The Breast Milk Baby Doll, 4 Girls and 1 Daddy

One of my favorite photos of me as a little girl shows me at about 2.5 years old sitting on the couch next to my mom with my glasses, blond curls, my shirt pulled up and a baby doll’s face pressed against my chest.  I have the biggest cheesiest smile of a very proud preschooler because I was breastfeeding my baby just like my mom was breastfeeding hers.  That picture is featured in one of our many family photo albums.  I don’t ever remember being embarrassed or thinking it was strange.  It was just me, pretending to be a mommy and as far as I was concerned, that’s just how mommies feed their babies.  To me, it was normal.  (I search for potential warning signs of abnormal in children pretending to breastfeed toys here.)

I haven’t changed much in my opinion on that even now.  That’s just how mommies feed their babies.  To me, it still is normal.

When the Breast Milk Baby first came to the media’s attention state side (I had seen the Spanish version about a year before) I figured there’d be a report or two and then everyone would move on to more interesting topics.  Like, you know, real news.  I wasn’t going to blog about it since I don’t usually write about what’s in the news and my opinion of it would probably seem pretty obvious.  Then I kept seeing it, over and over again, different articles, news talk shows, and loads of blogs.  Everyone was talking about this thing in both positive and negative terms.  Are we normalizing breastfeeding with this doll?  Over-sexualizing young girls?  Encouraging teen pregnancy?  Making formula feeding moms feel guilty?  Making a lasting impact on the future of breastfeeding?  News commentators and bloggers pontificated on the perceived dangers or wonders of the plastic baby.  I thought I’d let them and I’d just continue on my merry way writing about whatever I want instead of the popular hot topic news.  Which is how I like it.

But then I was reading one of those articles and clicked on the video to watch the commercial for the doll.  Over my shoulder I heard “What’s that?  A baby doll?  Why is there a video about a girl playing with a baby doll?”

I invited my young impromptu audience for a viewing of the clip and asked them if I could ask them a few questions afterward.  They agreed and piled onto the couch with me their air crackling with anticipation worthy of a world premier.  It was as if we were attending The Leaky Boob film festival.  All 6 of us.

“What’s that she’s putting on?”

“Just watch.”

A giggle.

“Awww!  It’s a baby!  I like babies, mommy.”

“Is the baby eating the flowers?”

“Why would a baby eat flowers?”

“Just watch.”

A burst of laughter at the baby’s burp.  Bodily functions humor never fails to elicit a laugh from the under 14 crowd.

“Was that supposed to be a burp?”  More laughter.

“The baby burped!” Even more laughter.

“This is a weird doll.”

“I think it’s cute”

“Is the doll supposed to be breastfeeding?”

“Shhh, just watch.”

“That’s silly, babies don’t eat on top of a mom’s clothes!”

“I like it, can I have one?”

“I want one too!”

“Maybe this doll could teach little girls that breastfeeding is good, right mom?”

“The cute baby is eating the flowers mommy.”

“But mommies feed their babies UNDER their clothes, you don’t have to put something special on to feed them.  Moms just use their breasts, right mom?”

“I like the top thing, it’s pretty.  Can I have one?”

“I’m hungry, can I have some pretzels?”

The reaction of my 5 children to this doll was quite entertaining.  The 3 and 8 year old were convinced it was pretty cool and wanted one.  The 10 and 12 year old looked at it suspiciously.  The toddler started pulling at the neck of my shirt and signed milk, then please on my chest.  Not sure if it was the video or the fact that we were sitting on the couch together but she decided to she had to nurse right then.  Their reactions gave me an idea though, I should interview everyone in the family and see what THEY think of the doll and blog about the thing after all.

First up is 3YO Squiggle Bug and the shortest interview ever.  Squiggle Bug was breastfed to 22 months when we weaned due to pregnancy complications.  It was very sad, she did not want to stop and I expected her to return to the breast once Smunchie was born just 2.5 months later but she never really did though she tried occasionally.

TLB: Hey sweetie, what do you think of that baby doll?

Squiggle Bug: Awwww, it’s a cute baby eating bobbies (her word for breastfeeding).  I’m hungry, can I have pretzels.

I was surprised she understood what the baby was supposed to be doing.

