Breastfeeding doll Bebé Glotón causes a stir

BlogHer Original Post

There's a new doll on the market that has many parents up in arms. It cries, it makes sounds when it eats, it burps when patted. Sounds reasonable so far, right? So what's the big issue with this doll? Apparently the fact that instead of coming with a bottle to feed it, this baby doll comes with a nursing bra-like halter top and is, indeed, meant to be "breast-fed" by children.

Spanish toy maker Berjuan has created Bebé Glotón (which, despite the literal translation of "Baby Glutton," is actually a term of endearment in Spanish culture), a doll specifically designed for young children to breastfeed. The doll, which is not yet available in the United States, makes suckling sounds and motions when placed on the pasty-like flowers on the halter top that represent nipples. You can see a Bebé Glotón demonstration here.

Bebé Glotón by Berjuan Credit: Berjuan.com

There have been a mix of reactions to this doll by bloggers across the 'net. Some see it as a positive thing, helping to normalize breastfeeding and combat the ubiquitous inclusion of bottles with dolls, while others think the doll is stifling creativity and simply not necessary. Still others think a breastfeeding doll is exposing young children to too much, too soon.

Cate, a self-professed lactivist who writes at Eco Child's Play, says she doesn't believe that "setting aside creative, imaginative free play for an instructional doll is the best for kids. The silly doll is simply encouraging parents to buy more 'stuff,' and plastic stuff at that. Let your kid put her own favorite baby doll up her shirt and 'breastfeed.'"

On the other hand, Catherine from Their Bad Mother believes, "marketing dolls as nursing dolls is necessary, I would argue, because it counters the dominance of dollies-with-bottles. Children can pretend to breastfeed any old doll, but they don't, and they don't, arguably, because pretty much all of those dolls come with what are more or less express instructions to bottle feed this baby, dammit."

Beth at The Natural Mommy said when she first heard about the breastfeeding doll, she thought, "Finally!," but the more she learned the more she thought Bebé Glotón "was a bit much."

It includes a vest that the girl has to wear with appropriately placed flowers for the baby to nurse on. But wait a minute? Isn't the biggest convenience of breastfeeding the lack of required materials? I mean, really, all you need is a baby that roots around and sucks on whatever you place near his mouth as soon as you hold him in a horizontal position. That's pretty darn realistic, if you ask me. I just don't think we're clearing up any confusion by having little girls put on special vests to breastfeed.

Plus, without the vest, you get rid of all critics raising an eyebrow at the 'appropriately placed flowers.'

But then the same people will be telling little girls to please use a nursing blanket or go the restroom to feed their baby dolls.

And then the baby doll nurse-ins will begin.

Touché.

Julia at Parent Dish believes there is a benefit to the doll. "Anything that encourages breast-feeding and empowers young girls to embrace the natural side of womanhood is a good thing."

Melissa at Rock and Drool, however, is adamantly against the doll stating there is "no way in HELL" she would ever buy this doll for her daughters and goes so far as to call it "ridiculous," "stupid," and "moronic." Melissa, who points out that she breastfed her three children, said, "Are you freaking kidding me? A DOLL to promote breastfeeding? In children? WHY??? I fail to see the notion of how a doll is going to promote something like breastfeeding. And I don’t understand why it’s necessary! Quite frankly, I can’t even voice why this doll disturbs me on so many levels. It does. It’s just…WRONG."

Julie from Julie's Health Club on the Chicago Tribune asks, "if it's OK for children to mimic bottle feeding a baby, why shouldn't they be encouraged to breastfeed a baby?

But in the U.S., breastfeeding is often seen as a sexual act, rather than vital nourishment. And despite the popularity of those tarty Bratz dolls, many parents are concerned that a breastfeeding doll is too much too soon. What's next? Playing house and pretending to make the baby?"

A commenter on Julie's Health Club reacted strongly by saying, "This is a sad, stupid, ignorant, very untasteful way to raise a child. Let a child be a child! Stop trying to fill their minds with things they should not even know about until they are of age to know. If United States lets this doll come in, we will see more children abused, sexually, and they will be led to doing things grown ups do before they are 5 years old even. America!!!!!!!!!!! Wake Up!!!!!!!!!"

Bloggers aren't the only ones talking about Bebé Glotón. Fox News chimed in on the "controversial" doll, by linking (probably not surprisingly) breastfeeding with sex.

Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing health editor of FOXNews.com, said although he supports the idea of breast-feeding, he sees how his own daughter plays with dolls and wonders if Bebe Gloton might speed up maternal urges in the little girls who play it.

“Pregnancy has to entail maturity and understanding,” Alvarez said. “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.”

Sommer at Mama 2 Mama Tips said, "I have to wonder if Dr. Manny Alvarez is ignorant on history, does he think breasts have always been about sex and selling beer? Most likely he is projecting his ideas about sex and breasts onto children. To a child there is nothing sexual or inappropriate about pretending to breastfeed a doll. Because there is nothing sexual to young children, period. Certainly not feeding a baby doll, whether it be bottle or breast."

As for my opinion, I believe children imitate what they see. If they see mom, auntie, or mom's friend regularly breastfeeding a baby, chances are they at some point will try to do the same. I can't count the number of times my daughter Ava tucked a baby doll under her shirt to "nurse" it, just like she saw her mama nursing her brother Julian. And while to my knowledge my younger son Julian has not nursed any dolls himself, he has brought me dolls, stuffed animals, Legos, etc. for me to "nurse" and I know of many little boys who have nursed their dolls. There has never been anything sexual about my kids nursing dolls nor have either of them expressed interest in having a baby of their own. I mean, c'mon, does this look sexual to you?

I think Bebé Glotón is a bit gimmicky and I am not in favor of toys that are made to perform a certain function and stifle creativity (or ones that are battery-operated). I also don't believe having a special breastfeeding doll is necessary. However, I do think it's good to have another option available on the market besides all of the dollies with a bottle. If a well-meaning friend or relative wanted to buy my child a doll and knew that we did not formula-feed, I'd like to think she'd have the option of buying a breastfeeding doll like Bebé Glotón. I wouldn't seek out the doll myself for reasons already stated, but if we were to receive it as a gift, that would be fine by me. For the record, Ava saw the YouTube video of the doll and said she wants one. I'm not getting her one, but still, this doll obviously has some appeal to little girls. Julian, on the other hand, after watching it just kept imitating the doll's burps.

What do you think about Bebé Glotón?

Related posts:
From The Unnecesarean: Spanish Toy Maker Introduces World's First Breastfeeding Doll
From Alpha Mommy: The Doll that Breastfeeds
From Feministing: Breastfeeding doll will lead to horny 5 year olds, pregnancy
From MotherLode: A Doll That Breast-feeds

Contributing editor Amy Gates blogs about eco-friendly living, urban homesteading, attachment parenting and breastfeeding - including her experience of nursing while pregnant and tandem nursing, at Crunchy Domestic Goddess.

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