Breastfeeding doll: Creepy or totally natural?

Breastfeeding baby doll: creepy or groundbreaking?

This new breastfeeding doll is causing a stir. There are sensors in the little halter top that make the baby suckle. (AP Photo)

Talk show hosts, toy reviewers and parents are debating the merits of a new doll that simulates breastfeeding.  Here’s the background from AP, but of course I offer my opinion too.

From The Associated Press:

“We’ve got dolls that wet, crawl and talk. We’ve got dolls with perfect hourglass figures. We’ve got dolls with swagger. And we’ve got plenty that come with itty bitty baby bottles.

But it’s a breastfeeding doll whose suckling sounds are prompted by sensors sewn into a halter top at the nipples of little girls that caught some flak after hitting the U.S. market.

“I just want the kids to be kids,” Bill O’Reilly said on his Fox News show when he learned of the Breast Milk Baby. “And this kind of stuff. We don’t need this.”

What, exactly, people don’t need is unclear to Dennis Lewis, the U.S. representative for Berjuan Toys, a family-owned, 40-year-old doll maker in Spain that can’t get the dolls onto mainstream shelves more than a year after introducing the line in this country — and blowing O’Reilly and others’ minds.

“We’ve had a lot of support from lots of breastfeeding organizations, lots of mothers, lots of educators,” said Lewis, in Orlando, Fla. “There also has been a lot of blowback from people who maybe haven’t thought to think about really why the doll is there and what its purpose is. Usually they are people that either have problems with breastfeeding in general, or they see it as something sexual.”

The dolls, eight in all with a variety of skin tones and facial features, look like many others, until children don the little top with petal appliques at the nipples. That’s where the sensors are located, setting off the suckling noise when the doll’s mouth makes contact. It also burps and cries, but those sounds don’t require contact at the breast.

Little Savannah and Tony, Cameron and Jessica, Lilyang and Jeremiah ain’t cheap at $89 a pop. Lewis, after unsuccessfully peddling them to retailers large and small, now has them listed at half price on their website in time for the holidays this year.

“With retailers it’s been hard, to be perfectly honest, but not so much because they’ve been against the products,” he said. “It’s more they’ve been very wary of the controversy. It’s a product that you either love it or you hate it.”

Critics cite an unspecified yuck factor, or say it’s too mature for children. But Stevanne Auerbach loves it. The child development expert in San Francisco, also known as Dr. Toy, evaluates dolls and other toys for consumers, lending her official approval to Breast Milk Baby.

“We felt that it had merit in dealing with new babies for the older child,” she said, “and for the curiosity that children have in this area. Breastfeeding in Europe is acceptable and the doll has been successful there. We wanted to open up the opportunity.”

Sally Wendkos Olds, who wrote “The Complete Book of Breastfeeding,” also doesn’t understand the problem.

“I think it’s a very cute toy,” she said. “I think it’s just crazy what Bill O’Reilly was saying that it’s sexualizing little girls. The whole point is that so many people in our society persist in sexualizing breastfeeding, where in so many other countries around the world they don’t think anything of it.”

Olds called Americans “prudish in many ways,” adding the doll offers: “bodily awareness. It’s realizing that this is OK.”

Lewis blames lack of U.S. sales — just under 5,000 dolls sold in the last year — solely on phobia about breastfeeding, something widely considered the healthiest way to feed a baby.

“There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “The whole idea is that there’s still some taboos here. They’re difficult to justify and difficult to explain but they’re out there. You mention breast and people automatically start thinking Janet Jackson or wardrobe malfunctions and all sorts of things that have absolutely nothing to do with breastfeeding.”

Lewis considers Breast Milk Baby “very much less sexualized” than Barbie dolls or the sassy Bratz pack.

Olds, who lives in New York City, agreed, though she thinks the doll’s full retail price is too high. “That’s my only objection to it. It’s a lot of money, but people spend a lot of money on their children in all sorts of ways.”

Haven’t little girls been mimicking the act of breastfeeding with their baby dolls for centuries without benefit of accouterment?

