Thursday, August 6, 2009
Breastfeeding Doll Released in Spain
(If you received this post earlier today, please read this one instead! I accidentally published too soon earlier, and didn't include everything I wanted to say.)
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and today I feel moved to write along this theme.
I saw a small part of the 4th hour of the Today show this morning with Hoda Kotb and Kathie-Lee Gifford that featured a new doll that has been released in Spain - a breastfeeding doll. (If you go to the link you should be able to see the clip.) They both seem embarrassed to discuss the topic at all, and I found Kathie-Lee to be offensive in her comments. Kathie-Lee stated " I just worry about what's next? A boy doll and girl doll. . .for me, it's got a creep factor." Their concern was seeing six year old girls who aren't developed yet pretending to breastfeed.
If you haven't seen it, the breastfeeding doll comes with an apron/shirt (one story called it a "nursing bra") that the child wears. The shirt has flower blossoms instead of breasts. When the child holds the doll up to the blossoms, the doll makes "suckling" noises.
I'm not offended by the idea of a breastfeeding doll. My two year old has been nursing her dolls since she was old enough to play with them. Many baby dolls come with their own baby bottles which teaches children that babies get their food from bottles, not from Mommy. I think Baby Alive, the baby doll that poops and pees in her diaper, is far more offensive. I'm more concerned about single use dolls (this one swims! this one poops! this one breastfeeds!) and the lack of imagination that they require. I do not care for electronic dolls that cry (this one does). My daughter is quite capable of making her babies' noises and breastfeeding them without the help of the electronic suckling noises.
I'm concerned by the press that this doll is getting. Like this story at Fox News, implying that it's dangerous for young girls to be exposed to breastfeeding or pretend to breastfeed because they don't have breasts yet. This story in the Daily Mail in the UK quotes several parents, some who are completely against it and some who believe it's a great way to promote breastfeeding. Then there's Eric Ruholter, parenting columnist for the Star-Ledger in New Jersey who equates a breastfeeding doll with an alcoholic doll or a "shotgun-rattle." The implication seems to be that because breasts are sexual, then breastfeeding is sexual, therefore it's gross and inappropriate for children to pretend to breastfeed. Also, teaching children about breastfeeding might make them want to be teen parents!
Let me be clear: breastfeeding is not sexual. The fact that some people think so disgusts me. I believe that one reason a large percentage of our society does not breastfeed is because children do not see it growing up. Children grow up believing that breasts are for exposing - to sell beer, cars and anything else advertisers can think up. If more children were exposed to breastfeeding mothers as they were growing up, then I think there would be so much benefit to our society. Breastfeeding is natural, but it is a learned skill all the same. In generations past, women had the support of older women who had breastfed their own children, and not only modeled the behavior but could explain it if there were problems. Not to mention that if more children were exposed to breastfeeding, they would learn to respect women's bodies as nurturing and not as hyper-sexualized.
As for the comments that young girls shouldn't be copying adult behaviors like breastfeeding, I question why we give children dolls at all then. If you watch children at play, most of it involves trying on adult activities. In our home, there is lots of pretending to cook, shop, change diapers, and, yes, breastfeed. This is an important part of play - learning how to navigate the world.
I won't buy this doll for my daughter and I hope she doesn't get it as a gift, but not because I object to the idea behind the doll. I prefer that she continue to pretend with the dolls she has (or any that are made for her). I don't want to start having dolls that make noise around our house!
What are your thoughts on children pretending to breastfeed their dolls (or stuffed animals)?