TLB: Would you like a doll like that?

Squiggle Bug: *In hysterics.* I want pretzels!

Thus ends the interview and we got pretzels.  I never did find out if she wanted a doll like that but to be fair she said she did while we were watching the video and she’s never really cared about dolls at all.

Then there was Lolie.  The true middle of our 5 girls, Lolie is 8 years old, a big sister of 2 and very much a nurture.  Lolie was breastfed until about 18 months then relearned how to latch 3 months before she turned 5 when Squiggle Bug was born.  She nursed occasionally for 3 months before deciding she was too big when she turned 5.

TLB: What do you like about this doll?

Lolie: What I like about it is that the baby makes sounds.  It cries “waaaa” and the sucking sounds. It’s like it’s real. I like that there is an apron thing you put on.  And I like that it’s clothes are cute and it’s mouth is open.  I like that it eats without a bottle, like Smunchie.

TLB: Is there anything you don’t like about the Breast Milk Baby Doll?

Lolie: No.  I kind of don’t like that it’s plastic and that it would wake you up at night to eat.

I told her I didn’t think it would wake you up at night to eat and she replied “well, that’s not very real.”  Apron thing with flowers for baby doll to “nurse” from is totally believable but not waking at night is what makes this thing unrealistic.  What do I know?

TLB:  What do you think of the name “Breast Milk Baby Doll?”

Lolie:  It’s a cool name, there are breast, it has milk and it has doll and baby.  That’s what it is.  I like it, it’s hard to explain.

TLB: Do you think it’s ok for little girls to pretend like they have breasts to feed a baby?

It’s worth noting that after I asked this question she gave me the funniest look like I just asked a totally asinine question.  She might’ve been right.

Lolie: Yes. (But it sounded more like she was saying “duh” and included an eye roll.) Because you have a baby and it’s ok if you pretend because it’s like you’re a real mom.  Real moms feed their babies with their breasts, with breast milk.  Little girls should pretend to feed their babies with breast milk and bottles because real moms sometimes do both.  I don’t think it’s bad for little girls.  Little girls should pretend they are mommies.  Little kids should pretend they are mommies and daddies.

TLB: Do you want to be a mommy some day?

Lolie:  Uh-huh.  Yes.

TLB: How do you think you will feed your babies some day, when you’re a mommy?

Another weird look.  Seriously mom, what’s with the stupid questions.

Lolie: I will feed my babies with my boobies. (Again, more like “duh” and this time with a sigh as though she was accepting that her mother is an idiot.) I want to breastfeed.

We chatted for a bit longer about how wonderful breastfeeding is and how she wants to breastfeed her babies.  There was also a point where she mentioned that she wanted to let the daddy breastfeed too, not like me not letting daddy breastfeed.  It sounded like she thinks I’m really selfish in not sharing the breastfeeding opportunity.  Er, yeah.  Time to talk about gender differences again it appears.

After Lolie I chatted with Earth Baby who, at 12 years old, was trying to be very philosophical about the doll.

TLB: What do you think of this doll?

Earth Baby:  I think it’s cute but kind of strange too.  It says that breastfeeding is right.  I don’t like that she had to put something over her shirt, why can’t she lift up her shirt?  It’s not something that’s part of your body, something attached to her body, like breasts.  It’s something she has to add.  But it’s good, it tells girls you can breastfeed and it’s good and healthy and you don’t have to be ashamed but it also tells them their body isn’t good enough.  I think girls hear that a lot so I don’t like that.

TLB: What do you like about this doll?

Earth Baby:  I already said what I thought, can I go read now?

Alrighty then.  That interview was over.

Next up is The Storyteller.  Ten years old and very outgoing, even though she was breastfed the shortest amount of time of all my children, she is the most outspoken about breastfeeding.

TLB: What do you think of this doll?

The Storyteller: That it’s weird!

TLB: What do you like about it?

The Storyteller: It tells girls that breastfeeding is ok and it’s good for you and it’s the way to a healthy child.  And that nothing’s wrong with breastfeeding.  I think it’s good practice.  So kids can get the feel of breastfeeding.  They don’t need a doll to learn how to breastfeed.  They should practice feeding their baby in public it’s ok too, it’s ok to breastfeed in public because you’re giving your baby food.  I like the movement the doll makes with the mouth.

