Baby Ear Piercing Is Not Child Abuse


To set the scene for the ridiculousness that is about to unfold, let me explain my position. I am a girl; now, I am a woman. When I was a baby, my parents were missionaries in South America. At that time, my mom bowed to cultural customs and decided to get my ears pierced when I was only six months old. In all actuality, she was gently forced by other women in the church to nurse me while they popped a needle through each of my ears. I have no memory of this. I cried, I nursed, and then I had beautiful new earrings. Yay, me.

As an adult, I am really happy that everything went down this way. I don’t have any kind of residual scarring from this event, physically or emotionally. I also really love earrings. If you want to read into this more, I grew into a typical child of the 90s who bought a piercing gun at Walmart and proceeded to pierce my own ears upwards of 12 times. I eventually let those holes close over to remain hip and relevant. Thank God for that.

I am a mother of sons. I do not have any daughters. I recognize that it is a cultural norm to pierce women’s ears, especially young girls as infants. If I had a daughter, you better believe I would carry her right into Claire’s Boutique and pop a few shiny gold studs into her baby ears. I’ve also toyed with the idea of piercing both of my sons’ ears, but unfortunately, ‘N Sync caused that trend to crash and burn for men in the late 90s.

I’m mostly kidding, but I still don’t consider piercing a baby’s ears, regardless of gender, to be child abuse. The Alpha Mom disagrees:

One of the biggest issues in the piercing debate, and arguably the most important, is the question of consent. A baby who has their ears pierced and grows up with earrings has no memory of the procedure, and no opportunity to protest. Some parents argue “my baby, my choice. It’s none of your business if I get my baby’s ears pierced”, but as I have maintained before in relation to infant feeding (here), if a parent is acting to a child’s detriment, it is everyone’s business.

The NSPCC defines physical abuse as “inflicting pain or injury”. It has been observed that the ear piercing procedure “is painful and often performed without anaesthesia or analgesia, and because of the pain it constitutes an immediate harm” (Holm. S). Piercing may not be on the same level as some cruelty that sadly occurs, but not all forms of abuse have to be to the extreme. It is naive to suggest that because piercing is significantly less serious than sexual abuse, torture, etc that it can therefore not be abusive whatsoever.

You may agree with these sentiments, but I definitely do not. I am rolling my eyes so hard right now that it is difficult to type. I sorta, kinda get what the Alpha Mom is saying, but I still don’t agree. I believe in respecting and loving and protecting my children, but there are many, many times when parents can read too much into a simple act that really isn’t that big of a deal. This is one of those times.

Yes, piercing a baby’s ears technically violates their autonomy since they can’t speak for themselves. However, from my personal experience (and from most of my female friends), I’m glad ear piercing was done for me when I couldn’t remember it. As far as piercing falling on the abuse spectrum, COME ON. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Don’t read abuse into something that isn’t there. Don’t shame parents for partaking in a simple cultural custom like baby ear piercing.

(Image: Gelpi JM/Shutterstock)

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  • Sterf

    I did not know who the Alpha Mom was before this, and now I think I am going to go down a rabbit hole of judgement starting with “Why the way you feed your baby is my business.” Oh dear!

  • footnotegirl

    I don’t think that piercing a baby’s ears constitutes abuse. I don’t agree with it. I would never do it. Not my kid though. All eye rolling will be done internally when I see it. I didn’t get my ears pierced until I was nine, and though, yes, painful, it was also a great mother/daughter experience when I felt like I’d earned the right/responsibility and my mom took me out to get it done. I also think that babies? Are perfectly cute and adorable and don’t require added ornamentation. The consent issue is the biggest one for me, especially when it comes to making a decision about my child’s body that is solely for the sake of wearing jewelry.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    I’m sharply divided on this…
    I personally wouldn’t pierce a baby’s ears (I keep getting images of a curious 9 month old yanking on them and bawling in pain)
    However, I got mine pierced when I was 6 I begged my parents.
    I got a second pair when I was 10 and I am 23 now and have 20 piercings lol.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      Think this sums it up

  • Alexandra

    Meh I had mine pierced at like 12 or something, when I was “old enough” per my mom. At Claire’s. No biggie, I was TERRIFIED of needles but so excited to get this “big girl” privilege.
    Of course, then I double pierced at camp with a lighter, needle and ice cube so……
    After seeing the poor things terrified reactions to the pain of vaccines not sure I will be piercing my daughters ears, plus it’s something she can earn as a big girl.

