Breastfeeding dolls: "Yay" or "No way"?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  August 12, 2009 02:42 PM

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When I first heard about this doll, I wasn’t sure what to think. On the one hand: I’m definitely pro-breastfeeding, this doll does emphasize that nursing is about nourishment, not sexuality, and there are tons of dolls out there that come with bottles, so what's the difference? On the other hand: When I was nursing my youngest child, my then-2-year-old daughter didn't need a specialized doll in order to mimic what I was doing -- a stuffed animal and her imagination were enough.

The breastfeeding doll, called “Bebe Gloton,” is stirring up debate, with some people calling it creepy and other saying that it would encourage sexual activity or promote teenage pregnancy.

Which makes me wonder: Why are we OK with our little kids playing with highly sexualized Barbie and Bratz dolls, but not this?

Here’s the run down, for those of you who haven’t heard or read about the doll already: Made by Spanish toy company Berjuan, “Bebe Gloton” was created in order to promote breastfeeding as healthy and natural. Right now, it's only available in Spain, but the company says it plans to market it in the U.S. next year. To play with the doll, the child wears a sports-bra like halter with two flowers over the nipple areas. When the child lifts the doll to a flower, the doll -- triggered by sensors in the flower -- moves its mouth and sounds like its nursing. (Of course there’s a video, which I found via Thingamababy, but be warned: it’s in Spanish, and you have to sit through a commercial before you can view it.)

And, in writing this, I’ve realized: It’s not the doll that makes me squirm. And it's definitely not the idea of a child pretending to breastfeed a toy that makes me squirm. It’s the halter top. It’s the idea of a little girl strapping on fake breasts so she can go take care of her doll.

That said, I'd probably be more likely to let my daughter play with this than a mall-and-makeup focused Bratz doll. But as far as dolls and breastfeeding go, I think all kids really need is a desire to nurture -- and a little imagination.

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.


This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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26 comments so far...
  1. The oldest 2 of my 3 had no trouble emulating me breastfeeding. They were creative about it to...putting balls in their shirts for breasts and so forth. Kids emulated baby care in all its forms is great. However, I have an issue with the fact that the doll leaves nothing to the imagination. Actually, Bratz really don't leave much to the imagination either. My theory is give them the basics and let them make up the rest.

    Posted by tracy August 12, 09 04:36 PM
  1. No frieken way!!!!!

    Posted by Not perfect but I know better August 12, 09 05:24 PM
  1. My SON used to "nurse" his stuffed animals while I breastfed his little sister. It's completely natural for kids to mimic this part of baby care. It's also great for kids to view breastfeeding as normal and not be squeamish about seeing it (or doing it themselves when they have children). The only thing offensive about this toy is that it is another example of the toy not leaving any room for a child to use her imagination. Lylah is right that kids are perfectly happy using their dolls or stuffed animals, no batteries (or fake breasts) required. It's nice that there is a toy that incorporates breastfeeding into dollcare, but cynical me thinks the company is just trying to make a buck off a new angle.

    Posted by ArlingtonMa August 12, 09 05:46 PM
  1. I wouldn't buy it either, my girls had no problem nursing their toys with their own imagination. Having said that will some ever be happy? Complaining about a toy meant to promote nursing? If you don't like it, don't buy it!

    Posted by Mom August 12, 09 08:24 PM
  1. I agree that there are a lot of toys out there that do too much for the kids. But I guess if you can buy a Baby Alive doll to bottle feed it someone is going to want a similar doll one can breastfeed. Personally, I would skip both and just go for something cuddly.

    Posted by BMS August 12, 09 09:38 PM
  1. Definitely more bothered by the halter top with flower nipples. Imagine your child walking down the street with this on after leaving her doll in the house. Regular dolls are enough. They'll play the way they want.

    Posted by lala August 12, 09 10:25 PM
  1. I just think it's weird. I don't have girls but I would NOT purchase this product if I had a girl. A little girl does not need to know what it feels like to nurse a baby. Meet a kid where she's at. Let her use her own imagination.

    Posted by Fullamoon August 13, 09 12:38 AM
  1. I agree with most comments. Children can use their imaginations and "nurse" a teddy or dolly without any specialized equipment. What's next? A "my first breast pump" toy so little girls can pretend to be working mommies who express milk?