TLB: What don’t you like about it?

The Storyteller: I don’t like how you can’t… that you can’t… lift up your shirt or something.  You don’t have to have the sounds, you don’t have to.  Why can’t the baby doll know there’s a real nipple in front of it instead of that thing she put on.  The burp was so not realistic, I thought it was funny.

TLB: Would you want one of these dolls?

The Storyteller: It might be fun to play with sometimes.  Maybe.  I don’t know, I probably wouldn’t play with it.  You know what I want?  An iPod.  Can I get an iPod instead of one of these dolls?

TLB: What?  I wasn’t actually offering to get you one of these dolls, just asking if you would want one in theory.

The Storyteller: So how about an iPod?  Or if you want to get me a doll I do want a new Waldorf doll with long red hair.  Ok?

TLB: So, we’re done talking about this doll I take it?

The Storyteller: No, we can keep talking about it.  I really want an iPod…

She went on about an iPod or Waldorf doll for another 10 minutes.  You would have thought I’d pulled out my credit card to order the other doll so convinced she was that I was ready to buy one for her.

So then I thought I should ask The Piano Man.  After all, he’s the father of 5 girls, what would he think about his children playing with a doll like this?  I was particularly interested in his views regarding the perceived potential some news commentators had about oversexualizing young girls are encouraging teen pregnancy.

TLB: What do you like about the doll?

The Piano Man: The only thing I kind of like about it is that it encourages kids to breastfeed their babies.  But that encouragement could so easily come from the parents instead without the extra gear and the extra price tag and without electronically produced sounds.

TLB: What don’t you like about it?

The Piano Man: A doll won’t teach breastfeeding.  The “lesson for life” doesn’t come from a doll, it comes from seeing it done.  It’s also limiting imagination because it does something but it’s limited in what it does.  Generally speaking I don’t like dolls that make noise because in play you’re limited by the sounds the toy can make.  Gone is your opportunity as a kid to have your baby do other sounds, including silly sounds.  I find the whole camisole/apron/tank contraption confusing.

TLB: Do you think a doll like this oversexualizes young girls?

The Piano Man:  What?  That’s just stupid.  How in the world could it do that?  Barbie might but not a baby doll that pretends to do what babies REALLY do.  Where did you get that idea?

TLB: It’s not my idea.  Some news commentators and commenters on articles and blog posts brought it up.

The Piano Man: What’s wrong with these people that they’d even think that?  Seriously, what thoughts were going through their heads when they watched the video?  My first thought is people that would even think that are messed up.  My second is that they don’t have a clue how kids’ minds work and don’t interact with kids enough to really know children.  That’s just stupid.  I think it’s sweet when our girls pretend to breastfeed their babies, when they do what they see you do.  It’s sweet.

TLB: Do you think it’s possible that a doll like this could encourage teen pregnancy?

The Piano Man: *Laughs* Oh yeah, in fact we should ban all dolls because pretending to be a mommy or daddy is going to make kids want to have unprotected sex.  Where do these people get these things from?  Let’s ban play kitchens too because kids are going to want to hurry and grow up too fast if they pretend to cook.  And toy trucks and cars because that 6 year old is going to go try to drive a real car if they play with matchbox cars.  No!  It’s not going to encourage teen pregnancy!  Good grief, want to start a witch hunt for what’s encouraging kids to have unprotected sex?  Look at TV, look at the entertainment industry.  Or any celebrity, clothing style, video game, or toy that tells girls their worth is in their sex appeal.  Let’s look at all the messages we’re sending boys that a woman is only for their sexual pleasure and that somehow they have no control over their sexual urges like men are too stupid to have self-control.  And how about parents and the way they do or don’t talk about sex, let’s look there.  There are tons of legitimate areas to explore first.  Blame a baby doll?  That’s pathetic.

At some point a little later The Piano Man and Lolie started talking about the doll.  I listened in and jotted down some of their conversation.

The Piano Man: Does mommy have to put anything special on to breastfeed her babies?

Lolie: No, she just lifts up her shirt.

