I grew up in a family of very modest means. My sisters and I had a few board games and books. No jungle gym, motorized toy cars or electronic games. We made mud pies, rode our bikes, went to the park and swam in a nearby lake. Once a year, at Christmas time, I received a new doll. I remember their names well. Chatty Cathy. . Thumbelina. Betsey McCall. My favorites were the life size baby dolls. I remember going to Ben Franklin to buy real cloth diapers and baby bottles for my dolls.
When I read about the new breastfeeding doll, it made me think of myself. I was the youngest child in our family and never saw a baby breastfeed. All the kids I babysat for were bottle fed. Would I have been better prepared to breastfeed my own children if I had been given a breastfeeding doll?
Breast Milk Baby is made by Berjuan Toys, a family owned company in Spain. The doll makes sucking noises when it comes into contact with “small petal appliques” on a shirt that a child can wear. Berjuan Toys has been unable to get the dolls into toy stores in the United States. Critics cite an unspecified yuck factor, or say it is too mature for children and that the doll sexualizes little girls.
Supporters contend that our culture sexualizes breastfeeding in general and they point to the many dolls with unrealistic body images and scant clothing, such as Barbie and the Bratz pack. Stevanne Auerbach, a child development expert known as Dr. Toy, has lent her official approval to Breast Milk Baby. She points out that children are curious and our lack of support of breastfeeding is cultural. Breastfeeding is acceptable in Europe and the doll has been successful there.
jocelynJulie, a Lincoln mom, gave me permission to share a photo of her daughter, Jocelyn, breastfeeding her new baby doll. Just as I wanted to take care of my baby dolls by buying them bibs and baby bottles, Jocelyn is practicing being a mom. Julie said she is fine with the concept of a breastfeeding baby doll, but that it does not seem necessary to purchase a special doll for this purpose. High tech toys can take away a kid’s imagination. They also cost more, which has been a complaint of many who support the Breast Milk Baby.
As for me, during this special time of year which focuses on new life and new beginnings, I will enjoy my fond memories of a new doll on Christmas morning, and smile because breastfeeding is once again finding its way into mainstream journalism. Even though the Breast Milk Baby is controversial, it means that people are reading and talking about infant nutrition and how we feed babies. To me, that’s progress of the best kind.