Why do we need anything with bells and whistles? Why did we need a Betsy Wetsy? Children like toys that do things,” Olds said, invoking one of the first drink and wet dolls created back in 1935. “So this doll makes noises. She burps, she cries, she sucks very noisily. Big deal.”

Lincoln Hoppe, a Los Angeles actor and father of five — all breastfed — said a young child who becomes a big sibling and sees mom nursing might enjoy the doll just fine. “After all, they’re going to imitate mom anyway using whatever doll they’ve already got,” he said.

But how about playdates out just out and about in public?

‘It’s already hard to tell a child they can’t take ‘that’ toy with them to their sibling’s soccer game.” he said. “There may be a time and place for this doll, but I find the idea kind of creepy.’ ”

I am personally FOR the breastfeeding doll. I think it’s great for kids to model nursing, and I think children growing up play nursing will increase the likelihood of them nursing when they are older. America as a society needs to increase its comfort level with this totally natural experience.

I think kids can play nurse with a regular doll too and pretend the baby is suckling. I remember Rose play nursing probably because she was seeing me nurse Walsh all the time! (Two years apart.) I loved seeing her do that.

So what do you think? Would you by this doll? Does it need the mechanized suckling? Do you think it could increase nursing in later generations?

79 comments Add your comment

missnadine

November 9th, 2012
2:16 am

My problem with dolls, these and most others, is that I feel we are setting our girls up, from such a young age, to see themselves as moms only. Why are we not giving our girls doctor sets, science toys, and so forth. I know I will get backlash here but hear me out please. Think of the difference for toys for boys – doctor kits, tools, cars, kid computers – all kinds of things that teach a boy to solve problems, to be leaders, as well as shape them into thinking BIG. Why is it, that even now, girls are still being marketed with toys that were marketed to their moms, and grandmoms? Why do we continue to entrench gender roles for girls?

I looked for a play doctor set for my 4-year old niece and all the ones I saw were marketed to boys. They did have a nurse set but even that was so pink and girllish. I just can’t believe that the message haven’t changed in the last 5 decades…

Veronica Austin

November 9th, 2012
3:11 am

I think having dolls for girls is great.Really though a breastfeeding doll?I have a 12 year old and I could not breastfeed it made me feel horrible.Why do we need to try and shove that down the throat of a innocent child.I don’t think it’s sexual but I think it’s not necessary.Let kids be kids and play with dolls or whatever there is no need to have them get into that sort of thing.

l graves

November 9th, 2012
3:29 am

Breastfeeding: It’s a meal not a sex act.

Sara

November 9th, 2012
6:25 am

With formula fed babies and childhood obesity links, I don’t understand why every child doesn’t have this doll. Playing with baby dolls was the first education I got about babies. America is a bunch of prudes when it comes to nature and the human body. Commercials can talk about every feminine product under the sun, but heaven forbid a baby doll nurse. Many Moms give up on breastfeeding too soon or don’t even try. If it was more mainstream in the US I think more women would work a little harder at it. It was painful for me to breastfeed my son, but I was determined to give him the best start and I didn’t give up. Now, I provide milk for not only my son but another little baby that needs it. I think this baby doll is great.

catlady

November 9th, 2012
7:45 am

Little girls who are around nursing women will put their doll up to their breast and “nurse” it. No, this doll IS creepy. Some person is getting their jollies thinking about this, IMHO.

BTW, kids will replicate what they see in their play. As a kindergarten teacher for almost 20 years, I have seen kinds “playing” abuse! One year I had a little girl who frequently gave religious revivals under the oak trees. They would kneel and pray in that sing-song voice, and even be “slain in the spirit” and speak in tongues!

Parents, I think you should know how your “modeling” shows up at school, through your children! There ARE few secrets!

Jeff

November 9th, 2012
8:27 am

I don’t see a problem with it. If a mom is nursing, a daughter may want to mimmick the mother. Nothing new or embarrassing about it. You can always choose not to buy it.

Missnadine, you’d have a point except for the fact that more women go to college now than men. Let me kow when you’r ready to re-balance that inequality. Or to put it in terms of the focus of the woman, who are these college-aged women going to marry one day? Because fewer and fewer men will have decent jobs, a college education, etc.

motherjanegoose

November 9th, 2012
8:28 am

@ catlady…I recently talked to some teachers who told me they were asking the kids if they knew their parent’s names. One little boy was asked several times. The teacher finally said, ” Well, when my husband calls me he says NANCY. ” What does your Daddy say to your Mommy?
“SHUT UP!” Sad and true story.

