Breastfeeding baby doll: creepy or groundbreaking?

LEANNE ITALIE
The Associated Press
Modified: November 15, 2012 at 1:31 am •  Published: November 13, 2012
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Sally Wendkos Olds, who wrote "The Complete Book of Breastfeeding," also doesn't understand the problem.

"I think it's a very cute toy," she said. "I think it's just crazy what Bill O'Reilly was saying that it's sexualizing little girls. The whole point is that so many people in our society persist in sexualizing breastfeeding, where in so many other countries around the world they don't think anything of it."

Olds called Americans "prudish in many ways," adding the doll offers: "bodily awareness. It's realizing that this is OK."

Lewis blames lack of U.S. sales — just under 5,000 dolls sold in the last year — solely on phobia about breastfeeding, something widely considered the healthiest way to feed a baby.

"There's no doubt about that," he said. "The whole idea is that there's still some taboos here. They're difficult to justify and difficult to explain but they're out there. You mention breast and people automatically start thinking Janet Jackson or wardrobe malfunctions and all sorts of things that have absolutely nothing to do with breastfeeding."

Lewis considers Breast Milk Baby "very much less sexualized" than Barbie dolls or the sassy Bratz pack.

Olds, who lives in New York City, agreed, though she thinks the doll's full retail price is too high. "That's my only objection to it. It's a lot of money, but people spend a lot of money on their children in all sorts of ways."

Haven't little girls been mimicking the act of breastfeeding with their baby dolls for centuries without benefit of accoutrement?

"Why do we need anything with bells and whistles? Why did we need a Betsy Wetsy? Children like toys that do things," Olds said, invoking one of the first drink and wet dolls created back in 1935. "So this doll makes noises. She burps, she cries, she sucks very noisily. Big deal."

Lincoln Hoppe, a Los Angeles actor and father of five — all breastfed — said a young child who becomes a big sibling and sees mom nursing might enjoy the doll just fine. "After all, they're going to imitate mom anyway using whatever doll they've already got," he said.

But how about on playdates or just out and about in public?

"It's already hard to tell a child they can't take 'that' toy with them to their sibling's soccer game." he said. "There may be a time and place for this doll, but I find the idea kind of creepy."

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