An online campaign claims that piercing a young kid’s ears is “child cruelty.” (Photo: Radius Images/Corbis)
Kim and Kanye had it done. So did Giselle and Tom Brady, and Matthew McConaughey and his wife Vida Alves.
These celebrity couples, along with millions of other new parents, had their daughters’ ears pierced during their infant or toddler years. Whether for cosmetic or cultural reasons, it’s not uncommon to see even newborns already sporting studs in their earlobes.
But if a new campaign in England is successful, ear piercing would be banned for babies and toddlers and a minimum age set for the procedure. “It is a form of child cruelty,” wrote Susan Ingram, a UK mom who launched the campaign last week, on an online petition site.
“Severe pain and fear is inflicted upon infants unnecessarily. It serves no purpose other than to satisfy the parent’s vanity. Other forms of physically harming children are illegal—this should be no different.”
Considering that more than 28,000 people have added their names to the petition, the campaign has struck a chord. “Smacking a child is abuse, so how come sticking metal rods through their ears is not abuse?” wrote one supporter on the site.
Other comments are critical of the petition. “As someone who had their ears pierced as a baby (a month old), I find this campaign absolutely and utterly pointless,” commented a critic. “I am pleased that my parents got it done for me when I was a child and I have no regrets that they did.”
In a sense, Ingram has a point. Ear piercing, typically done on very young kids via a piercing gun by a trained professional or a doctor or nurse in a medical office, does alter a child’s anatomy, albeit very slightly. And children that young can’t exactly protest.
But “severe pain and fear” might be a stretch. Experts say that the risk of physical or psychological side effects from the one-second procedure is pretty minimal. And rather than setting an age limit, parents need to be informed and then choose if and when piercing can take place.
“In terms of the length of pain, it’s like getting an immunization,” Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a family physician and parenting expert, tells Yahoo Parenting. “However, unlike immunizations, there is no life-saving reason to put a child through this pain. So a parent has to decide if there is a compelling enough cultural reason to have their child do it.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees. “If the piercing is performed carefully and cared for conscientiously, there is little risk, no matter what the age of the child,” its website states.
Gilboa points out one upside to having a child’s ears pierced so young: the risk of infection might be lower, because the parents, not the child, take care of the piercing to make sure it doesn’t get infected. An adult will probably be more responsible about applying antibacterial rubbing alcohol or antibiotic cream regularly than even a grade school or middle school kid.
Yet there is one danger parents need to be aware of: choking. “A baby will fiddle with the earrings, and if one comes loose, she’ll put it in her mouth,” says Gilboa. It’s rare, but it’s a risk to consider. “Earring aren’t as fatal as cribs and cars, but I wouldn’t say parents shouldn’t let their kids sleep in cribs or ride in cars,” she says.
If you are planning to pierce your baby’s ears, in addition to making sure the studs are locked on, wait until she’s finished her tetanus shot series at six months old, says Gilboa. And make sure the stud is gold. Unlike other metals, gold reduces the odds of infection and an allergic reaction, states the AAP website.