Online Petition Signed by Thousands Opposes Baby Ear Piercing

An online petition calls it cruel but in some cultures it's the norm.

— -- An online petition with thousands of supporters is calling for a ban on baby ear piercing.

Though baby ear piercing -- even on newborns -- is common in some cultures, the petition calls it "a form of child cruelty."

The petition's creator, a woman named Susan Ingram, writes: "Severe pain and fear is inflicted upon infants unnecessarily. It serves no purpose other than to satisfy the parent's vanity. Other forms of physically harming children are illegal -- this should be no different."

Ingram is not alone in her opinion. The petition, launched just over a week ago in the U.K., has almost 40,000 signatures. Almost 20,000 signatures have been added in the last five days.

Ingram did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

"Many of my patients have their ears pierced during the first year of life. In many cultures it is the norm," said Dr. Richard Besser, a pediatrician and ABC News' chief health and medical editor.

"I don't recommend it during the first two months of life since that is a period we watch very closely for fevers -- I wouldn't want an infected earlobe to lead to a trip to the hospital for a big evaluation," Besser added. "After that, it's important that parents go to a trained professional who will take precautions to limit the chance of infection and allergic reaction and that parents follow all of the proper care instructions. Although the Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until the child is old enough to care for the earring on his or her own, that's not what is done in many cultures."

The petition calls for the attention of Edward Timpson, the Minister of State for Children and Families in the U.K. It asks for a minimum age requirement to be set before a child's ears can be pierced. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.