Breastfeeding Doll – inappropriate or an important educational toy?

December 17, 2012
By

There are some topics which will always cause opinions to fly and so last week it happened again with the launch of this product – The Breast Milk Baby.

Designed for young girls, this toy has predictably caused a storm. Girls wear an apron on which the nipples are represented by flowers and by bringing the baby up to the flowers, this triggers the mouth movement and the suckling noises.

Here are some of the recent headlines:

  • The Guardian – ‘A breastfeeding doll? Yes, we should teach children it’s normal.’
  • Daily Mail – ‘The £60 doll that lets girls as young as TWO ‘breastfeed’ sparks outrage amongst mums as it goes on sale for Christmas.’
  • The Independent – ‘Breastfeeding dolls for little girls? They’re both creepy and sexist.’

I don’t think I would buy this doll for my girls who are four and almost three as they use their other dolls to breast and bottle feed but having a toy on the market raises some interesting points.

Normal mammalian function

Breastfeeding is a continuation of maternal nurturing, providing nourishment and adding to the bonds the mother and child began to build in the womb. At an animalistic level it means the survival of the infant mammal to ensure mother/offspring attachment which reduces the chances of maternal rejection and a vital food source. Expecting women are well aware that ‘breast is best’ and most with the right support could choose to breastfeed so why then are the breastfeeding rates in industrialised countries so low?

Educational

The NHS and many other support organisations promote breastfeeding and in some cases exclusively, but the rates of breastfeeding remain low despite the massive amount of funding and public awareness. So rather than look to today’s mothers, maybe beginning this education at an earlier generation is the right place to start. Rather than look to our own preconceived ideas – for example, that these dolls will create the early sexualisation of children – what could be more normal for a young child to mimic what she herself has experienced or sees her younger siblings experiencing. There is no creepiness, no inappropriateness, just instinct.

Balance

There is a grossly disproportionate representation of bottle feeding dolls on market. The earth won’t shift to have one doll promoting breastfeeding which parents can choose to buy and I suspect for the child, this doll will be treated like any other doll. It will be breastfed using the apron or not, and bottle fed. The really important message is that it will be loved and cared for by the child in the way that child has been loved and cared for – a reflection of your parenting.

Your Opinion

What you do make of this doll? If JoJo stocked such an item to sell, would you buy it?

Image courtesy of http://thebreastmilkbaby.com

As a natural childbirth consultant, Sarah helps expecting women and their partners make informed choices about their pregnancy and birth. Sarah teaches Hypnobirthing, lectures about normal birth and founded Baby-Birth Limited – an international website all about pregnancy, birth and the immediate postnatal period – www.baby-birth.com

 

3 Responses to Breastfeeding Doll – inappropriate or an important educational toy?

  1. Lucy haines on December 17, 2012 at 10:59 am

    My three year old daughter already breastfeeds her baby doll along side me. Why not I say! It teaches young children the most natural thing in the world. There should be an option to breadtfeed your doll aswell as bottle feed as in life. Isn’t that the whole point in the children playing mummy?!

  2. Sarah on December 17, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I agree it’s unnecessary, my girls pretend to breastfeed their dolls and bottle feed them (because they come with a bottle) they will just copy mummy regardless, plus the apron and flowers aren’t really going to normalise it any more are they? My girls pretend to use their nipples not flowers…
    The idea of normalising breastfeeding is very important but I don’t think this doll does that…

  3. Sophie on December 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I think this is in appropriate on so many levels. Why doesn’t barbie and ken come supplied with condoms? Or ‘boy dolls’ with a penis and pubic hair?? Why don’t ‘girl’ dolls have all the anatomically correct bits ‘down there’ ?? Because there are some things children don’t need in explicit detail. Yes, breast feeding is great, natural and completely normal but there is nothing wrong with children using their imaginations during play rather then some warped idea of a strap on boob (did I miss something? I’m pretty sure my breasts don’t look like flowers!!) I’m sure that the low breast feeding rate in this country isn’t down to lack of breast feeding dolls and more to do with the excess pressure on mums to be natural (whatever that is supposed to mean!!) and also to do with the fact that actually women are just choosing not to!! Personally I feel liberated to have the choice not to breast feed, I carried my daughter for 9 months, I strive to be the best parent I can be every day but I’m not a slave to her or my body. I made a choice and the only message I want to give her is that she can choose her own Path one day, regardless of any toy or health visitor wearing a breast is best t-shirt!!!

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