Wednesday 6 April 2011

The Breast-feeding Doll - What's your take on it?

Last week I saw a retweet on Twitter from the Daily Mail.  I usually ignore anything to do with that hateful rag, but this one caught my eye.  The headline was something about 'parent's outrage about a breast-feeding doll'.

Someone's always outraged in the Daily Mail, but for some reason I clicked the link, expecting to tsk tsk at the opinionated nonsense.  To my horror, I actually partially agreed with the viewpoint.  This alarmed me so much, that I had to spend quite some considerable time thinking about why I found this child's doll distasteful.

The Breast Milk Baby, manufactured by Berjuan has apparently upset many following it's launch in the US.  It has been branded 'inappropriate', 'creepy' and 'disgusting', but why should I be uncomfortable about it?

I am pro-breastfeeding. I nursed my daughter for 12 months.  I'm all for feeding in public.  I want breastfeeding to be acceptable in all situations should a mother choose to nurse her child.  I support extended breastfeeding if that's what a family wants to do. So why, oh why do I not like this toy?

Children learn by mimicking.  I often see Ruby 'nursing' her dolls. Sometimes she will sit on teddy across another's lap, making one 'mummy' and one 'baby' having it's milk.  That's normal. That's natural.  Why would she need a specific toy to do this?  If a child sees breastfeeding happening around them, have been breastfed themselves, then surely this will transfer to their role play with dolls anyway. 

I think what I don't like it the little tabbard top that the child has to wear.  This has flowers on the nipple area to indicate where the doll's mouth should be held.  No, I'm sorry, but this doesn't sit right with me.  Flowers? Why use flowers?  For ages, they have been used as sexual symbolism - is that what wrangles me? Or is it the fact that when you actually look at this top, those flowers look oddly like little pasties that a stripper might wear?!


I don't like the language either.  You can argue about the right and wrongs of teaching young children the correct anatomical names for parts of their bodies, but I don't like to see a little girl being told to 'offer the other breast'.  Little girls don't have breasts. They don't develop until puberty.

And anyway, how will a guzzling, slurping doll really help a girl experience the magic of motherhood as the manufacturer claims? How will it teach them how to breastfeed? As I know only too well, you can learn all the technique you like, but in the end only you can figure it out for yourself.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I agree for the most part, not even 100% sure what it is I don't like about the doll, but it really doesn't sit well with me, and I wouldn't buy one.
    I have a girl, who loves here 'babies' but as a mum who couldn't breast feed maybe its from thispoint that I struggle with it, I'm not sure?
    Apologies, for deleting previous comment I pressed send to early so you would have only got an 'I' Amanda x

  3. Personally, I think it's vile. Most unnecessary. But that may be because I had a massively negative experience of breastfeeding and everything that surrounds it, and now have a huge hatred of the establishment that try to 'guilt' new mothers into doing it. Suffice to say, I shan't be purchasing one!!

  4. Great post ! I totally missed this and would have assumed it was an April Fools Day joke if I'd seen it ! I'm pro-breastfeeding and Juliette used to sit next to me and pretend to breastfeed her doll sometimes when I was feeding Pierre, but even so, this seems a bit strange ! It reminds me of the fake boob thing in Meet The Fockers !! Not keen on the slurping-gurgling noises either - babies don't make any noise when they feed anyway !

  5. Great post and totally agree with what you say.

  6. My 2yr old son 'feeds' his teddy while i'm breastfeeding baby G, and i appreciate he's a boy so my take on this might be different to those with girls but... The doll seems initially a good idea - rather like tiny tears emulating a 'real baby'..... HOWEVER.... I totally disagree with it. As a child I 'bottle fed' all my dolls and when my friends Mothers had a baby I remember thinking breast feeding was 'eww' This had no reflection on the choices I made as an adult on how I feed my children. (I would assume this is meant to 'resolve' the reluctance to breast feed in new mothers but how will an apron and doll teach anyone?!) The description makes me feel very uncomfortable, I assume because it sexualises small children using a natural and beautiful thing (breastfeeding)which makes the doll seem even more perverted.

  7. A breastfeeding doll is just so unnecessary! The more specific the purposes of a toy, the less opportunity there is for creative play. Children need to learn to PRETEND - dolls are wonderful for that. A plain, no-nonsense doll can be PRETEND breast fed, PRETEND bottle fed (oh, I'm getting sick of the shift key now), be pretend spoonfed, have a pretend nappy change, it's all part of the development of a child's imagination.