The Piano Man: What do you think of this doll needing you to put something on?

Lolie: It’s ok, it’s just pretending.  You have to put it on so the baby knows where to suck.  That’s just the way it works.

The Piano Man:  Would you like the doll the better with or without the top?

Lolie: I’d like a doll without the top better.

Conversation continued to swirl around The Breast Milk Baby for a few days in our house and I was asked a couple times to watch the video again.  It’s been a while now and I haven’t heard anyone bring it up again.

As for my personal thoughts on the doll, I certainly don’t see anything wrong with it and agree with most of the points my family made concerning the doll.  The price intimidates me a little only because I wouldn’t be willing to pay $89 for a plastic doll but plenty of people buy $100 plastic dolls for their kids in the form of The American Girl Dolls and those don’t even do anything special.  We already spend about that or more on handmade, all natural material dolls (Waldorf inspired) though so it isn’t exactly the cost that I find prohibitive.  However, I know that would be a major factor for many families.  The doll is a bit odd to me, I don’t like plastic toys, the halter top bothers me and I wouldn’t buy one for me children.  Still, I think it’s great to have a doll that helps normalize breastfeeding and for families where plastic toys are common anyway this doll can encourage positive attitudes on breastfeeding from a young age.  And not just in girls.  Little boys that either play with the doll themselves (I hear people everywhere freaking out at the idea) or at least see their sister or friends play with the doll will have an early precedent set that breastfeeding is just how babies are fed.  I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.  It’s just how mommies feed their babies.  Just like it’s, you know, normal.

____________________________

What do you think of The Breast Milk Baby?  Would you get one for your child?  Why or why not?

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Comments

  1. I think the idea of normalizing breastfeeding in children SHOULD come from the parents, a toy is not going to do it. My children “breastfeed” their “babies” all the time, they don’t need a special toy to do it. I really like what your husband said about toys that make sound limit the interactive play with that toy to the sounds it makes. If this particular doll encourages teen pregnancy, then so do ALL babydolls. The only thing that oversexualizes young girls is the ADULTS reacting sexually to a non-sexual situation. Children do not think that way unless they are taught to. Just like children react to breastfeeding the way the adults in their lives do.

    I do think, however, that the addition of the top thing, so the baby knows where to suck, maybe be functional for the doll to work accurately, but the same effect could have been achieved by just lying the baby down on it’s side in a nursing position, much like a doll that closes it’s eyes when laid down. That way girls don’t misconstrue the idea that you need equipment to nurse, but then again, this is the job of the adults in the child’s life to teach them, not the doll. This applies to ALL aspects of a child’s life, a child can’t learn how to read without someone teaching them.

  2. Loved your interviews! 🙂 I would not buy one. I too had a conversation with my 8 year old daughter. She didn’t particularly like the doll. She didn’t see the point. You can pretend with any doll she said. She has an expensive doll that she absolutely loves and treats like a real baby. Breastfeeding is normal to her. She is sometimes embarrassed to play with her doll that way though. Probably because her little brother would tease her because thats his job as a brother. Not because he thinks its abnormal.
    We also like barbie and I’m not worried that playing with those dolls will make her too sexual. My favorite was the pregnant “barbie” doll with the baby inside the magnetic belly. My daughter would have the doll breastfeed her baby too.
    I’m more worried about what is in the media, tv shows, magazines, etc. Not my child’s playful imagination with their toys.
    You have some smart girls by the way.

  3. I love your families opinions on this doll. Thank you for sharing your interviews with you daughters it is really interesting to hear their perspectives! I’ve got no issue with the doll (except I really don’t like dolls that make noise) I wouldn’t buy it for my kids but then I am unlikely to buy any noisy doll for them. The other day I went to check on my son(5) and his friend(she’s almost 4) he was holding a doll (one of their babies) and talking to it, she was nursing the other doll. I asked what they were doing and my son said “parenting”! Kids play what they see, with or without noisy props 🙂

  4. I laughed so hard at this. Brilliant family.
    I like the idea of the doll but not the price and the apron. I think all baby dolls should be sold WITHOUT bottles and other artificial feeding methods anyway. I chuck away the ones that come with my kids toys – yes 1 of them is a boy who has 4 of his own baby dolls and a stroller lol. But if it goes some way to normalising breastfeeding then it’s doing something right. The price is ridiculous though.
    I really don’t see how breastfeeding is sexualising children, isn’t that the problem in the 1st place? US/UK society has such a problem with breastfeeding because breasts are sexualised. Encouraging our children to see breasts doing their biologically intended job, should have the opposite effect surely?

