Petition To Ban Baby Ear Piercing Sparks Widespread Debate — But Does It Raise A Fair Point?

The Internet's been pretty fired up this week over what's apparently a much more heated topic than I ever realized: ear piercings. Specifically, baby and toddler ear piercings. Are they harmless and adorable, or an act of cruel and unusual punishment? The world seems to be split right down the middle on this one (but chock-full of thoughts on the matter) in light of a new petition to ban baby and toddler ear piercings. The petition, which was launched on the causes site 38 Degrees by UK mom Susan Ingram, has already racked up over 38,000 signatures in its appeal to the minister of children and families, Edward Timpson. (And that number just keeps climbing every time I hit refresh.)

"It is a form of child cruelty," Ingram's petition page declares. "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."

Hmmm... my first thought when I read this? Susan might need to take it down a notch. Sure, it may hurt a bit, but "severe pain and fear"? Combing through the comments, it seemed there were others who echoed my initial thoughts — albeit a bit more intensely.

Commenter Dana C. definitely didn't mince words:

As someone who had their ears pierced as a baby (a month old), I find this campaign absolutely and utterly pointless. I am pleased that my parents got it done for me when I was a child and I have no regrets that they did. And as someone who doesn't like needles (but ironically, loves piercings) it was beneficial for me to get it done at a time I would not even recall in the future. Ear piercings on a child are not abuse, contrary to the claims being made on here (come on! Abuse is harmful infliction of pain, stop using the term so lightly.)

Added Meisha Chambers:

This is a waste of web space and time, its up to the parents to make a drastic decision like that..... how dare you to make such a vast decision for everyone .. how dare you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And as at least one person on Twitter noted, when it comes to painful, but culturally normalized things we do to babies, ear piercing is probably low on the list. Ahem:

But as I kept reading, I began to see Ingram's point (and that of the thousands of other petitioners who signed and weighed in after signing):

Le Kalevala also chimed in on the issue of parental vanity, writing, "What's the end purpose of piercing a baby's/toddlers ears? The parent thinks that this looks 'pretty.' Is a baby aware of its self image?"

And they're not alone in their thinking. Along with the thousands of others who signed Ingram's petition, Labour Member of Parliament Mark Tami totally backs the cause too, telling The Guardian, "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."

"I would like to resurrect the issue, see it discussed again in parliament, and look to see what a potential age restriction should be," Tami continued. "The question is, what age is appropriate? Certainly a baby or a child has no opportunity of consenting to having the procedure done."

Here in the States, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't officially shoot down the idea of baby ear piercings (their guidelines have more to do with using safe and clean needles); but they do advise postponing the piercing "until your child is mature enough to take care of the pierced site herself." I'm no expert on when "ear tending" maturity is fully reached, but I'm willing to bet it happens sometime after they master shoe-tying, teeth brushing, and (hopefully) forming their own opinions about whether or not they want some bling on their ears in the first place. And hey, maybe that's for the best after all.