  8. I am also pro-breast feeding but think this doll is unnecessary. If a child wants to pretend to breast feed he/she certainly doesn't need a special doll to do it! My dd was breastfed and has seen her younger brother and sister breastfed but only once have I ever seen her try to breastfeed her doll.

    It reminded me of the Meet the Fockers too!

    I don't like the apron bit either - i don't think little girls need something that highlights where their nipples are!

    ~I think its a money grabbing gimmick which is just designed to get more money out of mothers!

  9. Thanks all so much for your comments!

    I was expecting a heated debate to be honest and was quite nervous about posting this. I'm actually surprised so many agree with me!

    I'm sure there's plenty who don't and I'd love to hear both sides obviously.

  10. I do understand the raised eyebrows on this but let's not be whipped into a frenzy by the vile hate-filled Daily Mail. They probably don't like it because it's Spannish. Would I buy it? No. Should it be on the market? Unless it's dangerous, yes. Let people decide if they want it or not. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy it.

  11. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, that's very true, people will decide for themselves, nobody is forcing either way.

    I think possibly I was more concerned that I found myself partially agreeing with the Daily Mail (shoot me now!) :0)

  12. Yes, I found myself 'not disagreeing' with an article that somebody linked to the Mail the other day actually. Something pretty controversial that I was pretty ambivalent about but could neither agree wth the outrage of the article, nor the fury of the comments below which as sometimes just as bad.

  13. Hi Lizzie, I'm with you on this. To me it's just a money making ploy. I once did see my daughter, who isn't a child who plays with dolls v much, play breast feeding and that was fine by me but I would never buy a doll with all it's breast related paraphanelia! Completely unnecessary and inappropriate.

  14. Okay, this might be provocative, but that's not why I post it. This is a genuine observation - please don't flame me! I don't know the answer to this question myself and I'm not comfortable withe the doll either, but . . . .

    Why is it that baby dolls have been marketed for years with accompanying bottle feeding paraphernalia without criticism, yet this breastfeeding doll is condemned? This, in a society that promotes breastfeeding, and in my opinion largely condemns or at least fails to understand mothers who cannot or choose not to breastfeed.

    It just feels a little contradictory.

  15. Hi Mark.

    Yes, lots of dolls do come with bottles. I don't know why either. I don't much like that any toy 'promotes' one way of feeding over another (apart from I do quite like those magic bottles, where you tip it up and it disappears - but that's just because even in my 30's I can't figure that out LOL).

    I think with this doll it has evoked strong reaction in people - either for or against. I personally don't like it, but for the reasons I've stated, not because I don't think little girls should pretend to feed their dolls however they want. x

  16. Yeah, I think there's a degree over analysis about the thing its fair to say.
    Having read all the views here and elsewhere, and reflected on my own posts, I think I can now sum up my feelings on the matter as follows:

    Breastfeeding doll? Meh.

  17. It's a tricky one - shouldn't we be applauding something which may encourage girls to breastfeed in the future? I think I would be fine with the doll itself if it wasn't for the tabbard and the flower nipple.....takes it too far away from imaginary play into something too explicit for little girls.

  18. Hi Carrie - yes it's the tabbard! Looks too much like a bra with flower nips for my liking!

    Hi Mark - where do you blog - I can't find your profile. I'd love to have a read x

  19. Ha -nah, I don't blog. I'm too lazy for all that. I'm just a grumpy man who very occasionally reads and posts on blogs. That's the easy part!

  20. This doll doesn't offend or repulse me at all. It is slightly strange, and at worst unnecessary. The idea of a child simulating breast-feeding is fine by me though, and it should be accepted. I was quite young when I realised breasts had two distinct functions. At around 6 years old I saw a lady breast-feeding, I was fascinated. I was a similar age when I went to work with my dad and saw a calendar featuring topless women in the garage. We do underestimate how much our children understand, and how much of what they see and do has an impact on their future.
    I can think of far far worse things for a little girl to do than pretend to breastfeed a doll.

  21. Great post. I actually like the doll. I think it's promoting something that is completely natural and if Mums want to buy them for their children, then fair play to them. It's all about personal choice.