  5. Jessica T Anderson says:

    First of all, the doll is a bit awkward for our family… My girls(5 & 7) do not like that they can’t just lift their shirt to feed the doll. They thought that it was pointless and they like feeding their plain, quiet dolls and do not need the noises that don’t sound very realistic. The price is pretty daunting. I think that our children seeing it happen is very important to their growth and development to being wonderful healthy parents. Also, I think that your children are very intelligent and have been raised very well. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. Your “Piano Man” reminds me of my husband and me. In that his views are exactly what we were saying as we watched the video and read your blog. Thank you for your post! 🙂

  6. Ha! Loving the family poll. I only have 1 baby right now, but I plan to poll her extensively once she can talk. =)

  7. Hillary says:

    I absolutely love the interview about pretzels! “Do you want one of these dolls? No. I want pretzels!” I almost spit out my coffee laughing at that adorableness!
    As for the actual doll, I can’t even begin to understand where it would promote teen pregnancy or over sexualization. Breasts are not sexual to begin with and bfing is certainly not sexual! So, how the heck did anyone come up with that? I think it is up to the parents to teach their girls to be proud of their bodies and their ability to nurture a child and to teach their boys to support their future wives in however she chooses to raise their children. I like the idea and applaud the manufacturer, but kids can pretend to nurse anything.

  8. Cute! Love the interviews. My 8 year old daughter is our story teller. She has seen my bf her brother and now her sister. When asked, she says she will breastfeed her babies when she finishes college. (LOVE IT!) However, I would never buy her this. 1) Too freakin’ expensive. 2) She doesn’t play with baby dolls. Never did. She is more of a stuffy kid. 3) She doesn’t breastfeed her stuffies very often. Most of the time, she mothers her Eeyore and Mater (long story) by wrapping it in a silk scarf and feeding it with her tiny FurReal kitten’s bottle. No clue as to why. I guess she figures, it’s there. 4) I don’t like toys that make repetative noises. I buy them, but I don’t like them. And when I do, I eagerly await the day the batteries die!!! Pretty much, all the reasons to buy this doll are out weighed by the all the reasons I wouldn’t. Good in theory though. And anyone who sees this doll as sexually disturbing? They’re nuts. Like most of anti-breastfeeding America. They are disliking the doll for ALL the wrong reasons. LOL!

  9. I loved the “interviews!”. I don’t see the problem with this doll. Didn’t realize it cost that much! I wouldnot pay that much for a doll. I don’t even think my 5 year old would be interested in it. If she were to pretend breastfeeding, I’m sure it would be with barbie.

  10. I love this – I just love it!

  11. Oh I laughed so hard throughout this one my husband had to know WHAT I was reading!! Such good points and your kids are adorable. Thanks for posting this. My kids also like to nurse their babies the good ole fashioned way, sans fancy doll. Even Marvin the Martian likes a good nursing now and then, nuff said.

  12. Caroline says:

    Loved your family’s comments, especially your hubby’s, couldn’t have said it better myself. I appreciate the idea of the doll in theory but at the same time I think it’s sad that ours is a culture where a “breastfeeding doll” is a) necessary and b) news. My niece pretended to breastfeed her doll after watching me with my first son and my daughter does the same from watching me with my second son. Kids’ play comes directly from what they see and hear. Period. I don’t think a special doll is necessary. I think it’s sad that this has generated so much negative reaction especially when you consider all the different play guns on the market for boys to shoot each other with. It just seems odd to me what the general public chooses to focus its attention on.

  13. I have no problem with the doll, and I can see the good intentions behind it. When my second child was little, my oldest would park her butt right next to me and nurse her pink stuffed teddy bear while I nursed the baby. Kids have wonderful imaginations and a desire to imitate their beloved, all-powerful mommies–there is no need for a doll (especially an ungodly expensive doll) to be designed specifically to breastfeed. What is needed is a society that doesn’t have two heart attacks and a stroke over the thought of a mother showing a two inch strip of skin while she feeds her child the way nature intended.

