An online petition seeks to ban ear piercing for babies and toddlers in the UK, citing the practice as “a form of child cruelty.” So far, the campaign—addressed to Edward Timpson, the UK’s Minister for Children—has garnered more than 40,000 signatures.
Featured on the website 38 Degrees, the petition’s creator, Susan Ingram, writes that ear piercing should be made illegal because “severe pain and fear are inflicted upon infants unnecessarily.” She continues: “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.”
The debate over infant ear piercing was back in the news last year, when there was a public outcry after celebrity parents Kim Kardashian and Kanye West added some sparkle to daughter North’s ears for her first birthday. Critics of ear piercing believe that parents should wait and allow children to decide for themselves if they want to pierce their ears. (We’ve even had a debate about it here at Today’s Parent.)
To be honest, I wouldn’t pierce my baby’s ears, but I wouldn’t sign this petition either. At the age of nine, my daughter’s ears are still jewellery-free, and I had planned to wait until she was 12. But the constant nagging has convinced me that this isn’t the parenting sword I want to die on and I told her she only had to wait until she was 10.
However, I wouldn’t stop someone else from adding some sparkle to their child’s ears. Piercing a baby’s ears is often a cultural decision, linking a child to her heritage. Unlike what Ingram writes, it may have nothing to do with the parents’ “vanity.” There is something totalitarian and vaguely racist about a government passing a law that has to do with ear piercing. It makes me wonder who is signing this petition and for what reasons.
Here in Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society doesn’t have an official position on an appropriate age for piercing a child’s ears. In comparison, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents wait until a child can clean and disinfect her ears on her own.
UK Labour MP Mike Tami has taken up Ingram’s cause, stating that he is going to bring up the issue in the House of Commons. He is pushing for a minimum age for piercings, saying “The question is, what age is appropriate? Certainly a baby or a child has no opportunity to consent to having the procedure done.”
The whole debate on ear piercing is a trifle compared to the bigger issues facing parents today. If people want to get up in arms over something and petition the government, then affordable daycare, cheaper diapers and proper postpartum care would top my list. But a minimum age for ear piercing? Those who signed the petition should worry less about whether a baby has pierced lobes and more about whether new parents and their babies are happy and healthy.