    Posted by Maki August 13, 09 08:03 AM
  1. How screwed up is our society that we consider simulated feeding of a baby creepy, yet we'll gladly load up on the fake guns and missiles for the boys and the Slutz, er, Bratz dolls for the girls?

    I agree about kids using their imagination and this toy not being strictly necessary, since the kids will act it out anyway. But our society seems to be OK with kids getting bucket-loads of gore and violence on TV and in the movies, but somebody shows a breast and it's the downfall of society. No wonder things are so screwed up.

    Posted by K August 13, 09 08:42 AM
  1. Are you serious???... are we going backwards the need to show our children how breastfeeding is done - what happened to communication and explanation... What a waste and whomever buys this doll is an IDIOT!!!... In a time where we are into technology this is definitely so NOT!!!... What MOM created this???...

    Posted by buppity August 13, 09 09:19 AM
  1. This is crossing the line--
    Of course kids emulate, but why do we need to make a doll-kit to encourage this. Why is this necessary? Why?!
    Never would I buy this for a child.

    Posted by nm August 13, 09 09:27 AM
  1. I don't see the big deal. We have dolls that simulate drinking from a bottle or peeing in a potty. Why can't they simulate nursing, which is just as natural? I think people are skeeved by the suggestion of little girls having breasts.

    Posted by katydid August 13, 09 09:29 AM
  1. finally a breastfeed baby doll! sick of see a bottles with the dolls my daughter only own one bottle and use it 4 time in her life and she is one yr old now. the parents just need to teach and show kids how to nurse the doll properly. and teach the kids that breast feed is naturally to feed baby milk like the cow feed calf the milk. the cat nurse the kitten milk what about human? just teach about dont do it openly. the childrens need to learn that it is jus tnatural and not sexuality. my 3 and half yrs old son knows that my breasts are for milk to feed a baby. i dont want to teach the kids to use bottle to feed the doll. the kids just dont have to pull the shirt up to nurse a baby doll.

    Posted by the mom who live in "life is beautiful" life. August 13, 09 10:53 AM
  1. And Bratz doll is the worse plus barbie dolls have breasts! what is the difference because they teach kids to wears make up early, dress like a **** early. i have see some girls who is 13 yrs old and wears very short short with a tights shirt with padded bra! Smoking a cigarette too! that can affect kids go in sexuality active early while breastfeed doll is all about nature human living. it is just the parents who should pay very close attention to their kids and pre teenager kids. talk with them about what is good and bad and what is right and wrong. pro and cons.

    Posted by a mom who live in the "life is beautiful" life. August 13, 09 10:57 AM
  1. I agree, why is ok to allow kids to play with sexualized dolls but we get all creepy about this one? However, isnt it just as easy for the child to use her imagination? Why is special doll necessary?

    There is an incredible amount of junk at big box toy store shelves (and yes, at the pretty and overpriced smaller stores too). Some of it's just fine. But how often do your kids really play with most of it? Be honest. How much money is wasted?

    Kids always manage to use their imaginations, thank goodness. Many years ago - I recall a large cardboard box that was used for months as a toy, until it fell apart, while the real toys sat unused.

    Posted by ava August 13, 09 12:10 PM
  1. I ditto your last two statements

    It’s the idea of a little girl strapping on fake breasts so she can go take care of her doll.

    I think all kids really need is a desire to nurture -- and a little imagination

    Posted by Christine August 13, 09 01:25 PM
  1. {blink} I have enough qualms about "real life" baby dolls as it is - never mind the sexualized Bratz dolls and their ilk. I don't think highly sexualized dolls are OK, but I also think that there's something a little off about dolls such as this one; dolls that drink from bottles and call toddlers "mommy"; dolls that "potty train".

    These real life dolls are just reinforcing stereotypes that all girls want to grow up to me mothers to begin with and they're all creepy in one way or another.

    My daughter can "mother" a stuffed animal or one of the cats or a rock, for all I care. But I'm drawing the line at any doll that requires care and feeding and potty training. She can learn care and feeding by taking over the animals when she's old enough. At least they will actually give her real, alive affection for doing so and not some creepy robot voice.

    As for the rest, Bratz dolls and those of that lk will not be found in our household.

