Why I don’t understand the controversy over the breastfeeding doll

I came across this post on Parenting.com through my twitter feed the other day. I was fascinated (and thrilled). And I was curious as to what other people thought of the product. I shared the link on Facebook but didn’t get much of a reaction.

My sister-in-law expressed her happiness with the product (which did not come as a surprise). Another friend said that I just made him hate our society a little bit more. Another just responded with “*BEEP* NO.” (To answer the question in the title of the article “would you buy your daughter one?”)

I showed the video to my 6-year-old daughter and asked her what she thought about it. She thought it was awesome and of course, asked for one. It also sparked a 20 minute conversation about how she breastfed as a baby. You see, we had some troubles, and I pumped exclusively until she was 2 months old, when she was finally able to latch on. I told her the story, and like all kids, she loves hearing stories about herself. It was a really sweet moment that I won’t soon forget.

I was thinking about the doll again today (which costs close to a $100 . . . about the only problem I have with it). I did some further research and come upon this link from FOXNews.com. It’s from 2009. Apparently, this toy was first released in Spain two years ago. I had no idea! The controversy was just as heated then as it is now. Dr. Manny Alverez was the managing health editor at FOXNews.com. He said that he promotes breastfeeding, but thinks this doll is going too far. Here’s the reason that he gave, “It’s like introducing sex education in first grade instead of seventh or eighth grade. Or, it could inadvertently lead little girls to become traumatized. You never know the effects this could have until she’s older.”

Seriously? Traumatized? By breastfeeding? As far as I’m concerned, this is the equivalent of saying that you shouldn’t breastfeed in public because if a kid sees it, it could traumatize him. There is nothing traumatizing about breastfeeding. What I don’t understand is that it’s okay to have breasts shoved in our children’s faces on a daily basis through TV shows, store windows, and advertisements. I walk with my daughter through the mall, and we pass Victoria’s Secret. She sees women all over their windows in bras and panties. We show breasts as sexual objects on a constant basis, but a doll that teaches what breasts were actually made for could be traumatizing?

Here’s another quote from the article. Eric Ruhalter, a parenting columnist for the Star Ledger says, “What’s next? Bebe Sot — the doll who has a problem with a different kind of bottle, and loses his family, job and feelings of self-worth? Bebe Limp — the male doll who experiences erectile dysfunction? Bebe Cell Mate — a weak, unimposing doll that experiences all the indignation and humiliation of life in prison?”

Ok, I thought the last comment was as stupid as it could get. Did he really just compare breastfeeding to alcoholism, erectile dysfunction, and prison life? Yes, yes he did.

And this is exactly what the problem is. Too many people still see breastfeeding as something sexual or weird. In fact, raising our little girls with baby dolls that all come with bottles only goes to further that. We are teaching them that bottle feeding is what’s normal. Now, I don’t think I need a doll to teach my daughter otherwise. I certainly don’t need one for $100. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. It’s about time there was something on the market that shows our girls what really is the most natural way for a baby to eat.

Susan Shapiro Barash, author of “You’re Grounded Forever . . . But First Let’s Go Shopping” said, “When 7-year-olds are breastfeeding their baby dolls, there isn’t much time left for childhood and they grow up too fast,” in this article from ABC15.com.

I’m still trying to figure out how pretending to breastfeed a baby doll is any different from pretending to bottle feed a baby doll or change a baby doll’s diaper or push a baby doll in a stroller. Kids like to play pretend. Little girls like to pretend to be mommies . . . usually because they spend so much time watching their own mothers. It is pretend play. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I grew up thinking that bottle feeding with formula was the only way to feed a baby. Nobody taught me that. It was just all that I saw. I remember when I was 15 having a conversation about breastfeeding with my mom. I don’t recall what brought it up, but I basically said that I thought it was disgusting. My mom was appalled by my reaction. She told me that breastfeeding was natural. She told me how she always regretted not being able to breastfeed me (she started chemotherapy when I was 2 days old). That conversation struck a chord with me, and I knew that when I was ready to have a child, I would breastfeed.