  14. Jocelyn says:

    Ok, so…I’d never in a million years buy this doll. Why? Cause you can so easily do the same things with a normal ole baby doll. I have 2 boys, so baby dolls are a rare commodity in this house. But when my older son (4) is with his cousin (18mos girl) and his best bud Olivia (4) he plays with them. He also watched me pump (wasn’t able to BF) and knows that is what boobies are for, to feed baby! As for society “sexualizing” the doll…they would. Why does it stump ya?! Because society tells people that boobs are to be hidden, that their primary “role” in society is for lil boys and men to drool over. It would be nice to go back to the moment that breasts became taboo. Ultimately, I think that it begins with the parents to make sure our children know it is the norm to BF, though I hope they make sure to throw in the fact that its also ok to formula feed.

  15. Loved your comments and interviews. My girls didn’t need a “special” doll to breastfeed their “babies” just hiked up their shirt and stuck the doll, teddy bear what have you up there. children, as stated in your comments, learn by seeing something done. I would not have bought the doll for my girls. Let them us their imagination for a change!

  16. I was also amused by the interviews as well as how you wrote everything. As always, well stated. My daughter kept asking me what I was laughing at.

    TopHat, from it’s all about the Hat mentions in one of her posts that she was once asked at church if she would be willing to find some place more private to nurse her LO. She found it bizarre that someone would ask that, first of all because it’s awkward, but also because it’s clear that someone else saw her breastfeeding and sexualized her breasts and nursing daughter. She also mentions that clearly that individual doesn’t know the difference between a child and a tassel. Keepin’ On
    We do not over-sexualize children. They become oversexualized by existing in our society. A hundred years ago, in this country, nursing publicly wasn’t weird or sexual, even though there was the prudish Victorian attitude toward women and seeing a little ankle. Now though, feeding a baby is the equivalent to pole dancing for on-lookers. If a man can see a woman breastfeeding, and the first thing that comes to mind is that she would look good dancing on a table, she doesn’t need to change her behavior, but clearly, he does. Even the puritans breastfed their kids publicly. If today’s political right has a problem with it, it’s because they have a problem with sexualizing the women that they see and truly, they need to address that. You know, go to counseling or something.

  17. My daughter is almost four and she doesn’t need a doll to ‘breastfeed’ her baby. She simply grabs my boppy, sits down across from me on my bed as I feed her 6 month old brothers and lifts her shirt. Then she chats with me like we’re at a coffee shop, just the girls. I love it!

    She loves and accepts the idea so much already that when I would breastfeed her brothers in the early days she would insist on my husband cradling her like a baby so she could have ‘Daddy Juice’ and she would pretend to suckle.

    Granted, that’s a lesson for another day, but in the meantime I’m very proud that when she plays Mommy and feeds her baby she doesn’t reach for a bottle. She just lifts her shirt!

  18. * Edit: She doesn’t need a “special” (read: $100) doll to breastfeed her baby.

  19. tabatha waite says:

    “I want pretzels!” LOL Absolutely adorable. I have heard some talk that boys will be confused. *scoff* My boys are 3.5 and 6 years old and we have an 11.5 month old daughter with whom still EBF. My youngest son BF his baby doll (my 6 yr old is a “big kid” and gets embarrassed) because he sees me doing it. He says he knows boys don’t do that but when he grows to be a daddy he wants to practice with me so I can teach him and he can help his wife know what to do to feed their baby someday. 😀 I would not buy one though, he gets along fine without it and I’m sure my daughter will too someday. But very good idea. I also think it is a very good idea that your husband mentioned in the doll laying down and “knowing” it is time to nurse. Great post.

  20. I loved this post. Those TV news shows should interview your kids instead of those insane people who imagine something sexual about breastfeeding.

  21. The thing I disturbing about the doll is that a) the doll is expensive and b) it teaches our children that in order for them to achieve the ideal ( successful breastfeeding of babies) they need to invest in a lot of “stuff”, when all that is really needed is a mom and a baby.