    Posted by phe August 13, 09 01:53 PM
  1. As mother is a nursing role model,with the younger ones emulating her feeding the baby is going to be ingrained anyway.With so much to do and life lessons to learn,don't confuse your child with this over the top "toy?". The bra is ludicrous and yes weird! Let the children be children.They have no need to experience breast feeding until it's their time.If you are silly enough to buy this contraption,get rid of that bra bull.Stupid.Just try walking into any store and buying your kid her first bra with NO padding.Impossible!Trash this doll.

    Posted by experienced & frustrated August 13, 09 01:54 PM
  1. This is indeed creepy because it encourages little girls to pretend they have adult breasts. Feeding a baby doll with a bottle is actually mimicking something that a big sister of 6-years old could do. Breastfeeding it is not. What next? Should we sell little plastic stirrups and let the little cherub believe she's giving birth to the doll? That's NATURAL, isn't it? Puhleeez. Why can't we let kids be kids and save breastfeeding for when they're actually mothers -- which with all these wonderful toys, will probably be when they're 13.

    Posted by cocoa-nut August 13, 09 02:50 PM
  1. While the point is valid that Bratz dolls likely do more harm, I don't think this sort of doll is right.

    Little children, who lack the mental and physical maturity, would be playing with these dolls. Can you imagine what a rush a child molester must be getting from this sort of product?

    Posted by Kathryn August 13, 09 03:12 PM
  1. I did not want my daughter playing with Barbies, years ago. (There were parents in my neighborhood who would actually write "no Barbies please" on birthday party invitations).

    I tried to explained to her why I did not think that Barbies were all that special and that there were better toys for her to enjoy. Without giving you my explanation in detail, I'll give you her response, which was priceless:

    "But mommy, if I am already smart, and I know I am beautiful inside and out, what is wrong with playing with a Barbie"?

    Case closed. I let her play with the Barbie that she had been given.

    I think back about my OWN experience with Barbie. We like to dress Barbie up, and pose her, and have her meet with her friends. My mother kept our Barbie collections "low key" - we didnt have Kens, or the fancy houses and cars that some other girls did. To us, we had baby dolls, and we had more grown up, fashion dolls. I don't recall any sexuality in the picture - but then again, it was 1971 and Barbie was still wearing suits and closed toe pumps

    Posted by ava August 13, 09 04:24 PM
  1. PLEASE LET OUR KIDS BE KIDS!!! They will grow up soon enough. I want my daugter to play with dolls(Barbie), have tea, dance and be a princess. She can worry about breastfeeding in about 20-30 years. This toy is ridiculous!

    Posted by Rob August 13, 09 05:21 PM
  1. In the spirit of teaching girls things properly and early, I have some doll suggestions for these people.

    Posted by Victor August 13, 09 06:07 PM
  1. "victor" is now the creepy one here....

    Posted by lks109 August 14, 09 06:41 AM
  1. I love this doll, this is not creepy but another tool to teach the next generation that breast is best! This doll will help break the very obvious taboo that is breastfeeding and yes Victor needs counselling...

    Posted by Fatima August 20, 09 06:33 PM
  1. The Bebe Gloton ( breastfeeding doll ) is available on ebay and Amazon.

    Posted by chuchi October 24, 09 09:37 PM
 
26 comments so far...
  1. The oldest 2 of my 3 had no trouble emulating me breastfeeding. They were creative about it to...putting balls in their shirts for breasts and so forth. Kids emulated baby care in all its forms is great. However, I have an issue with the fact that the doll leaves nothing to the imagination. Actually, Bratz really don't leave much to the imagination either. My theory is give them the basics and let them make up the rest.

    Posted by tracy August 12, 09 04:36 PM
  1. No frieken way!!!!!

    Posted by Not perfect but I know better August 12, 09 05:24 PM
  1. My SON used to "nurse" his stuffed animals while I breastfed his little sister. It's completely natural for kids to mimic this part of baby care. It's also great for kids to view breastfeeding as normal and not be squeamish about seeing it (or doing it themselves when they have children). The only thing offensive about this toy is that it is another example of the toy not leaving any room for a child to use her imagination. Lylah is right that kids are perfectly happy using their dolls or stuffed animals, no batteries (or fake breasts) required. It's nice that there is a toy that incorporates breastfeeding into dollcare, but cynical me thinks the company is just trying to make a buck off a new angle.

