Ear piercing for babies: Is it child abuse?

Babies are all born perfect. Even the not-so-healthy ones. They’re all fresh and clear like new snow or a blank Google doc. And although we’re in charge of their little bodies (no smoking, ever, missy) their bodies are actually theirs to make long-term decisions about and upon which to make modifications. In theory. We can’t just go around tattooing them or installing studs in their skulls. But what about early ear piercing?

The tides are shifting in the circumcision arena as more parents in recent years see the practice as barbaric and unnecessary. Give it a decade and circumcising a baby might go the way of ancient Chinese foot-binding. But what about ear piercing? Same perfect baby, similar flash of pain, but is it child abuse? Some say so. Check this PSA:


At the age of five(ish?) I made my own choice to get my ears pierced at the glamourous emporium known as Claire’s at the mall. I’m sure you did too. It’s the American way. Of course I got the glittery pink studs and twisted them and slathered them with ear solution like a soldier. Later, I got cocky. I once pierced my own ear with a blunt stud during 10th grade gym class and cleaned it with spit. Warrior! Dude, just a few pops and it’s through. Ain’t no thang. However when it comes to my own precious daughters, whom I’d like to bubble wrap and freeze in time like the Iceman, I forbid ear piercing until some later date when we’re all more educated and aliens rule space. My kids still have the perfect, sweet little ears they were born with. Double standards, I’ll be here all day. I don’t know why it was okay for me and not for them. Throw it in the heap with underage boozing, tattoos and eating in the living room.

Cultural differences abound on the ear-piercing issue. While young, hip, naturalists will smoke a bowl with one hand and tsk ear-piercing with the other, hispanic populations embrace early ear-piercing as a normal part of life. My friend Maria argued that babies are poked and prodded at birth so much they barely notice getting their ear pierced. Many baby girls in Latin America have the procedure done the same day they are born. So what’s the beef?

Some say choice. Ear piercing is unnecessary pain. Although it is reversible, it’s a semi-permanent procedure that could lead to infection or scarring. By these arguments though, no child should get their ears pierced until they are of legal adult age and able to fully accept the consequences and responsibilities. What next? A legal age of consent for haircuts? For toxic nail polish? Chocolate? Opponents of early ear-piercing take it a step further and compare it to the issue of circumcision and that hiding behind the excuse of culture of no reason to harm a child.

I think ear piercing is like any other parenting decision. As long as the family is contemplative and informed and the procedure is legal, parents should make the best decisions for their children. Sometimes that means people are going to do things we don’t like or wouldn’t choose for ourselves. I may not choose to wear Crocs, but I will defend to the death your right to wear them. Sort of.


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