I had my son first and then my daughter. Breastfed both. My daughter was not around many others who breasfed and I cannot remember her even being talking about it when she played with her dolls. She knew I breastfed her but since I weaned her before she was one, she probably did not remember and her brother is older than she is.

motherjanegoose

November 9th, 2012
8:30 am

meant to say “being interested in it or talking about it” sorry!

Kat

November 9th, 2012
8:39 am

Breastfeeding = natural; breastfeeding “doll” = not natural.

Sell these to the La Leche (sp?) League so they can explain things to a new mom, not to a child. Kids of the age that the child in the photo seems to be are not physically capable of “breastfeeding” a child. Can they feed one, change its diaper, put it down for a nap? Yes. The other stuff? That’s just someone trying to sell a doll – and not doing too well with it if they are on Amazon for half-price.

It’s not sexual – so says the male seller of the item; it’s just not age-appropriate.

Kat

November 9th, 2012
8:41 am

I would also say that this does not do much for “discretion” when breastfeeding. I don’t think I’m as surprised as that baby on the potty seat at that restaurant anymore.

Kat

November 9th, 2012
8:44 am

In appreciation of the holiday season, I’m reminded of that “Head Elf” in Rudolph telling Hermie that “We (elves) have dolls that walk, talk, and run a temperature.” He’ll need to add “…and breastfeed.”

My mom told me (as a kid), I’m not buying you a light-bulb powered oven (Easy Bake); you can learn on a “real” oven (hers). I would not give this to a daughter to “learn.” When you are pregnant, learn about it.

homeschooler

November 9th, 2012
9:04 am

I don’t like any toy that takes away the child’s natural imagination. I hated dolls that my daughter had that would poop and pee and suck and cry. What’s wrong with playing pretend and using your imagination. Dolls that do things for you limit things you can do with them.
That being said, there are girls who have only seen babies breast fed and not bottle fed so I suppose this would make more sense to them than having a baby doll with a bottle. Still I think it’s a little weird and probably wouldn’t buy it.
@ MissNadine. I was born in the heart of the women’s lib movement. My favorite songs as a child came from the “Free to Be You and Me” album by Marlo Thomas. Gender equality was shoved down my throat from day one. Still the strongest desire I have ever had was to be a mom. That is a good thing and something that should be celebrated. I’ve done a lot of things but nothing that compares to being a mom. I don’t think there is a woman or little girl born since 1970 who was not told she could be anything she wanted. Enough already. Toys are market to the people who most often buy them, not the other way around. More girls want to be nurses so they make the nurse sets pink. My kids both had a doctor set. One was white and one was blue (hardly marketed to just boys). The blue one just matched a doctors blue scrubs. The gender equality thing is like the race thing. Just beating a dead horse IMO.

Big Mama

November 9th, 2012
9:27 am

This doll is weird. My daughter has a few dolls and the requisite doll clothes, furniture etc. Santa will be bringing her a chemistry set this year. Who says women can’t have it all? She can have a career and be a mom. I don’t want her to limit herself to being a “milk machine”. And I think this doll sends that message.

Roni

November 9th, 2012
9:29 am

CREEPY CREEPY CREEPY!! This would never be allowed in my house. I agree that anything that sets little girls up to think they can only be Mommies is a bad idea. I don’t have a problem with dolls in general, but the life-like ones that the kids are supposed to “change the diaper when wet” or “feed when hungry” are CRAZY! Let’s let kids be kids. They don’t need to worry about taking care of another human life at freakin’ 5 years old!

non committal mind reader

November 9th, 2012
9:30 am

Girls are going to play with dolls. The question is: breast fed doll or bottle fed doll? Given the choice of the two, a bottle fed doll is more “unnatural”.

My wife breast fed both of our girls. By the time my wife was breastfeeding the 2nd, the first was “breastfeeding” her baby doll, too. So little girls are going to do it after seeing their mom do it…. regardless of the type of doll.