    Posted by ArlingtonMa August 12, 09 05:46 PM
  1. I wouldn't buy it either, my girls had no problem nursing their toys with their own imagination. Having said that will some ever be happy? Complaining about a toy meant to promote nursing? If you don't like it, don't buy it!

    Posted by Mom August 12, 09 08:24 PM
  1. I agree that there are a lot of toys out there that do too much for the kids. But I guess if you can buy a Baby Alive doll to bottle feed it someone is going to want a similar doll one can breastfeed. Personally, I would skip both and just go for something cuddly.

    Posted by BMS August 12, 09 09:38 PM
  1. Definitely more bothered by the halter top with flower nipples. Imagine your child walking down the street with this on after leaving her doll in the house. Regular dolls are enough. They'll play the way they want.

    Posted by lala August 12, 09 10:25 PM
  1. I just think it's weird. I don't have girls but I would NOT purchase this product if I had a girl. A little girl does not need to know what it feels like to nurse a baby. Meet a kid where she's at. Let her use her own imagination.

    Posted by Fullamoon August 13, 09 12:38 AM
  1. I agree with most comments. Children can use their imaginations and "nurse" a teddy or dolly without any specialized equipment. What's next? A "my first breast pump" toy so little girls can pretend to be working mommies who express milk?

    Posted by Maki August 13, 09 08:03 AM
  1. How screwed up is our society that we consider simulated feeding of a baby creepy, yet we'll gladly load up on the fake guns and missiles for the boys and the Slutz, er, Bratz dolls for the girls?

    I agree about kids using their imagination and this toy not being strictly necessary, since the kids will act it out anyway. But our society seems to be OK with kids getting bucket-loads of gore and violence on TV and in the movies, but somebody shows a breast and it's the downfall of society. No wonder things are so screwed up.

    Posted by K August 13, 09 08:42 AM
  1. Are you serious???... are we going backwards the need to show our children how breastfeeding is done - what happened to communication and explanation... What a waste and whomever buys this doll is an IDIOT!!!... In a time where we are into technology this is definitely so NOT!!!... What MOM created this???...

    Posted by buppity August 13, 09 09:19 AM
  1. This is crossing the line--
    Of course kids emulate, but why do we need to make a doll-kit to encourage this. Why is this necessary? Why?!
    Never would I buy this for a child.

    Posted by nm August 13, 09 09:27 AM
  1. I don't see the big deal. We have dolls that simulate drinking from a bottle or peeing in a potty. Why can't they simulate nursing, which is just as natural? I think people are skeeved by the suggestion of little girls having breasts.

    Posted by katydid August 13, 09 09:29 AM
  1. finally a breastfeed baby doll! sick of see a bottles with the dolls my daughter only own one bottle and use it 4 time in her life and she is one yr old now. the parents just need to teach and show kids how to nurse the doll properly. and teach the kids that breast feed is naturally to feed baby milk like the cow feed calf the milk. the cat nurse the kitten milk what about human? just teach about dont do it openly. the childrens need to learn that it is jus tnatural and not sexuality. my 3 and half yrs old son knows that my breasts are for milk to feed a baby. i dont want to teach the kids to use bottle to feed the doll. the kids just dont have to pull the shirt up to nurse a baby doll.

    Posted by the mom who live in "life is beautiful" life. August 13, 09 10:53 AM
  1. And Bratz doll is the worse plus barbie dolls have breasts! what is the difference because they teach kids to wears make up early, dress like a **** early. i have see some girls who is 13 yrs old and wears very short short with a tights shirt with padded bra! Smoking a cigarette too! that can affect kids go in sexuality active early while breastfeed doll is all about nature human living. it is just the parents who should pay very close attention to their kids and pre teenager kids. talk with them about what is good and bad and what is right and wrong. pro and cons.

    Posted by a mom who live in the "life is beautiful" life. August 13, 09 10:57 AM
  1. I agree, why is ok to allow kids to play with sexualized dolls but we get all creepy about this one? However, isnt it just as easy for the child to use her imagination? Why is special doll necessary?

    There is an incredible amount of junk at big box toy store shelves (and yes, at the pretty and overpriced smaller stores too). Some of it's just fine. But how often do your kids really play with most of it? Be honest. How much money is wasted?

    Kids always manage to use their imaginations, thank goodness. Many years ago - I recall a large cardboard box that was used for months as a toy, until it fell apart, while the real toys sat unused.

