The Breast Milk Baby isn’t a new product – it was released in Spain a couple of years ago and sparked media interest here in the UK a few months back. Now the doll has been launched in America, it’s causing discussion and debate once more.
For those of you who haven’t come across it before, the doll is sold with a special bib that the child wears, and when the doll’s mouth is placed near the bib, its mouth moves like it’s feeding. This video shows how it works.
Critics of the doll – many of them parents themselves – say that it sexualises children and that it’s a disgusting way of forcing kids to grow up before they’re ready. Dennis Lewis, spokesman for Berjuan Toys has defended the doll, saying, “The whole purpose of The Breast Milk Baby is to teach children the nurturing skills they’ll need to raise their own healthy babies in the future We really don’t understand why this has created such controversy.”
And I have to say, I agree with him. But while I do understand why the doll has caused controversy, the fact that it has, makes me feel quite sad.
To clarify some things at this point, I’m not what some people refer to as a ‘breastfeeding nazi’. My personal view is that breastfeeding is amazing and every mum should try it, since it’s proved to be the best start for your baby. But if mums have problems breastfeeding and it’s affecting their wellbeing and the baby’s wellbeing, switching to formula can often be the best thing all round.
In the ten months since having a baby, I’ve been properly impressed with the amount of support that exists for breastfeeding mums. Not only did the 2010 Equality Bill include clauses that prohibits discrimination against breastfeeding in public, but the NCT-run Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme allows cafés and restaurants to display a sticker, telling customers that they are happy for them to breastfeed there.
So, doesn’t the reaction to this doll undo the hard work that has been done in ‘normalising’ breastfeeding? Does using words like ‘disgusting’ make new mums reflect on themselves and what they’re doing?
Children have been playing with dolls since the dawn of time – it’s a fascinating topic in itself that toddlers very quickly become interested in other babies and often want a doll of their own to look after. Dolls that come with small plastic bottles have been available for years and no one (I’m guessing) complains that pretending to bottle feed a baby is forcing children to grow up too soon. Why does pretending to feed a baby in a way that we’re encouraged to believe is the best and most natural way, any different?