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Kim Kardashian starts debate: Is it cruel to pierce baby's ears?

Chaunie Brusie is writer, speaker, and labor and delivery nurse. Her first book, Tiny Blue Lines, a guide to young motherhood, was released in May 2014. She writes about life as a young mom of three.

Fashion or cruelty?

In a shocking turn of events, Kim Kardashian is making headlines again. But this time it's not all about her.

When Kim Kardashian posted this picture online earlier this week, she let loose an onslaught of criticism. Well known for causing plenty of scandal, Kardashian managed to stir up some controversy that wasn't just about her cleavage.

So what's all the fuss about?

Well, apparently, earrings.

Are they earrings or exploitation?

The picture that Kardashian shared with the world showed her beautiful baby North — and her beautiful new ear candy, a pair of sparkling, most likely very real diamond earrings. Pierced earrings.

Now, although it's not exactly a new thing for baby girls to have pierced ears, a lot of people have taken offense to Kardashian piercing her 1-year-old's ears and the fact that she then chose to adorn them with earrings that undoubtedly cost more than many of us make in a year.

So the question is, why did she do it? Isn't it enough that she makes a living based on her appearance? Does she really have to drag her innocent daughter into the mix as well?

What's the big deal?

Some parents don't see ear piercing as that big of a deal at all. Megan, a mother of two boys and a girl, chose to have her daughter's ears pierced at only 3 months. When I spoke to her, she expressed hesitation in revealing her identity, saying that she received a lot of "flack and judgment" for the decision.

Megan's decision to have her daughter's ears pierced was born simply out of excitement for having a girl. "I had been desperate for a baby girl," she explains. "I was the oldest of three younger brothers, my cousins were all boys, my husband had only a brother (with no girls born in the past 60 years on his side) and we'd already had two boys. I didn't think it was in the cards for me to have a girl!" So when Megan and her husband were surprised with their third child and found out she was a girl, Megan was excited to spoil her with all things girl. "When I had her — after all the blue jeans, fart jokes, boy everything — I knew that I wanted her to be as girly as possible. She is always dressed in pink, 99 percent of the time in a dress, and yes, I had her ears pierced at the age of 3 months. If she decides she doesn't want them when she is older, she can take them out!"

Dr. Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics is on Megan's side. Although she thinks that the baby should have a tetanus shot before having the procedure done, "after 2 months it is usually fine if they’ve been vaccinated."

Keeping up appearances

Now who among us hasn't oohed and ahhed over a new baby and her pierced ears? It's undeniably cute, but it also carries with it a little bit of the question of why we are so bent on making our baby girls the object of affection from their appearance from day one.

Granted, it's hard to say if pierced ears are any different from say, those ridiculous oversized flower headbands that all of my daughters have rocked at some point or another, but there's also a bit of a difference between pulling on a pretty onesie or slapping on a headband and punching actual holes in our baby's bodies.

Ear piercing is also a procedure that can cause harm to a baby. Taking care of newly-pierced ears is actually a lot of work and if not properly attended to, can lead to an infection, among other concerns.

"The first concern for babies less than 6 months of age is possibility of infection," explains Dr. Stan Spinner, chief medical officer of Texas Children's Pediatrics in Houston. "Even a minor skin infection in a very young baby can quickly become a potentially serious infection. Our second concern is that the earlobe often changes somewhat anatomically from newborn to after the first few months. A good spot for an ear stud in a newborn may not look right six months later."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting to get a child's ears pierced until she is "mature enough to take care of the pierced site herself."

It can wait

Practical reasons aside, I think it's best to hold off on piercing a little girl's ears. Of course, it's a personal decision, as is anything in parenting, but the fact that we have a bit of history with damaging women's bodies in the sake of looking "pretty" (bound feet or restrictive corsets, anyone?) warrants putting a little more thought into the decision.

For our family, ear piercing marked a milestone in a little girl's life. I can still remember my dad tearing up a little when he found out his baby girl wanted to get her ears pierced. There's just something about it that seems to take away a little bit of innocence.

And I'm not saying I'm against ear piercing. I fully recognize that we do all kinds of crazy things in the name of appearance, from tanning to whitening our teeth, and I confess that I don't feel fully dressed unless I'm wearing my earrings. But I also appreciate that my parents made me wait until I could grasp the full meaning of what it meant to get my ears pierced and, more importantly, take care of them myself.

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