    Posted by ava August 13, 09 12:10 PM
  1. I ditto your last two statements

    It’s the idea of a little girl strapping on fake breasts so she can go take care of her doll.

    I think all kids really need is a desire to nurture -- and a little imagination

    Posted by Christine August 13, 09 01:25 PM
  1. {blink} I have enough qualms about "real life" baby dolls as it is - never mind the sexualized Bratz dolls and their ilk. I don't think highly sexualized dolls are OK, but I also think that there's something a little off about dolls such as this one; dolls that drink from bottles and call toddlers "mommy"; dolls that "potty train".

    These real life dolls are just reinforcing stereotypes that all girls want to grow up to me mothers to begin with and they're all creepy in one way or another.

    My daughter can "mother" a stuffed animal or one of the cats or a rock, for all I care. But I'm drawing the line at any doll that requires care and feeding and potty training. She can learn care and feeding by taking over the animals when she's old enough. At least they will actually give her real, alive affection for doing so and not some creepy robot voice.

    As for the rest, Bratz dolls and those of that lk will not be found in our household.

    Posted by phe August 13, 09 01:53 PM
  1. As mother is a nursing role model,with the younger ones emulating her feeding the baby is going to be ingrained anyway.With so much to do and life lessons to learn,don't confuse your child with this over the top "toy?". The bra is ludicrous and yes weird! Let the children be children.They have no need to experience breast feeding until it's their time.If you are silly enough to buy this contraption,get rid of that bra bull.Stupid.Just try walking into any store and buying your kid her first bra with NO padding.Impossible!Trash this doll.

    Posted by experienced & frustrated August 13, 09 01:54 PM
  1. This is indeed creepy because it encourages little girls to pretend they have adult breasts. Feeding a baby doll with a bottle is actually mimicking something that a big sister of 6-years old could do. Breastfeeding it is not. What next? Should we sell little plastic stirrups and let the little cherub believe she's giving birth to the doll? That's NATURAL, isn't it? Puhleeez. Why can't we let kids be kids and save breastfeeding for when they're actually mothers -- which with all these wonderful toys, will probably be when they're 13.

    Posted by cocoa-nut August 13, 09 02:50 PM
  1. While the point is valid that Bratz dolls likely do more harm, I don't think this sort of doll is right.

    Little children, who lack the mental and physical maturity, would be playing with these dolls. Can you imagine what a rush a child molester must be getting from this sort of product?

    Posted by Kathryn August 13, 09 03:12 PM
  1. I did not want my daughter playing with Barbies, years ago. (There were parents in my neighborhood who would actually write "no Barbies please" on birthday party invitations).

    I tried to explained to her why I did not think that Barbies were all that special and that there were better toys for her to enjoy. Without giving you my explanation in detail, I'll give you her response, which was priceless:

    "But mommy, if I am already smart, and I know I am beautiful inside and out, what is wrong with playing with a Barbie"?

    Case closed. I let her play with the Barbie that she had been given.

    I think back about my OWN experience with Barbie. We like to dress Barbie up, and pose her, and have her meet with her friends. My mother kept our Barbie collections "low key" - we didnt have Kens, or the fancy houses and cars that some other girls did. To us, we had baby dolls, and we had more grown up, fashion dolls. I don't recall any sexuality in the picture - but then again, it was 1971 and Barbie was still wearing suits and closed toe pumps

    Posted by ava August 13, 09 04:24 PM
  1. PLEASE LET OUR KIDS BE KIDS!!! They will grow up soon enough. I want my daugter to play with dolls(Barbie), have tea, dance and be a princess. She can worry about breastfeeding in about 20-30 years. This toy is ridiculous!

    Posted by Rob August 13, 09 05:21 PM
  1. In the spirit of teaching girls things properly and early, I have some doll suggestions for these people.

    Posted by Victor August 13, 09 06:07 PM
  1. "victor" is now the creepy one here....

    Posted by lks109 August 14, 09 06:41 AM
  1. I love this doll, this is not creepy but another tool to teach the next generation that breast is best! This doll will help break the very obvious taboo that is breastfeeding and yes Victor needs counselling...

    Posted by Fatima August 20, 09 06:33 PM
  1. The Bebe Gloton ( breastfeeding doll ) is available on ebay and Amazon.

    Posted by chuchi October 24, 09 09:37 PM
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