the jewelry or cause undue trauma to the area. Secure the belly button ring by replacing the ball, and wipe the area down with a clean saline wipe.
If you feel uncomfortable changing your belly button ring for the first time, consult a professional piercer. If you find yourself halfway through replacement of your belly button ring for the first time and are unable to place the new jewelry into the piercing after removing the old jewelry, speak to a professional piercer immediately. The piercer may be able to use a hollow tapered tool to guide the jewelry into the hole if it has reduced in size.