Sluggo

November 9th, 2012
10:01 am

Totally creepy.

Creepy x 2 = this doll.

Standard issue Barbie is all little Suzie needs.

southpaw

November 9th, 2012
10:05 am

In addition to the doll and halter top, is there a blanket as well? :-D Plenty of times I’ve seen a breastfeeding mom with a blanket over herself and her baby. I usually give her a smile and a thumbs-up. Nothing creepy about breastfeeding, If a little girl doesn’t like the idea because she can’t actually do it, she’ll play with something else instead of the doll. If she likes the doll, leave her alone.

mystery poster

November 9th, 2012
10:42 am

When my son was nursing, my daughter used to pretend to nurse her dolls at the same time. No issue with that at all.

My problem with this doll has nothing to do with breastfeeding, it’s simply the lack of imagination. I think a child would do far better to use her imagination to create breastfeeding, burping, and “other” noises than to have them done for her with what I assume is a battery operated toy.

Grasshopper

November 9th, 2012
10:45 am

Well, the creation of the baby is a natural act. So why not a set of dolls that mimic that action too?

yuki

November 9th, 2012
11:01 am

Breastfeeding is not creepy. This doll is. I think it’s a bit much for a little girl to have a breastfeeding doll. If she sees her mom breastfeed her brother/sister, I get it. Take a regular baby doll and pretend. Nothing wrong with playing…but a doll that actually does this. Yuck.

Warrior Woman

November 9th, 2012
11:21 am

Nothing wrong with this doll at all. There is something wrong, however, with Bill O’Reilly’s response to the doll. Playing at feeding a child is not sexualizing children.

@missnadine – Why do you think girls can’t have dolls and chemistry sets, doctor kits, etc.? My girls had dolls, but also baseball bats, lacrosse sticks, toy cars, doctor kits, and chemistry sets. It’s not an either/or world. You can have more than one kind of toy.

Kim Adams

November 9th, 2012
11:22 am

The doll I liked the best as a child was the one that did nothing but was cuddly so I could mimic my mother and aunts taking care of their children. The best way is for the children to be exposed to other mothers interacting with their children — breastfeeding / bottle feeding — learning how to cuddle and nurture. Too many toys today are manufactured to “do something” as if the children of today don’t have imaginations / don’t have adults in their lives showing them how to engage in life. Sad — but true — stop markerting items / selling junk / stop buying this junk — ENGAGE with yourself directly with your children — much more important than any toy!

rbd

November 9th, 2012
11:24 am

I have been visiting someone in a nursing home and always see several ladies with baby dolls, holding and cuddling them like real babies. I bet they would love these dolls.

who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men

November 9th, 2012
11:29 am

I just saw a commercial the other day when my kid was watching TV for a game where you feed a dog and he craps out some kind of prize…like a reward of some sort. For some reason, a game for children that simulates a completely natural experience like a dog rolling a duece didn’t seem appealing. I got the same feeling from this doll. I can just see a 6 year old mimicking one experience all new mom’s have gone through telling her doll “will you PLEASE just latch on to my nipple…PLEASE…I’m so tired and haven’t slept in DAYS…take the nipple in your mouth sweetie…it’s good for you….put your mouth on my nipple…mommy needs to rest.”

Cute.

DB

November 9th, 2012
11:29 am

It doesn’t float my boat, but if someone else wanted to buy it, then hey, have at it. Pooping and peeing dolls weren’t my thing, either. Seems to me like it’s just one more thing to break down, and then the doll becomes “broken”.

Growing up, I had dolls, doll houses, and all manner of girly things. I also had chemistry sets (had the periodic table memorized in the 4th grade, one of my favorite books was about Marie Curie), a doctor set, and I loved collecting rocks, to the point where I begged to be allowed to take a geology enrichment class designed for kids at a local college. Yeah, I was a geek. :-) Still am! I don’t think you should avoid dolls, because I think there is just a biological issue there that needs to be fed. But certainly don’t stop at dolls!

