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Campaign Seeks to Ban Ear Piercing for Babies

The Short of It

A campaign in the United Kingdom is aiming to ban ear piercing for babies, saying it's a form of "child cruelty."

The Lowdown

The petition, created by mom Susan Ingram, is calling for a minimum age for ear piercing in the UK—although it doesn't specify what that age should be.

It says, "It is a form of child cruelty. 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."

Mark Tami, a member of Parliament, said he'd raise the issue to the British House of Commons if the petition reached over 28,000 signatures. It's now exceeded that number, with more than 34,000 signatures.

"If we allowed parents to do other things to their children's faces, like tattooing, that would be appalling, but although piercings can heal, they can still cause distorting affects on the ear, in the skin and muscle," Tami said to The Guardian. "I would like to resurrect the issue, see it discussed again in parliament, and look to see what a potential age restriction should be.... The question is, what age is appropriate? Certainly, a baby or a child has no opportunity of consenting to having the procedure done."

Currently in the United States, there's no recommendation for when to have your child's ears pierced. Some believe there's less likely to be infection or keloids when the child is younger. The American Academy of Pediatrics says, "If the piercing is performed carefully and cared for conscientiously, there is little risk, no matter what the age of the child. However, as a general guideline, postpone the piercing until your child is mature enough to take care of the pierced site herself."

Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a family physician and parenting expert, told Yahoo Parenting that babies can fiddle with earrings until they're loose and stick them in their mouths, so she recommends parents make sure the studs are locked on to prevent choking. She also suggests using gold earrings to reduce odds of infection and allergic reaction and to have babies' ears pierced after their tetanus shot series at 6 months old.

The Upshot

I have several friends who had their babies' ears pierced as infants—for most of them, it's cultural tradition—but I definitely wouldn't have done it if I had girls. (I have two boys, and I don't know anyone who's pierced a boy's ear as an infant.) I've never thought it was important for babies to look "like a boy" or "like a girl."

But more importantly, I remember begging my mother to have mine pierced in fifth grade and making a case to convince her to okay it, getting to pick out my studs and bringing home the little bottle of ear cleaning solution. For me, it was a milestone, the first thing I'd chosen to do with my body and was responsible for upkeeping. I'd want my child to make their own decision and experience that pride and rite of passage if they wanted it one day.

Still, to have the government restrict ear piercing? Well, I think that's going too far. After all, I remember the "pain." It was no big deal. And honestly, I don't think my friends who pierced their babies' ears did anything wrong. They're just lobes.

What do you think about piercing babies' ears?

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