“Baby ear piercing is child abuse!”
“Piercing a baby’s ears is part of my culture!”
Heated responses are given in chat forums, blogs, and real-life over this issue. When baby and ear piercing are in the same sentence, or room, people get opinionated quickly.
It can make a new mom feel nervous and like everyone is judging her for this one decision. In turn, that can make her judge herself.
So what’s the big deal? Why do people care so much about this one, minuscule topic?
It’s all about beliefs. Some believe this is an issue of body autonomy and little girls have the right to choose when, and if, they want their ears pierced.
Others see ear piercings as a rite of passage to be celebrated, equivalent to getting the first tooth or walking.
Anti-Baby Ear Piercing
I’m an anti-baby ear piercer. I’ll say that upfront. My baby’s, Sara, ears will get pierced when she’s old enough to care for them and only if she wants them. Here are my reasons.
Letting Sara choose if she wants her ears pierced helps to teach her she has control over her body and say in what happens to it.
It’s an opportunity to teach her that her voice matters. She doesn’t have to have things done to her that she doesn’t like.
For a girl who’s old enough to enjoy it, going to get her ears pierced can be a huge deal. A whole affair can be made out of it.
It could be a Mommy (or Daddy) and daughter day with getting something to eat, maybe getting nails done, and the piercing.
Piercings are also fun to do with friends. A group of friends can get their ears pierced together.
A friend who’s already had it done can provide moral support for the one getting it done.
It can be a great event for a little girl to bond with others over.
Big Girl Responsibility
Ear piercings can also be used to teach a little girl about taking care of herself. If Sara wants to get her ears pierced, she’ll have to prove good grooming habits first.
The two biggest that come to mind are showering regularly without a fuss and brushing her teeth every day.
Getting her ears pierced will be a reward for proving she can handle big girl things. It will come with the pride of knowing she’s a big girl now and can do big girl things.
And if by the time she figures those things out being called a big girl is no longer cool, I’ll use the next age-appropriate term.
Pro-Baby Ear Piercings
I didn’t know any arguments for pro-baby ear piercing other than people think they’re cute. I searched the web to find out.
Turns out, it’s part of the Latino culture. It’s so heavily part of the culture that hospitals in some Latin cultures pierce baby girls ears before they leave the hospital.
A baby girl getting her ears pierced is to be celebrated. Photos are taken and spread around the family with the same pride that sharing photos of a first tooth would be shared.
It’s probably part of other cultures as well, but the Latino culture was the one that stuck out when I was looking for information.
Part of the big fuss around baby ear piercings is that it is subjecting Baby to something that is not medically necessary that can cause complications.
Infection and allergic reactions to the earing material are two common complications.
The risks of infant ear piercing are the same risks associated with adult ear piercing. Take a look at that link. It’s the only “research” article I could find on the topic.
Research is in quotes because all it talks about is the risks. It gives no numbers as to how often those complications occur in babies versus adults.
Dr. Rivera-Spoljaric from Children’s MD tried looking for the research herself when it was time to pierce her babies’ ears. She found no information that would support baby ear piercing or be against it.
So what type of information would be needed to definitively say it’s good or bad? The number of occurrences of complications of babies versus other age groups.
It might very well be that getting ears pierced as a baby lowers the risk of complications. Moms are usually over the top (for good reason) with making sure anything that gets near their babies is sanitary.
It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that moms take care of new piercings for babies better then they would their own new piercings.
The opposite might also be true. The risk of infection could increase with piercing ears as an infant because the baby never leaves it alone and is always pulling on it.
Or it may turn out that moms aren’t as attentive as we would think.
Without the research, we don’t know.
Safest Way to Pierce
While we don’t know how often complications occur in babies versus other age groups, we do know what those complications are.
And there are ways to mitigate them at any age.
The first item to start with is the stud, use gold. It is the metal least likely to cause an allergic reaction.
Next, don’t go to a mall kiosk or any location that uses a gun. Honestly, those should be made illegal.
Piercing guns cannot be properly sterilized because they are made of plastic, and they use blunt force to get the earing in the ear which causes more damage than necessary.
Find a place that treats ear piercing like a medical procedure which might even be a doctor’s office. Some pediatricians will do it for patients or provide a recommendation to a place that uses proper sanitation.
Tattoo parlors are another great option. Anyone who lives in a big city will likely have businesses dedicated to safe piercings nearby.
There are many options other than Claire’s or other Kiosks at the mall that can provide a better piercing experience.
When Not to Pierce
I’m not going to internally cringe anymore when I see a baby with a pierced ear, but there are still some instances when it shouldn’t be done.
The most obvious is when Baby doesn’t have a clean bill of health. Talking with your pediatrician in those instances will be key to understanding if Baby’s health problems could be worsened or have negative reactions to piercing.
Sometimes it’s still going to be fine to pierce. Just make sure it’s a discussion you have with your pediatrician.
Another reason to not pierce an infant’s ear is when you can’t even take care of your own hygiene or you know you will struggle to care for your baby’s hygiene.
Ear piercings require regular cleaning. If you have any doubts about your ability to maintain a hygiene routine, don’t pierce your baby’s ears.
I’ve seen it happen. It makes a very unpleasant experience for the baby.
The baby was sitting there crying while her dad used a pair of pliers to take the back off. So much gunk had gotten in the earing that the pieces had been practically glued together.
We haven’t done the science to know how risky it truly is to pierce a baby’s ears. Without that info, it’s very much a cultural choice for a family.
I’ve seen the articles where people call infant ear piercing abuse. That’s going too far even if we did know the rates of complications.
A family may choose to pierce their baby’s ears and teach them throughout life how to manage their emotions, apologize, eat right, stay active, and socialize.
Another family may choose not to pierce their baby’s ears but do not teach them about eating right, staying active, managing emotions, and other necessary items to be a happy person.
Which ones the real abuse? Ear piercing isn’t a gateway into any kind of negative parenting.
No matter what you choose for your child’s ear piercing, the rest of your parenting decisions aren’t connected to it. Baby ear piercing doesn’t dictate any kind of parenting style.
I’d really love to hear your opinion on this controversial topic. Are you for or against infant ear piercing? Is it a cultural matter for you? If so, I’d love to hear about the cultural significance.