Controversial Doll That Simulates Breastfeeding Set to Hit Store Shelves Nationwide
By Jacqueline Tourville
Remember the life-like breastfeeding doll that caused a stir when it reached store shelves in Europe this past spring, polarizing groups at odds over issues like breastfeeding in public and those who feel young girls are already growing up too fast? Despite the controversy, the “Breast Milk Doll” has become such a hit among parents and children that the Spain-based toy maker now plans to bring the doll to the US sometime in the next few months–just in time to get a jump start on the holiday shopping season.
Critics say the doll is over-sexualizing young girls, but the company, and those in support of the doll, say it’s teaching young girls about a natural part of motherhood.
Why the debate over a doll? Here’s how it works: children slip on a special halter top made from a colorful material with two flowers positioned where nipples would be. When the mouth of the doll is brought close to a sensor embedded in the flower, the baby imitates the act of breastfeeding by making motions and sounds consistent with suckling.
Critics say the doll is over-sexualizing young girls, according to an ABC News report. However, the company, and those in support of the doll, say it’s teaching young girls about a natural part of motherhood.
“The Breast Milk Baby lets young girls express their love and affection in the most natural way possible, just like mommy,” the manufacturer said in a news release (via ABC News). “The Breast Milk Baby represents a revolution in design by teaching children the nurturing skills they’ll need to raise their own healthy babies.”
And while dolls are traditionally the domain of little girls, the manufacturer hopes this unique toy becomes a crossover hit with boys in the US. “Our dolls are perfect for boys and girls two years and older,” Dennis Lewis, US spokesperson for the company, told Forbes.com. “Although we usually only think about little girls playing with dolls, the truth is that boys need to acquire healthy nurturing skills as well.”
Are We Buying It?
Answering critics who think the doll potentially teaches kids about baby-making too early, Lewis contends that by learning about healthy, natural infant feeding, “boys and girls are not being sexualized in any manner… As an American, I find it hard to believe that we are letting a silly misconception about something as wholesome as breastfeeding be turned into a taboo subject.” Lewis also thinks that grandmothers of decades ago would laugh at all this controversy. “Until a few… companies started selling artificial milk, the ‘normal’ way to feed a baby was by breastfeeding,” he told Forbes.
But will American consumers see the doll as wholesome play or just one more one way children in the US are being pushed to grow up too fast, too soon? Parents interviewed by ABC’s Good Morning America were split on the issue. Some moms indicated that they would look at other dolls first before bringing home Breast Milk Baby. But at least one dad interviewed by GMA thinks the doll is a winner.
“We’ve got another baby due… and I think it’s going to be a really neat way for our daughter, Grace, to connect with mom,” he said.