Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Breastfeeding - What A Girl Wants?

I originally posted this piece in a different blog on 9/12/09.  At that time, the doll was slated to be released in the U.S. in 2010.  That never transpired, however, recent news stories have the doll, known in the U.S. as The Breast Milk Baby, ready to hit the retail market here soon.  As you'll see in the original post below, two years ago, I was conflicted about the arrival of such a doll.  To be honest, I still am.  What's your feeling?  Is this a doll you would purchase for your daughter, neice, granddaughter, etc.?

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The story on this new doll for girls broke just over a month ago, but I've refrained from writing about it until now. Honestly, I wasn't sure how I felt about it then, and I didn't want to write something that was simply a knee jerk reactionary piece. Now, 5 weeks later, though, I'm still not completely sure how I feel about it, so I figured that would be the point of the post.

If you haven't seen it yet, the doll in question is Bebe Gloton, the latest offering from a Spanish company by the name of Berjuan who is also the manufacturer of the toy. It is already being marketed in Spain and is slated to hit US stores next year. Basically, the way it works is that the owner of the doll, presumably a young girl somewhere in the age range of 4-7, puts on a specially made halter type top (it can be worn over her clothes) that has two plastic flowers strategically placed right where her nipples would be. When the doll's face is turned toward the girl's chest and is brought close to one of the flowers, a sensor in the flower activates motions and sounds in the doll consistent with that of suckling.

Like I said, I'm still a mixed bag of reactions to this doll. On one hand, I say "great!" I've watched little girls pretend to breastfeed their dolls before. It's only natural if the little girl in question is an older sister to a child that she regularly sees being fed that way or if the little girl herself is still being breastfed. Besides, teaching our young girls that breastfeeding is natural and a healthy way to feed our babies is a good thing.

On the other hand, though, I say "oh, my!" Teaching girls that breastfeeding is as easy as putting on a halter top is not the right message. I mean, didn't people kick and scream when pregnant Barbie came out? They felt it sent the wrong message to have Barbie pregnant one minute and then just remove her belly and have her Barbie-skinny the next. Not to mention the fact that girls at that age are just learning about modesty, and this may send a mixed message to them. And, let's not forget that boys play with dolls sometimes, too. It's hard enough for some people to deal with the fact that their boy wants to play with a doll in the first place. What happens when little Tommy wants to put on the halter top and breastfeed, too?

To their credit, Berjuan did their homework before bringing the doll to market. Director of sales and marketing Cesar Bernabeu has indicated that psychologists and teachers were consulted in the development of the toy, and that it has also received the approval of a pro-breast-feeding organization in Spain, the Asociacion Pro-Lacttancia Meterna de Espana. It's important to remember, too, that in Spain, as well as in many parts of Europe and parts of the world other than the US, breastfeeding is seen much differently. It's seen as a natural part of mothering, and it's much more "normal" to see women breastfeeding.

So, given that this is coming from a part of the world where breastfeeding is more widely accepted, is it so surprising that a doll like this would emerge? Let's face it, we've had dolls in the US for years that drink from bottles, burp, pee, and poop. We don't seem to think that those things are unusual in a doll. We don't seem to think that teaching little girls to feed, burp, and change a diaper is too much at a young age, so why not teach them about breastfeeding, too? Is it rather hypocritical of Americans, in general, to say that this doll isn't sending the right message to our little girls, but then spend our dollars on Bratz dolls, backpacks, movies, etc.? Like I said, I'm still riding the fence as far as what my personal opinion is about the doll. I guess we'll see what happens when they emerge in our market next year!

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