Monday, March 28, 2011

In Defense of Breastfeeding Dolls

2008-06-14 Abby 28Recently, I was halfway listening to a local morning news program when the newscaster began discussing a breastfeeding baby doll. The newscaster (a woman, by the way) was almost unable to make it through the story and repeatedly interjected comments along the lines of, “This is just too much!” I went online and did a search for the doll, which is called The BreastMilk Baby Doll

Apparently, the Atlanta affiliate was not the only one to pick up this story. Several news stations had run the same piece, and viewer comments on various stations’ websites were generally along the lines of these: “Why don't these pigs just make dolls who have sex for little girls and get it over with? This is really disgusting. How about a masturbating Bob doll for the boys? This is way beyond acceptable.” “Forget Ken And Barbie. Let’s all look forward to buying our children Bill and Monica dolls equipped with the latest accessories such as suction pumps, stain remover, and a realistic lie detector.”

Berjuan Toys, the doll’s maker, explains the need for a breastfeeding doll: “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. Shouldn’t they be ready for a healthy future?” If Berjuan has such good intentions, why were so many viewers and readers upset by this doll? There are a lot of things going on here.

First, as evidenced by the comments above, there is the same old, worn out thinking about breastfeeding as a sexual act. Believe it or not, the breasts were created to nourish babies and children. Shocking, I know. 

However, there’s something else going on in addition to the unwillingness to see breasts for more than chest decor. By continually sexualizing and attempting to shame breastfeeding, nursing will continue to be the nation’s second choice when it comes to nourishing our young. It’s a vicious cycle: breastfeeding is shamed, people forgo breastfeeding, thus it is further marginalized.

 Maybe The Breast Milk Baby is just what the lactavist ordered to begin taking steps towards normalizing and enculturating our youth towards breastfeeding. By providing girls with an alternative to baby dolls whose accessories include bottles, the choice to breastfeed when they become adults may become more normative.

At the end of the day, however, the parents who might buy this doll for their kids are probably already pro-breastfeeding. Someone who thinks that breastfeeding is the equivalent of fellatio in the Oval Office is probably not going to rush out and buy the doll. Until people stop seeing breasts as exclusively sexual, and, in turn, stop seeing the bottle as the go-to feeding device, The Breast Milk Baby is only going to fuel the fires of the close-minded who simply cannot or chose not understand what nursing is all about.

 Although I admit that I am not going to be shelling out $89 for the doll, I intend to do my part towards normalizing breastfeeding by nursing in public, engaging with the local breastfeeding community, and making sure my daughter (and anyone within earshot) knows that I am proud to nurse her and am pleased to make my mammaries more than decoration.

  What do you think about The Breast Milk Baby? How do you try to normalize breastfeeding?

 If you are interested in more efforts to normalize nursing, check out these resources:
 • Learn about your legal right to nurse in public . . . anytime, anywhere.
 • What’s Facebook got to do with it? The Facebook v. Breastfeeding controversy continues.
 • Check out the Indiscreet Breastfeeding Manifesto!

Photo Credit: Author
Mary Michael Pontzer writes at The Accidental Natural Mama. She lives in Georgia with her husband, fifteen month old daughter, four dogs, and a cat.

11 comments:

"It’s a vicious cycle: breastfeeding is shamed, people forgo breastfeeding, thus it is further marginalized."
^I totally agree! I don't have dolls with bottles at my house because I don't want to model that for my kids. My kids pretend to nurse their babies, even without a doll specifically made for that purpose. But I understand that lots of people like dolls with gadgets, and if you need a doll with a gadget, at least there is one available that breastfeeds, because there are tons of them that come with bottles.

Alicia, Thanks for posting. Some of my friends' kids have started nursing their babies, too...I am waiting for Alexandra to give that a try--so tender and cute!

After I wrote this post, I thought about taking away bottle accessories from the doll package. Kind of the same way I took out the donuts and fries from the food set I bought...

Thanks again for reading and posting :)

Mary Michael
(www.accidentalnaturalmama.blogspot.com)

Interestingly enough, my daughter has never tried to nurse her babies. I think that's mostly due to her age, she's just over a year old but she has no problem trying to shove Baby Snow White or Fancy Nancy on MY chest when I'm nursing her. I think since she's not at the level of pretend play yet, Mommy is the only one who has milkies. She tries to drink from the doll bottles and sippy cups which I'm fine with. I figure it's just as encouraging for her (and all kids) for them to be supportive of all feeding choices. You don't always know what's in that bottle.

My daughters have 'nursed' their stuffed animals and even their Barbie dolls. I've even seen them position their Barbies to have one doll 'nursing' another!

When breastfeeding is NORMAL, children act out normal mothering-fantasy-play, whether or not they have a doll specifically designed to role-play breastfeeding.

I think the Breastmilk Baby sounds delightful--I would have wanted one when I was a little girl since all I ever wanted was to become a breastfeeding mommy.

A very good response to the controversy, Mary. Go get 'em, sista!

True, parents who don't support breastfeeding likely won't buy this doll but MAYBE their kids will beg and beg for it and wear them down? ;) Honestly I found the harness (with nipples?) a bit odd - As I posted elsewhere, I would love if the doll instead came with a child-size Boppy or other breastfeeding pillow!

It is insane that this is our society. My mother breastfed my siblings and I and when I was telling her about breastfeeding stats when I was pregnant, she couldn't believe it. She herself was formula fed because in the 50's it was so heavily promoted as better for babies and she is still (rightfully) bitter about it.

Just saw the doll... read your article and I agree with everything you say! I don't see really anything wrong with the doll, I do think somethign is wrong with society if so many people are freaked out by it???!! Why?? I am surprised, just the other day I was at a store ( I won't give names) but they had bikini's for little girls and way nto appropriate clothing for girls!! These outfits were mock outfits what a grown woman would wear when she is 'prowling'!! This is okay though, dress your baby girl or five year old or even your ten year old like some video queen???? And mock that they have breast's, with the outfits. But a breastfeeding doll, is an issue?? We so have to educate ourselves that the 'breast' is not a decor, or it is sexual, it was made for making milk to nourish our young!
Now that I got sidetracked... I think the doll has the right intention. My daughter mimics me breastfeeding to all of her dolls and she has it down to a fine art of lifting her shirt just right, holding her baby doll and walking with her baby, she is a pro at the age of two! I personally would not spend that kind of money on a doll.

But I think it is a great idea! Why can't there be a breastfeeding doll(which is the norm), if there is bottle feeding dolls!?

well I think anyone who thinks there is anything sexual about breastfeeding has probably never breastfed.

Hi Alicia,
I am reposting my response to your comment--sorry for the delay. First, thanks for responding and reading! I think that is what is so ironic about some people's anger towards this doll. Little do they know millions of kids are picking up their everyday baby dolls and nursing them. No $89 dollar fancy doll required! Alexandra hasn't started nursing babies yet, but I'm going to melt when/if she does!

Why don't they just go ahead and make dolls that drink from a bottle and then pee through a hole located near their genitals (gasp!) to simulate the whole digestive/excretory system? Oh wait. They do that. Why isn't anybody alarmed by dolls that pee?

Thanks for this information, it was very helpful. Keep up the good work.

Femme Pad

My oldest daughter "breastfed" her dolls and I never had a problem with it. It's good that the conversation has been started though. Hopefully attitudes will shift, and more people will realize how benefits there are with breastfeeding .

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