The breastfeeding debate is one that all mothers have an opinion about- and is something to which there will never be a ‘correct’ answer. As a non mother (I realize this makes my opinion of far less value) I’d say it’s a good thing to do as it promotes bonding with your child, but if- for whatever reason-you’re unable/ disinclined to do so, that’s really fine, as it’s non imperative to their future as a human being (PS. not breastfed myself). Were this a blog on Mumsnet I’d know expect some angry responses, but I feel fairly confident none of my readers will get to angry about my above statements.
I recently came across the ‘Breastfeeding baby doll’, and this is something I have rather strong thoughts on. I’m no stranger to odd dolls- remember the Skipper doll whose breasts grew?- but this doll feels like a new low. I grew up with all sorts of female-centric toys, from Barbie’s dream house, to babies that you fed with a bottle which then wet themselves, and you had to change their nappy. Yes, really, that was NORMAL in the eighties.
The Breast Milk baby doll feels like it takes that premise to a new low, and their website only adds to my discomfort. They have six types of baby dolls to choose from, three boys, three girls, two of which are African American, the rest of which are blithely blonde and blue eyed.
The idea is horribly simple- you choose a doll for your child, they put on the special top it comes with- covered in flowers- and when the doll comes near the flower on your chest, suckling sounds come from its mouth as it reaches for your ‘flower nipple’. I couldn’t make this stuff up.
So, lets give this odd concept a little bit of background. Created by Berjuan Toys, ostensibly the premise is to make breastfeeding more prevalent in the world. They quote the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration goal of having ‘at least 75% of all mothers breastfeeding for at least six months by 2011′. I’m not sure how targeting little kids will advance that aim,other than making new mums feel guilty?
The very way they word their justifications for the doll is sure to make any NON breastfeeding mothers feel horribly guilty and inadequate, and I can’t advocate that at all.
Here’s what they say;
“Breastfeeding isn’t just a wonderful practice for the health of the infant. Mothers who breast feed are more likely to return to their former weight before childbirth, and have a reduced risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis for the rest of their lives. The Breast Milk Baby will revolutionize our nation’s attitudes to good infant health, while letting little girls share in the wonder and magic of motherhood.”
Even if I’d accept that fake breastfeeding from a young age leads to a persuasion to breastfeed at an older age, I’d still argue there’s no need to subliminally influence children when they’re so vulnerable- and to argue what exactly they’d gain from having this doll. Surely children should play at having fun- run outdoors, read, dance badly on the Wii- doesn’t holding a baby to their chest whilst it fake suckles preclude the very innocence and freedom that should automatically come with their youth?
The next issue- the sexualisation of young girls is an extra point, and one I’m loath to discuss in detail. Suffice to say- take a young seven year old girl, attach baby doll to prepubescent breast- uncomfortable associations drawn which don’t do anyone any good- you get my gist?
The website tries to refute this connotation by purporting that its a beautiful and sacrosanct act that teaches nurturing. Here’s their explanation (with words in bold by me).
‘Little girls need to learn to breastfeed. Berjuan Toys, the company that has always supported the development of small children by producing interesting, engaging dolls, continues its tradition with the release of this innovative baby doll, The Breast Milk Baby. The Breast Milk Baby lets young girls express their love and affection in the most natural way possible, just like mommy! The Breast Milk Baby represents a revolution in design by teaching children the nurturing skills they’ll need to raise their own healthy babies. Just put on the fashionable top included with each Breast Milk Baby, bring the baby’s mouth up to the pretty flower, and enjoy the closeness, the loving bond between mother and child.’
To fully see the bizarreness of this product check out the breastmilk baby demo video here. [Click to download]
What do you think- is this a toy that will enrich your little ones life, or are you appalled at this product being available for children?