As I mentioned earlier, my daughter couldn’t latch. She has a weak muscle on the side of her mouth. It took a couple of months for the other muscles around the weak one to compensate enough so that she would be able to nurse. Around the clock pumping was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I’m not sure I would have stuck with it if it wasn’t for my sister-in-law. She was really the only person I knew who had breastfed. She was the one who offered me the most support. My family supported me, but I don’t think they quite understood it. Joianne was in my corner every step of the way urging me on. I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it the rest of my life, I am eternally grateful that she was in my life.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that breastfeeding is weird and disgusting like I did. Odds are that I won’t have any more children, so she won’t see me breastfeeding. My friends and family that are all having babies right now are all pretty much formula feeding (some by choice, some not). I don’t know if I’ll buy this doll for her. $100 is pretty steep . . . who knows, maybe Santa will give her one. But whether she ever gets this doll or not, I’m happy for the talk that we had. I’m happy for her to understand how normal and natural it is to breastfeed.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kit on April 2, 2011 at 1:46 am

    I agree with you somewhat, but I do think that the doll is a little inappropriate for young girls. As someone who Cannot ever breastfeed or for that matter, I will probably never have kids, because I am blind, I don’t think it is right. I don’t necessarily agree with the bottle thing either. I just do not like how society is making kids, both boys and girls, grow up so fast. If they have questions that is different.

    Reply

    • I guess I just don’t see this doll as making kids grow up fast. I don’t see it any differently than her other dolls, her play kitchen, her toy cash register, or her princess vanity (complete with fake lipstick). Abby is a very typical 6 year old child. She loves to play and act goofy. She also likes to pretend she’s a grown up sometimes. So did I when I was a kid. Even without all the gizmos and gadges and fancy toys . . . kids play school, family, they pretend to work and so forth.

      Reply

  2. Posted by poolman on April 2, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I agree with your perspective here. My daughters were both breastfed. Our society has presented breastfeeding as something to be hidden and less desireable than formula/bottle feeding. That is just crazy and illogical. There are soooo many benefits to mother and child, from bonding to healing to passing immunities.

    Just another example of our unhealthy and sexually distorted views. We need to get over these distortions and back to being in tune with the natural and God-ordained order of life, IMHO. The smarter we get, the dumber we act. I can’t believe people have a problem with this doll. Well, I guess I can. We are a product of marketing…

    Reply

  3. I don’t have kids, but I have opinions about toys or clothes that I find “wrong”, as I love my niece to death. I recently read an article about padded bra tops for little girls. That’s a fail. Likewise, the clothing with messages which encourage girls to act too old for their age. I also frowned upon the “Boys are Dumb” shirts I saw in one store, as they aren’t; males were often my best buddies growing up. I think this is another version of “feeding the baby with the bottle” that some kids do as they attempt to emulate their parent.

    Reply

    • I’ve seen the padded bra tops for little girls . . . I actually just posted a link on FB the other day about the push up bikini top from Abercombie & Fitch. I find it disgusting. Those are the things that try to make our little girls look more grown up, and those are the things that I would speak out against 100%. (I actually have a problem with little girls in bikinis at all, but that’s beside the point.)

      Trying to put this doll in that same category just doesn’t make sense to me.

      Reply

      • Agreed. I’d love to read what you wrote, by the way, should you repost it here at some point. I cannot figure out why parents would put their kids in those sorts of clothes. I’m at a loss over the entire designer clothes thing for kids anyways. Suri Cruise, for example, disgusts me (rather, her parents do). Kids need to remain that. It’s a precious time.

        Reply

  4. I just posted the link and said that I found it disturbing. I should probably write more about that though 🙂

    I’m right there with you . . . I used to work in retail and every week when I’d put the magazines up, I would see these “designer celebrity kids”. I honestly don’t get it. Even “real people” and what they put on their kids. I hate seeing kids wearing designer outfits and then listening to their parents yelling at them not to get dirty. Um, hello? They’re kids! Except for special occassion dresses or for picture days, I won’t buy clothes for my daughter that I don’t expect to get messed up in some way!

    Reply

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