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  • Molly Spurgeon

    Yeah, I agree that it’s not child abuse, but why do you need to do it? It’s not a cultural ceremony in the U.S., and if it doesn’t have any significance (religious, cultural, or otherwise), then why do you need to? Why do you need your baby to be wearing jewelry. I have no problems with anyone doing it from an “abuse” standpoint, but I can’t understand why anyone needs to do it. It’s for *your* benefit, not the child’s. They don’t know or care if their ears are fancy with jewelry. So why even trudge through it if it’s not a necessary cultural, religious, or traditional ritual? Why? Why can’t you wait until your kid decides it’s something they want or not. And before we go down the road of “well, why not do it when they won’t remember the pain?”, let’s address two things. The pain is short, minute, and fully process-able by a 12 year old if they choose to do it later. And 2.) some may not even choose it – so why even bother with it at all if your kid may choose not to want it in the first place.

  • Annie

    Whether it should officially be considered abusive or not, I definitely don’t like the idea of doing it to my own future hypothetical children. I personally don’t get the appeal – why would I want to hurt my own little baby (and getting your ears pierced does hurt!) for some jewelry? No thank you. Also, when I was a teen, I went through a phase of piercing my own ears (and then some, as I got older) just like the author, and my mom always gave me a hard time about it. It would always annoy me that it was okay for her to get my ears pierced when I was a baby without a say in the whole thing, but when I was the one deciding that I wanted more piercings, it wasn’t. Hmm. Personal bias. I wouldn’t do it!

  • Atalanta

    There are pros and cons to getting them done as a baby and waiting. Luckily, piercings are removable! I speak as a girl who had her ears pierced at the age of weeks old, and now I’ve got some-teen holes in my head and a very successful science career to boot (Yes, I’m tired of the “If you let me get that thing out of your face…”). I struggled with them at times as a toddler, and it took a lot of help from my parents to make them work, but my rents are awesome. My other sisters also got pierced at a similar age and my youngest sister didn’t end up keeping them, If she decides to get them redone at an older age, woo hoo!

    I’d just be wary of going to Claire’s to get anyone pierced. I know different places and different shops have different policies for piercing minors, but it’s very much worth it to go to a real piercing shop, have it done with a needle and have them use good metal earrings. I could go on and on about how scary the Claire’s piercing gun situation is, it does’t always end bad, I had a set done that way, but it’s not optimal for healing and they use coated metals, not good gold, surgical steel or titanium so there is a higher chance of metal reaction even if you pick the ‘gold’ option. And Claire’s won’t be able to help you afterwards. They’ll send you home with an aftercare package, but if you come in a few weeks later with questions they won’t be able to touch or help you (for legal reasons). A professional piercing shop will. If you have ANY issues with a piercing, go to a professional piercer! I know it might seem weird to drag a little one into a tattoo parlor, but everyone I’ve met has been professional and wonderful and they care about your body!

  • CameronByars

    I by no means think that infant ear piercing is child abuse. That being said there are just too many things about it that I do not like. The lack of consent is one, but also I just don’t see the need to put that kind of hardware on an infant. Why do we need this decoration on a precious infant? I’d prefer to wait for my daughter to ask to get her ears pierced. It’s a little painful, but I’d prefer the consent and I know it’d be a proud moment for her to tell her friends and family about her new jewelry.

  • unnaturalthings

    No, babies should not have their ears pierced. They are beautiful and perfect AS IS. I worked for years in a salon/spa and did ear piercing as part of the job. My personal rule was that I would not pierce anyone’s ears under an age where the child could not consent. And I stuck to that rule. Unless the child herself could tell me she wanted it done, and could pick out her own little jeweled earrings, I was not doing it. And boy, did I get some dirty looks from mothers holding babies when I refused! IMHO, babies don’t need to have pierced ears. They are already gorgeous, and don’t need further adornment. If the child grows up to want them and are willing to go thru that bit of pain to have it, that’s one thing. A mother wanting her baby to somehow be more fashionable is another (selfish) thing. I compare this to circumcision- a cultural tradition to some, mutilation/unnecessary pain to another. Their body, their choice

  • Elizabeth Hayes

    I wanted my ears pierced when I was 5 and was quite capable of knowing I wanted them done, I begged mother for weeks to “go to the dentist to have holes put in my ears” (I was thinking of drills). I read a post by an American girl who was horrified when she saw a mother dragging her daughter, a girl of around 6, to have her ears pierced while screaming that she didn’t want to have them done, two women employed at the piercing place held her down and did it despite her protests. She was quite capable of knowing what she wanted for herself, forcing it on the unwilling is abuse. The poster was angry that no one did anything despite the fact that she also did nothing.
    What really gets me is the people going on about ear piercings being child abuse when, if they’re American, they likely had their sons mutilated at birth and think nothing of it. How the hell does choosing to wear earrings compare with forcibly amputating the most sensitive part of a baby’s genitals without anaesthetic or necessity, they often don’t even know about the repeatedly debunked studies to even hold the belief that it somehow cures all, they just do it without a care but ear piercings are abuse?

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