Sunday, August 09, 2009

Breastfeeding baby dolls (by Liz)

It's okay for girls to play with baby dolls. The toy companies spend plenty of money on advertising and (pink) packaging and clearly people are buying them. Plus some measure of realistic play is good for our little ones. That's why pooping dolls were such a big hit last Christmas. This from a Washington Post article last December:

"For us, the peeing and pooping is pretty magical," said Kathleen Harrington, senior brand manager for Hasbro's Baby Alive dolls. "As adults, we might be a little grossed out. But it's so magical and so funny and so silly for these girls. This little doll is coming to life, so the little girl doesn't believe it's just a doll. It's her baby." Harrington calls it part of the doll's "Wow!" factor.

Not to be left out, Corolle has Paul the anatomically correct doll that wets. The company markets Paul, and his female counterpart, Emma, as "excellent potty training" products.

To be fair, some "experts" think the peeing-pooping dolls are too much. Susan Linn, professor of child psychology at Harvard and director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said in the same Washington Post story, "This toy is shocking enough that it's going to be noticed. But at best, this toy is unnecessary. At worst, it's really gross."

But not quite as gross, apparently, as the newest doll to hit the market: Bebe Gloton, from Spanish toy manufacturer Berjuan, otherwise known as "the breastfeeding doll." This doll comes with a vest the doll owner can wear that has little daisy appliqu├ęs over the nipples.The doll latches on and simulates breast feeding. You can see a demo video here.

Some in the media don't approve. On Fox & Friends an anchor introduced the doll story saying, "I don't even know if I can read this." And on the Fox News website, Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing health editor of FOXNews.com, "wonders if Bebe Gloton might speed up maternal urges in the little girls who play it….Or, it could inadvertently lead little girls to become traumatized."

Dr. Alvarez may be the Chairman of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, but I have done my fair share of both breast feeding and potty training and let me tell you, nursing is not traumatic. Dirty diapers, however, can be.

New Jersey Star Ledger parenting columnist, Eric Ruhalter, picks up on Alvarez's point that a breastfeeding baby doll might lead little girls to early pregnancy. In a recent column he wrote, "Weird. And I'm not sure that as elementary-school-aged children we need to be plugging anything too specific in terms of baby rearing. Especially right before they hit puberty and we start beating it into their heads that it'd better be a loooooong time before they get pregnant."

So playing with dolls is okay (for girls- I don’t think the mainstream is ready to hear that boys play with them too). Rock them in toy cribs, walk them in toy strollers, take their pretend temperatures, put them on pretend potties, give them fake bottles and diaper their plastic penises. But pretend to breastfeed them ? Nope -- that might lead to teen pregnancy.

On the Today Show, Kathy Lee Gifford didn't want to talk about the doll either. "It’s got a little creep factor," she said. Pooping dolls? Magical. Transformers? No problem. Bakugan Battle Brawlers? Carry on. SpongeBob? Perfectly normal. But Bebe Gloton? Creepy.

So the message to little girls: When it comes to dolls, bottle is best and breast is a bust.