The Breast Milk Baby doll makes suckling sounds prompted by sensors.
While glancing through the current articles of the day, I noticed an interesting headline which read: Breastfeeding baby doll: creepy or groundbreaking? Of course, this headline piqued my interest. Adjacent to the text is a picture of a young girl around the age of 6-8 years holding a baby doll up to her chest simulating breastfeeding. I wasn’t necessarily shocked or dismayed by the picture since a lot of young girls attempt to mimic their mothers nurturing habits and rituals. I remember as a young girl being excited about mimicking my mother with my very own cabbage patch doll that was especially for me. Her name was Shiela Alana and she wore glasses as I did. She had a special birth certificate crafted by Xavier Roberts, and she had accessories that would allow me to care for her, feed her, and rock her to sleep. Normal, right?
The Breastfeeding baby doll, better known as The Breast Milk Baby, is a bit removed from what I would consider normal and healthy mimicking. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a child pretending to breastfeed a baby. In fact, I vaguely recall this type of play with my cabbage patch doll. My primary concern is the interesting accoutrement known as the “magic top” that must be worn to experience the full benefit of the toy. The top is in the form of a cute halter with sewn in sensors at the nipple area masked by flower petals. Once the child places the baby up to the flower petal, it triggers a suckling and drinking sound. Hmmm….
While I am not an avid proponent of young girls playing with baby dolls, due to the possible manifestation of a desire to have a child at a young age, I understand that the female species is predisposed to nurture. So when my own daughter was younger and wanted dolls, I succumbed to some of her requests. But I would never have purchased the breast milk baby. It is distinctly different from other baby dolls in that it requires a child to imaginarily engage an anatomical feature. Other baby doll toys require feedings and they come with bottles; require care and they may come with a stroller or bassinet, require changing and they come with diapers. But to require breastfeeding? So it comes with a flower petaled top and nipple sensors? In order to breastfeed, one must have breasts.
According to the article, the toy manufacturer who is based in Spain and has been in business 40 years, performed extensive research before placing the item in the marketplace. While sales of the doll in other countries have been promising, the company has experienced lackluster sales in the U.S. and is now offering the doll at half of the $89 original price. Child development experts and other advocates for the doll suggest that the low sales are due to the fact that breastfeeding is sexualized in this society. However, it does not stand to reason that one country’s limited purchases of a toy means it is more sexualized than another.
In the U.S. where there are a myriad of cultures, there may exist a myriad of reasons why one product is more effective than another. A primary consideration is how our diverse composition produces a conflux of social mores and customs which in turn may require a more deliberate process in identifying expectations. Thus, a lackluster response to a breastfeeding doll may be a combative stance against social issues, like teen pregnancy, that skew this process. On the other hand, in a country where the majority of people are of a similar or controlled culture, the norms are resolute and young people easily assess and understand the expectations and ideals.
Another consideration for the flat response is that this toy sends mixed messages to young girls. Studies have shown that children in western culture experience body image concerns at an early age. The article cites one particular study published in the journal Sex Roles, which focused on young girls playing with Barbie dolls versus regular sized dolls. The girls who played with the irregularly proportioned Barbie were likely to eat less food than the girls who played with the regularly proportioned doll. Now of course I am not arguing that pretending to breastfeed leads to eating disorder. I am simply drawing attention to the fact that we should be concerned about the immediate psychological impact of such a toy, namely heightened sensitivity over breast development.
A word of thought to the toy maker, its not always about sexualization but expectation. I am a mother raising a daughter whom I expect to conquer her fears, believe in herself, follow her dreams, and shoot for the stars. I do not choose to engage my child in the importance of caring for a child and breastfeeding beyond her natural inclination to observe my parenting.♥