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August 6, 2009

Babies and Boobies

Apparently there's a new breastfeeeding doll on the market in Spain called "Bebé Glotón" ("Baby Glutton" in Spanish although the connotation is more like "happily fed baby" rather than "gluttonous baby"). The doll is supposed to promote breastfeeding to children as being normal and natural.

Photo from Thingamababy.com

I sort of have mixed feelings about this... On the one hand we're very pro-breastfeeding - and really easily irritated by people who say it's creepy or wrong - so anything that destigmatizes it for children is pretty cool. On the other hand, it's a little creepy. (Not because it breastfeeds; I just find all the dolls that "simulate" real baby behavior, like eating and going to the bathroom to be pretty creepy). The fake boobies halter top is a little weird; there are flowers that are meant to represent the nipple area. When the doll is lifted to the flowers it makes a suckling motion and sound.

Photo from Thingamababy.com

I'm not really sure if a doll like this is even necessary... The parents who think breastfeeding is gross or inappropriate would never buy this doll for their kids in the first place. The children whose mothers breastfeed are likely already pretending to nurse their dolls (Lil' Lilith did it - in fact, she even used a Boppy) because that's what kids do. They mimic their parents. They likely don't need an expensive, fancy suckling doll to do it. Why do the toy companies think that all these technological advances to make dolls more "lifelike" are so necessary? Let's not forget that kids do have imaginations. But I guess there is something cool about a doll that looks and acts and sounds like a real baby. (Cool if you're a little kid; as an adult I find dolls that act like they're alive really really scary).

What I don't agree with is the ridiculous claim that this toy somehow sexualizes children. WTF?The first comment on Thingamababy.com:

Wow. Speechless. Thats almost like putting pasties on a ten year old! - Summer
Some people are seriously fucked up. Yes, I know that the flower boobies are a little weird... but I suppose it's simply because they didn't want to encourage little girls to start lifting up their shirts at playtime. (At least not until the "Little Girls Gone Wild" board game comes out). To make the leap to pasties is a little messed up. It also goes back to the old misconception that breasts are always sexual and therefore breastfeeding - especially extended nursing - is some form of abuse. (I loathe the people who make that claim).

[Before you all jump down Summer's throat: She later commented that she does support breastfeeding and the pasties comment was just a joke... because apparently equating nursing mothers with strippers is hilarious.]

Another commenter suggested that this doll would encourage teen pregnancy. No, she really did:

WTF !?!?! Um, OK.. OK, this is just too weird. OK, so while they are teaching LITTLE girls that breastfeeding is natural, “OK”, but at the same time, they are teaching them that teen/early pregnancy is OK too right? Cause if a girl is going to be curious about breast feeding a DOLL that is meant for that, then she is goin to want to know what its like to REALLY do it. WOW, that’s really keeping children safe huh.. way to go SPAIN!!! Ya, OK, a PARENT should be teaching their child about babies, breastfeeding, SEX and so on, not some damn doll. ARE YOU SERIOUS? My son watches me every day nurse my daughter, is he curious, YES, he even asked if he could feed her, I told him, no baby, only mommies feed babies. That is natural. Teach your little girl that breast feeding is natural “THE RIGHT WAY !!” When she is old enough to know what the hell it is. You might as well just tell her its OK to go and talk to boys before she is 18 too and go out on dates, and have sex. - AKJ
Um... what? So letting your kids pretend to breastfeed baby dolls will make them become teenage parents? Really? So does that mean that they shouldn't be allowed to bottlefeed their dolls too? Or really, they shouldn't be allowed to play with baby dolls at all... because it encourages them to want to be parents.

I also think it's pretty funny that she said that parents should teach their kids about this stuff and not "some damn doll", as if the parents are just going to hand the doll to their kids and not say anything about it. Because you know, that's totally how I'm going to parent... To teach my daughter about sex, I'll just hand her a box of condoms. I'm not going to bother teaching her to drive; I'll just let her go play bumper cars at the amusement park.

She's not alone in thinking that breastfeeding is too grownup for kids:

Honestly, I think this is awful. Now let me just be clear, I think breastfeeding is wonderful and wholeheartedly encourage it, HOWEVER, it is completely innapropriate to allow a young girl to mimic it. Yes, breastfeeding is completely natural, but it is something that only adults do, not children. It would actually disgust me if I were to see a child using this “toy”. - AC89
Yeah. It's totally inappropriate for children to mimic things that only adults do. I wonder if she's equally disgusted when she sees children playing with toy lawnmowers or vacuums or trucks or kitchen sets or tools or other items that are for "adults only". (Unless of course she allows her kids to drive and use power tools and cook on the stove?)

But this comment might be my favorite:


Sorry, but young children are sort of the experts on breastfeeding. I think the problem here is that everyone thinks this doll is supposed to encourage children to want to breastfeed. It doesn't. It's not promoting breastfeeding per se, so much as it is promoting the acceptance and understanding of breastfeeding. That is, kids aren't really learning about breastfeeding from this doll. They've probably already learned about from their breastfeeding mothers. Either from being breastfed themselves or by seeing a sibling be breastfed... you know what that means... "They learned it by watching you mom!"

To give credit where credit is due: we first read about this doll on Bust.com who directed readers to the full story on Thingamababy.com. (There is also pretty good commentary on Examiner.com).


Allison said...

Honestly, I found those dolls that urinate more disturbing that this toy. Or quints, remember those?

Briana said...

you pretty much said it all-I'm very pro-breastfeeding, but I find this and really all simulation dolls (that pee, cry, etc) creepy. Otherwise, the intentions are good. We need to work to distigmitize breastfeeding & the sexualization of boobies (the comments on this doll is evidence of that enough)! A lot of women don't even breastfeed or want to for cosmetic reasons because of these idea. It's like hello...tragic.

Anonymous said...

"You might as well just tell her its OK to go and talk to boys before she is 18 too and go out on dates, and have sex."

WTF??? Serious?? She's going to tell her daughter NOT to talk to boys before she's 18? $100 says that little girl's going to be prego by 15.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

I have observed over the years what you pointed out early on in the posts.

Children of breastfeeding mothers often pretend anyway. I have seen small children pretend even with siblings.

Children whose parents aren't into it, don't model that behavior, and because this culture often persecutes women who do breastfeed in public spaces, its doubtful that the behavior would be modeled often enough in that manner to make it an issue.

Its an interesting commentary on our culture, the kind of reactions Americans are having towards a doll marketed not in America but in Spain/the EU.

Honestly at least Breast Feeding serves a life affirming purpose, and I find this doll no more creepy or inappropriate than toys that transform into guns, or undead creatures that leak ichorous substances or mock shoot brain melting laser beams. Its not like the candy cigarettes some of us grew up with that is for certain. And it's not a first Person Shooter on an X-Box or whatever the latest stalker game is now.

Anonymous said...

I was also stunned by the woman who wrote "you might as well tell her its OK to go and talk to boys before she is 18 too and go out on dates, and have sex"

Right, because talking to boys always leads to sex. Never mind the crazy idea that teenagers shouldn't have sex, that's bad enough. But I had friends who were supposedly not allowed to talk to boys until they were married (restrictive cultural values) and yeah, they grew up completely unable to have a normal respectful relationship with men, because they never had the chance to learn how to relate to men, or how to demand respect from men.