Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Breastfeeding Baby Doll?

Would you want your child to play with this new toy?
-Stephanie Elliot,

Baby dolls
are fun and educational. We use them to teach our little girls how to behave like mommies, right? When I was growing up and in the doll phase, I remember peeking into the diaper of my friend's anatomically correct little baby boy doll and being fascinated. I owned all the babies - Baby That A Way, Baby Tender Love, and even a Baby Alive doll that pooped and peed. I was into playing dolls, pretending to be a mommy, feeding, bathing and tucking in my babies at night. But there's a new doll on the market that has been the spark of conversation in the mommy circles lately.

Created by the Spanish toymaker Berjuan, the Bebe Gloton (which means "gluttonous baby"), is a breastfeeding baby doll. For your little girl. To use on her boobies. I'll let that sink in. The baby cries when it wants milk, and makes sucking noises as it "drinks" from a halter top that your daughter puts on over her shirt.

I'll admit, whenever I've seen a little girl lift her shirt and put her baby doll to her boobs to emulate her mother breastfeeding, I've thought it kind of cute. For a minute or two. And in my experience, whenever I've seen that happen, the mother will usually tell her child to put her shirt down after a couple of minutes of cute pretend breastfeeding. And it is usually a toddler experimenting with this, having seen her own mother breastfeed a sibling. I don't think 6- or 7-years olds would whip up their shirt to pretend breastfeed.

Apparently, this doll was created as a teaching tool, but I'm not buying it (literally or figuratively!). I think it was created to get a rise out of parents, and to create controversy, which we all know, controversy sells. Personally, I think the doll sexualizes the act of breastfeeding. With strategically placed daisies on the halter top, it's hard not to think of this as a sexual toy. Like pasties for your daughter. And who wants to bring attention to a little girl's budding nipples?

I think after the age of 6 or so, most girls become hyper-aware of their bodies, they know about privacy and are modest when it comes to displaying their chest area. At the age of 10, my daughter still plays with her baby dolls occasionally, but I don't think she would get any fulfillment out of sticking a doll to her boobies and having it make sucking noises.

One breastfeeding mom weighed in saying the doll was funny and odd at the same time. "If a little girl is fascinated with breastfeeding she'll pretend to do it with any doll," this mom said. "Creating a doll whose main purpose is to breastfeed seems a little weird to me and I'm definitely not anti-breastfeeding after having done it for a year my own daughter!"

Mother of three and blogger Dawn Mooney thinks there isn't a need for a breastfeeding specific doll: "If a child is growing up around women who breastfeed their babies, she (or he!) isn't going to need a doll marketed to promote breastfeeding." Mooney said her 18-month-old daughter pretended to breastfeed her doll when she watched her nurse her sibling. "So much of children's play is imitative," said Mooney.

Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage (Adams Media 2008), thinks Bebe Gluton might be "minimally useful" for a child who has questions about breastfeeding. "But just showing a video or letting the child see a nursing mother and child would answer the questions just as well," says Tessina. She doesn't think this would appeal to most responsible mothers but it might become a fad and sell well. "But, little girls are going to lose interest fast."

It's definitely important for a child to be comfortable with the theory that moms do breastfeed, and that it's a natural, beautiful thing, but does a child really need to know all the basics? Does your daughter really need a doll to pretend to breastfeed? What's next, a breast pump accessory kit complete with nursing pads?

Stephanie Elliot is an associate editor at Betty, and she also answers your parenting questions at Just Another Manic Mommy. Visit her at or

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Read more about parenting from New Mom's Mishaps and Baby Stuff You Don't Need

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