    I don't however, like the idea of it telling the child to 'offer the other breast'. These are young children, and with good enough imaginations to role play - they don't need to 'learn' how to breastfeed. That bit doesn't feel right to me. Infact, I find that quite odd.

    I have a friends whose little girl instinctively pretend to breastfeed her dolly, because she was breastfed herself. That is completely normal and healthy, and I'd have no problem with my girls doing the same.

  22. and I do think it's just a money making ploy. A regular dolly can be used to role play in the same way, you don't need all the tabard and nonsense, imo! But then again, aren't the dolls that come out every season with different clothes, or one that pees or poops, just the same?

  23. I think it's another niche money-maker - she pees! she poos! She possets! She suckles! - which doesn't offend me, but which I wouldn't buy either. Firstly because I have boys, who - with the best will in the world - will never breastfeed, and secondly because children are quite capable of using their imaginations, as several people have pointed out. The tabard actually limits the play by making it all about the breast feeding. And yes, language such as 'offer the other breast' makes me feel uncomfortable when applied to small girls. Surely there's time for them to worry about breast being best and all the other guilt when they're older?

    I understand the importance of normalising breast feeding, but there at the risk of being facetious, there are many important issues which haven't yet made it into toy manufacture. I look forward to 'Hot wheels speed limited' cars, and 'Breathalyser Barbie'.

    I'm more annoyed about the t-shirt I saw at playgroup today (on a 4 year old), which said 'Future Footballer's Wife'

  24. Pretty weird doll and not something I would've asked Father Christmas for when I was little!

    It reminded me of when my son was 3yo & kept pretending to breastfeed the dollies at nursery after watching me feed his new baby sister. I found it very amusing that the nursery nurses were desperately trying to encourage him to bottle feed his dolls!

    I'll remind him of that tomorrow, he's 13 now so will be mortified if I mention it

  25. @ Lakota

    "I'm more annoyed about the t-shirt I saw at playgroup today (on a 4 year old), which said 'Future Footballer's Wife'"

    This is truly horrendous!
    How can somebody design that, let alone somebody making the decision to produce it, a shop to stock it, a customer to buy it, and / or a parent to put it on their child. Horrible!

  26. Right, I'll try again, Blogger wouldn't let me post last time. I am completely in favour of this doll! Sorry! I think it's a trailblazer, as far as I can see this is the first of its kind that is mainstream and I am very pro-breastfeeding, the more breastfeeding is generally accepted as a normal way of feeding your baby, the better. I understand it's not always suitable for everyone, but you have to admit it's a god send in 3rd world countries with limited water supplies. I know what you mean about the language, it does seem a little odd referring to children having 'breasts' because they don't have them until puberty - but then again, they don't have babies until after puberty either do they? - so by that argument, dolls shouldn't be encouraged either? Sorry if waffling, but am struggling to comment in a comment box. This is a very passionate subject for me!

  27. And ....(takes breath) boys may never breastfeed, but they may marry or live with someone who wishes to. I"m planning a blog post on the subject too, lol! Liz you beat me to it! :O)

  28. Thanks Kay. Sorry Blogger censored you LOL.

    Can't wait to read your post about this, really interesting hearing everyone's views. Thanks for sharing xx

  29. Funny, I too saw the future footballer's wife on a child recently, don't like it either. It's like its saying the ONLY way she could be rich is if she married money.
    On the breast feeding doll, what annoys me the most was when someone said "It is preparing girls for when they grow up." Although MOST do, not all girls (a) CAN have children when they grow up and (b) want & choose to have children when they grow up so I really don't like this assumption. Plus, not all women who DO have children: (a) CAN breastfeed and (b) choose to.

  30. Well i am a mum of two a 3 year old girl and 4 week old baby girl. I breastfed my eldest for 6 months and i breastfeed my youngest.My eldest sits and watches and asks questions i see nothing wrong with it.

    We have one these dolls and love it! My daughter loves being able to feed the dolly like mummy feeds baby. I have no problem with it at all! It's all natural so why should we hide it from them? I don't feel i am sexualisng my eldest or exposing her to anything she shouldn't be seeing.

    I think it is a shame that all the dolls are usually brought out with bottles and then ONE breastfed one comes out and everyone is outraged and uncomfortable with the idea??

    If we where more open with our children about sex they would grow up being able to talk to us and so would hopefully reduce teen pregnancies and promote breastfeeding.

    God gave us boobs to feed babies so why are all so uncomfortable with the idea???