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Coco Austin comes under fire for a common parenting practice

Poor Coco Austin. It seems she can’t do anything with her new cutie, Chanel, without having the Internet deliver swift, scathing criticism as soon as she does. Ever since Austin gave birth two months ago, practically everything she’s said or done has been scrutinized and torn apart immediately. That’s true even when Austin does things that mothers before her have done for ages — like pierce their children’s ears.

Baby Chanel has her own Twitter account, of course, and it’s there that you can take a look at the adorable kid and her new, sparkly earrings:

Piercing your child’s ears has become one of those hot topics that has really sprung up and gained ground only recently. In the past, people have added a little glitz to tiny earlobes for any number of reasons; it’s culturally significant for some groups, and others just want to do it before the tots are too old so they don’t remember the pain of it.

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But it’s that — the potential pain you might cause to a baby — that has drawn fire in the to-pierce-or-not-to-pierce debate, and that’s exactly the criticism that’s being leveled at Chanel’s mom now. And it’s coming in swift little screeds that don’t mince words at all. Here’s a little sampling from the E! News commenters:

“Oh my god. They punched holes in this poor little angels flesh? My goodness, what is wrong with my fellow Americans?”

“How tacky. I’ve never understood what gives a parent the right to impale their child’s body.”

These are pretty generous usages of what we might typically call to mind when we think of “impaled bodies” and “punching holes in flesh,” but it’s certainly illustrative of how people have come to view ear piercing and children. We saw it last year with Kim Kardashian, and before that, Gisele Bündchen.

But here’s the thing: Parents don’t need to listen to the Internet. They need to hear from their doctors.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has this to say on the controversial topic: “If the piercing is performed carefully and cared for conscientiously, there is little risk, no matter what the age of the child.”

It also adds two very important recommendations. The first is that parents wait until the children are old enough to clean and care for the piercing themselves. The other is that parents use the services of a medical professional like a pediatrician, nurse or dermatologist to have the piercing done — it ensures the sterility of the procedure and cuts down significantly on the chances of the piercing becoming infected.

There’s also the risk of a loose earring posing a choking hazard, so it’s important to keep an eye on the earrings and make sure that if they do come loose, they don’t end up in the baby’s mouth.

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Lots of people usually have their minds made up about ear piercing before they even have kids. Most grow up with it as such a benign presence and common practice that they don’t see it as a huge deal. Others decide to wait until the child is old enough to request ear piercing for themselves.

It’s fine to agree or disagree with infant or toddler ear piercing. If you, like many moms, think the practice is best delayed, you’re well within your rights to hold off on getting it done. Certainly it’s never mandatory to pierce a baby’s ears. On the other hand, as long as you do it safely and in a sterile environment, most doctors will tell you that the physical risk is extremely minimal, no matter the age of the child being pierced.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is to watch the language you use to disagree with parents who opt for the latter route. We all will find ourselves in the position eventually where we feel very strongly about one practice or another and just can’t understand why people would think otherwise. But people do and will continue to not just think but to parent differently from you.

Not every single thing you disagree with will fall under the odious categories of “abuse” and “cruelty.” If you’ve ever had the grave misfortune of interacting with a child who has been abused or neglected, you know that ear piercing is not high on the list of unspeakable things that parents do to their babies.

Maybe little Chanel will grow up to be the ultimate bucker of gender stereotypes. Perhaps all the dolling-up her mom subjects her to will be for naught, and she’ll opt for high tops, buzz cuts and T-shirts over high heels, tiaras and pearls. No one can know until she grows up.

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But what does seem clear is that Austin dotes on her baby. She, like many moms, dresses her up in ribbons, bows and, yes, earrings. It’s pretty safe to say that Chanel is well loved, not abused or neglected. And that’s the hallmark of a good mom. Not whether or not they agree with you on every last contentious point.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

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