Piercing a baby’s ears is one of those controversial issues many parents face. For some, it's just a choice. For others, it's on par with mutilation. But how harmful is it to pierce a baby’s ears? Who make that decision? Why do some people see this as child abuse, while others think it’s just what their mothers did, and so on? While everyone has their reasons, and it's ultimately a personal decision (like any other parenting decision) I think there are some things white families don’t get about piercing baby’s ears.
Growing up Latinx, everyone around me had pierced ears. That’s just how things were done. I never questioned why girls had them and boys didn’t, nor did I question why young baby girls had their ears pierced at such a young age. I didn’t think anything of it, and the pain a baby might experience never even crossed my mind. I’m not entirely for or against baby ear piercing these days. I’ve had my ears pierced again later in life (a second one in the lobe) and it wasn’t really all that painful.
I also recognize there are some issues (like issues about gendering kids based on jewelry, or the right for every human being to have bodily autonomy) also at play. Regardless, I totally get why Latinx (and other non-white) parents get a bit frustrated at the accusations hurled in their direction. So, if you're wondering why some families pierce their baby's ears, think of these viewpoints first:
It’s A Long-Standing Cultural Tradition
As I mentioned before, my mother pierced my ears, and her mom pierced her babies’ ears, and so on and so forth. It’s a big part of the culture in many places. From Latina America to India to parts of Africa and the Middle East, people pierce their baby’s ears early. It’s like the turkey at Thanksgiving or the male circumcision — except ear piercings are nowhere near as invasive as circumcision and won’t make you sleepy like a plate of turkey.
Considering the times we’re living in, when a lot of our cultural traditions are being whitewashed, appropriated, and belittled by the white majority, it can often feel important to maintain some of our people’s old ways.
It’s Also A Religious Tradition
According to BabyCenter, the karna vedha sanskar is a Hindu tradition practiced in India, which requires piercing a baby’s ears. The baby’s ears are pierced early, either in their first or third year of life. Some also wait until the first haircut (performed during the Mundan ceremony). Regardless, it’s their belief that it should be performed, and as it’s not especially harmful to the child I wouldn’t exactly force or shame people to stop.
It's A Rite Of Passage
Some people view piercings as a rite of passage. I’m one of those people. Every body modification I’ve ever gotten has been a rite of passage — a change from one thing to the next. I don’t actually recall my first one, because I was a baby, but it was probably also a rite of passage for my mother, kind of like a baby’s baptism can be a rite for both baby and parent.
We’re Not Being Irresponsible
There seems to be this stigma that parents piercing their baby’s ears are being reckless with their babies. Most parents, however, do their due diligence. They make sure to take their baby to a doctor’s office or other reputable place for their piercings. They make sure all materials are sterile. They make sure to keep the piercings clean.
It’s Not Really Harmful To The Baby’s Health
The risks to a baby’s health due to an ear piercing are minimal. According to Johns Hopkins, keloids (one issue) tend to mainly appear on kids over the age of 11. Infections, in general, only occur in about 24 percent of the population, which can be avoided by using gold or surgical steel earrings. Allergies might occur too, but again, the gold earrings work best to avoid this.
While tearing might occur, that’s most often seen when wearing dangling earrings (chandelier earrings), which is something babies wouldn't be wearing.
There’s Probably Less Chance The Piercing Will Get Infected When They're Babies
Infections happen for a number of reasons. According to Healthline.com, "if you touch your piercing with dirty hands or instruments, you can introduce an infection." Baby’s don’t really touch their ears much at all (versus, say, older kids or even teens and adults). As a result, there’s likely less chance of an infection occurring. Plus, babies tend to be kept in fairly clean areas anyway (we definitely change our son’s bed sheets more often than our own, for example), so all that probably minimizes the risk.
There’s A Good Chance Your Baby Will Thank You When They’re Older
While I understand some might not agree, I am very grateful to my mom for piercing my ears as a baby. I love having pierced ears and always have. I love earrings, even if I do tend to lose them fairly often, and I know many girls and women out there agree.
If They Don’t Like Them Later, They Don’t Have To Wear Them
If your baby grows up to say they hate earrings, there’s a simple solution: don’t wear them. Yes, the holes might not ever close (or they might!), but they aren’t exactly all that unsightly or altering of your physical self.
Clip-On Earrings Are Just Painful
Alright, sorry white folks but I don’t know how any of y’all deal with clip-on earrings. All the ones I’ve ever tried on just plain hurt my ear lobes. For that much pain, I’d rather just get another piercing.