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child ear piercing
By Destiny 04/11/2017

Among parents in the piercing community, there exists one topic that is always hot for debate: Is it ethical to pierce our babies’ ears?

The crowd is fiercely divided on the topic, and with the discussion has occurred an evolution in how we see our children.

Commonly associated with discussions centered around abortion, bodily autonomy is a term that’s becoming more familiar to people as this topic comes up in other applicable scenarios, from circumcision to – you guessed it – ear piercings.

What is Bodily Autonomy?

First, a definition:

bodily autonomy: the concept of being an individual with sole dictation over what happens to your body

Now folks, try not to hem me up here – this is a broad topic, and the definition tends to be subjective. However, the general idea of bodily autonomy is that, simply, our bodies are our own, and nobody reserves the right to tell us what to do with them.

As modern parenting moves towards philosophies that place emphasis on respecting children as unique individuals, rather than subordinates, the discussion revolving exactly what constitutes a parental right versus a violation of children’s personal choices is getting very interesting.

On the one hand, you have a camp of people that feel very strongly that it’s up to the parent to make decisions that they deem in the best interests of their children, both cosmetic, medical, and so on. On the other, you have parents that feel very strongly that if it isn’t required for children’s protection, education, and basic care, it’s not their call.

Is it Unethical to Pierce a Baby’s Ears?

Ear piercing falls into murky waters here. When done correctly, piercing your ears has very little risk to the recipient, is only very briefly painful, and in many cases, can actually heal completely if left to its own devices.

Of course, in the piercing community, we all know that ear piercings, even when done by professionals, aren’t always done correctly. There’s always a risk for infection and complication (particularly when prying little hands are involved), allergic reaction, and in all too many cases, an incorrect piercing that causes the ear to heal incorrectly, and with scarring.

Parents that insist that ear piercing isn’t harmful to babies often reason that at this young age, their child won’t remember any fear or pain, so it’s actually ideal. While that’s certainly true, other parents point out (and hey, they’re right), that babies still feel pain, and that it’s a wholly unnecessary procedure.

This is where bodily autonomy comes in. People opposed to piercing a baby’s ears say that since the procedure is purely cosmetic and unnecessary, carries risk, and causes the baby pain, that it’s a violation of their bodily autonomy, and their inherent rights to personal choice. Most people on this side of the discussion insist that they’re not opposed to children having pierced ears, but simply that it should be their choice, and only done with their permission.

So is piercing your baby’s ears taking a serious risk? No, probably not. Is it a violation of your child’s bodily autonomy? I’ll leave that one up to you, dear reader.

Piercing Your Child’s Ears Safely

Regardless of where I stand on this subject, I think it’s important for anyone out there piercing their child’s ears to know how to do it as safely and responsibly as possible. Here are a few tips for ensuring your child’s ear piercing goes off without a hitch:

  • Be honest with them. No matter what your personal stance on this subject is, I think we can all agree that honesty is the best policy here. There’s no need to scare them, but make sure they’re aware that it will hurt for a moment, and of what the aftercare is going to be like.
  • Get them involved in the process. So that nothing comes as a shock to your child, have them meet the piercer with you, and shop for jewelry together. Show them the tools that are used, what kind of piercing aftercare products you’ll be using, and frequently ask them how they’re feeling about it to ensure they’re not feeling pressured.
  • DON’T go to the mall. If this is news to you, that’s okay, but we NEVER advise getting ears pierced with a piercing gun anywhere, least of all a mall boutique. While piercing guns and pink shops may look less scary, the staff are by far less knowledgeable than a professional piercer, and the guns are much less accurate. Read this article for more info on why piercing guns are a bad idea.
  • Find a reputable piercer. Piercing studios are everywhere, so know how to find one that’s going to be professional and clean. Click here to learn more about what makes a great piercer.
  • Assume 100% responsibility for aftercare. Even if your child chooses to get their ears pierced, the bottom line is, they’re still a child, and likely to drop the ball on the aftercare. Don’t risk infection, and be the enforcer to ensure the healing process goes off without a hitch. Read more about piercing aftercare here.
  • Be mindful of metal allergies. Even kids that don’t seem sensitive to much can have a reaction to jewelry in a fresh piercing, especially at a young age when they haven’t been exposed to much. Don’t skimp on the jewelry – always buy the highest quality gold or titanium jewelry, and never use sterling silver or nickel jewelry. Read more about the best jewelry for sensitive skin here.

Everybody Owns Their Own Body

Regardless of where you stand on issues surrounding bodily autonomy discussions, I think that most of us can agree that if someone said we were getting something done and we didn’t have a say in it, we’d be pretty upset. If you decide to pierce your baby’s ears, be sure to do so after taking a walk in their tiny little shoes, and decide if the fear and pain is worth it.

If it feels minuscule, if it feels like a blip of a moment on the timeline of their life, then get your baby’s ears pierced in the most responsible way you possibly can. I’ll leave you with this one thought, because I know this is a subject that is very sensitive for many people:

We are not defined by one choice that we make as parents, but by the life we strive to give our children.

Whether you’re pro or anti-piercing, most of us are all just doing the best we know how – let’s learn together.


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