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Should kids get a doll that breastfeeds?

[fragment number=0]When I was around seven, I desperately wanted Baby Alive, a doll that ate, drank, and soiled its diaper, but my Dad refused, explaining that food would get trapped inside the doll and attract bugs. Now parents have another doll to fume about: one that sucks at pretend nipples worn by a child — as if breastfeeding.

The child wears a halter top affixed with two appliques that trigger the doll to make sucking sounds and movements when its mouth is placed near one. Although fake milk doesn’t spout forth from the “nipples’’, the baby cries anyway until it’s burped.

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Currently selling for $118 on amazon.com and other online sites, the Breast Milk Baby — or Bebe Gloton as it was originally named by its Spanish manufacturer, Berjuan — is expected to hit US stores later this year, retailing for $69.99. It has already sold by the millions in Europe, and the doll maker plans to pitch it to retailers this week at a Las Vegas toy trade show.

Of course, some are up in arms over the appropriateness of having toddlers — who may have been barely weaned themselves — start to “breastfeed’’ their dolls. Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly said on his show last March that the doll pushes kids to grow up too soon, a sentiment echoed by some psychologists who were interviewed by various news outlets.

In an article posted this morning by USA Today, Jeanette Mesite Frem, a counselor for breast-feeding mothers in West Boylston, Mass., said while girls love to imitate their moms with toy vacuums and brooms, the doll “doesn’t seem very natural’’ and “almost feels like forced play.’’

The manufacturer’s website says the toy is designed “to teach little girls how to breast feed“ and for them to learn about the bond between mother and child. “The Breast Milk Baby will revolutionize our nation’s attitudes to good infant health,’’ said Dennis Lewis , the US representative for Berjuan, in a statement on the site, “while letting little girls share in the wonder and magic of motherhood.’’

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Does that mean little boys should be excluded from using the doll? And, if not, won’t that be confusing for them?

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