On the flip side, I can remember an assignment in high school where we had to set five goals for ourselves as an adult. I had several lofty goals, but one of my goals was “To be a good mother.” I cannot tell you how much derision I got for that one, both from classmates and even the teacher. I was a straight-A student, and I had the teacher pull me aside after class and tell me that she was disappointed in my list, because she thought that I could be “so much more.” More than a doctor? More than a writer? More than being a senator? Damn — what was I missing?! I told her that I felt like one of the most important jobs anyone could have was to be a good parent, because having a solid foundation helped kids be successful in school and in life. In fact, I think I quoted her something that was popular at the time: “If you screw up raising your kids, it doesn’t matter what else you succeed at.” She looked at me like I had suddenly grown two heads! As it turns out, I didn’t become a doctor or a senator. But if my kids are any indication, I did get one thing right.

Jeff

November 9th, 2012
11:34 am

I’m curious, I have always thought the terms nursing and breast feeding were interchangable. So that I use them correctly, does anyone see them as somehow different when they use one versus the other?

DB

November 9th, 2012
11:51 am

@Jeff: I’ve always used them interchangeably, too.

Mayhem

November 9th, 2012
11:51 am

I always hated dolls. I never wanted to play with them, not even Barbies. I was more outdoorsy. In my neighborhood, you either played dolls inside with the girls, or went outside with the boys. I chose the boys. I played football, kick ball, climbed trees, hiked, rode bikes, went caving, caught frogs, got dirty, etc. The boys were way more fun.

To this day, dolls really creep me out. My oldest daughter doesn’t like them either. The youngest daughter had a baby doll she toted around for 3 years……but ever since that, nothing. My girls really never got into dolls, other than the baby for a short period of time.

Clowns freak me out too.

FCM

November 9th, 2012
12:05 pm

I would say is in the same catagory as the crapping dog toy. Not a classy item to have.

I would not encourage the doll, I would not buy the doll. If they want to pretend to nurse a doll they can take a regular doll and hold it to their shirt.

Although at the rate we are going downhill, none of this surprises me. I mean we already have lingerie designed by a (then) 9 year old marketed to kids.

Christina

November 9th, 2012
12:24 pm

There is nothing wrong with this doll at all. Here is the thing, women are made to breastfeed. This doll is showing young girls the natural way to feed a baby. Other dolls come with bottles, so how is this any different. And for those that think that they are just setting their daughters up to feel like their rols is to only be a mom, you can get them other toys too. For instance, someone earlier mentioned that she couldn’t find a Dr. Kit for a girl, they were all for boys. Why do YOU think its for boys? Because there were boys on the package. Get over it.

catlady

November 9th, 2012
12:27 pm

Hey, MJG, how are you doing? Maybe we can get together sometime soon (before/during the holidays). My daughters (breastfed)their dolls. They were around many who did, including me. I also “breastfed” my dolls, altho I was around no one who did.

Next thing you know, we will have Ken and Barbie who are naturalized enough to be manipulated so that they can “make” babies. And maybe Ken can scratch certain places, burp, and fart.

FCM

November 9th, 2012
12:38 pm

“Why are we not giving our girls doctor sets, science toys, and so forth”

I do give those to my daughter that is into that kind of thing. Last year she got a microscope from me and build it yourself techno thing from her dad. She goes into the “boy” isles to pick out things all the time. Both my girls had their Uncle’s old trucks to play with as toddlers.

Miss Nadine, get the 4 year old “Free to Be You and Me” for Christmas. My kids loved it. Especially the song “William Wants a Doll” (reverse your complaint and there is the gist of the song). Yeah, it is ultra liberal since Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda were promoting it. Whatever, I remain a proponet of this video and conservative.

@ catlady…didn’t you hear? Ken and GI got a house together ;o) Barbie decided to go back to school and get a PhD.

FCM

November 9th, 2012
12:38 pm

(er GI Joe and Ken got a house together)

Sluggo

November 9th, 2012
1:07 pm

“GI Joe and Ken got a house together”

Now inform us they didn’t vote the GOP ticket either.

jarvis

November 9th, 2012
1:33 pm

No worse than the ones that pee and poop.

jarvis

November 9th, 2012
1:40 pm

Ms. Naddine, my daughter had a kid’s computer….she also had pastel colored legos (sp?) and blocks.

She is now very into writing (she’s 8), and they have this cool little journal that she loves. It is password protected to the sound of her voice.

FCM

November 9th, 2012
1:48 pm

Sluggo I did vote for Romney if that is what you were asking.

I was being funny about the dolls.

Kat

November 9th, 2012
2:19 pm

I think if the question needs to be posed “Breastfeeding Doll: Creepy or Totally Natural?” then your answer is already there. Natural for (grown) women, creepy for kids. I don’t need to see ANYONE pull ANYTHING out and do ANYTHING “natural” with it.

Denise

November 9th, 2012
2:30 pm

I hope I misunderstood something. Do the GIRLS put a sensor on their breasts that cue the doll to “suck”? If so, creepy. Other than that, while not my cup of tea, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I wouldn’t buy it – I don’t really buy toys for the kids – but I wouldn’t have any issues if I saw my niece playing with it.

xxx

November 9th, 2012
2:52 pm

simply creep-e. No rational justification can be made as tot how this is beneficial in any way to a child.

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

November 9th, 2012
3:00 pm

Yes, let’s encourage little girls to get pregnant at very early ages (sarcasm for the incredibly stupid).

DONNAN OF A NEW ERA

November 9th, 2012
3:02 pm

” There is something wrong, however, with Bill O’Reilly’s response to the doll. Playing at feeding a child is not sexualizing children.”

Are you retarded? Seriously. Are you retarded?

Creepy, especially for...

November 9th, 2012
3:04 pm

…an eleven year old…

And, motherjane, your story about the kids and their parents’ name reminded me of the old Bill Cosby bit where both he and his brother thought their names were “Jesus Christ” and “G da…it”…

missnadine

November 9th, 2012
3:05 pm

Jeff, woman may well be in college in greater numbers but so few get a degree in math or sciences. There are so many that study the fields that will not help them career wise. Also, men can get a job easier without a degree than women. I have an MBA, in all of the my jobs I have had a male boss who didn’t even go to college; instead they were great at hobnobbing on the golf course.

Georgia

November 9th, 2012
3:19 pm

No, the toy is both a suckling infant doll and a halter top that looks like a breast with nipples, and the child is supposed to put this on, and then hold the baby’s mouth to the nipples and thus the suckling sounds happen. It’s a technological marvel of a toy. I think the Apollo program in the sixties first used the technology that appears now in this toy. Maybe if more Americans were breast fed as infants, they wouldn’t have turned into the people capable of writing the inexplicably absurd comments above. Maybe.

Breast feeding baby: Relax, it’s not your mother’s milk. oh brother.

Georgia

November 9th, 2012
3:25 pm

I just googled the whole thing I was wrong. The halter is not fake breasts with nipples, it’s just a halter top with pasties on it, as if it were nipples. The pasties are worse than fake breasts, but at least it’s not actual fake breasts. The pasties are flower shaped. Yeah, it’s creepy, and there’s no way to fix it. sorry.

non committal mind reader

November 9th, 2012
3:54 pm

and a halter top that looks like a breast with nipples, and the child is supposed to put this on, and then hold the baby’s mouth to the nipples and thus the suckling sounds happen.

THAT is creepy.

Scooby

November 9th, 2012
4:09 pm

My mother breast fed 3 children around me when I was a child and I never, ever, pretended I was breastfeeding a doll. I would be creeped out seeing a child pretend breastfeeding. Everything in its right time and childhood isn’t it. Ugh!

Denise

November 9th, 2012
4:20 pm

Okay, the halter has the pasties/sensor. That took it to the “doing to much”/creepy side for me. At least it doesn’t have the fake breasts Georgia originally thought (or my original thought that the little girl had to put the pastie on) but the halter/pasties/sensor triggering the sucking throws me off and I don’t like it. If the doll made the sucking noise if it were held in a certain position I wouldn’t have an issue with it but I don’t like the pastie idea at all.

Georgia

November 9th, 2012
4:26 pm

I think I see the problem. It’s the word nipples. Gotta be. Look how the AP article reads: …..sensors sewn into a halter top at the nipples of little girls…..

you can’t even quote the article without creepiness.