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…Perhaps we were only mildly entertained. Regardless, please enjoy these Reviews, Responses, Works of Fiction, and Retellings brought to you by one who hopes to someday join the ranks of those who have written something worth reading.
(Kaylia Metcalfe)


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Babes Breastfeeding Babes

Ok.. gross.

Dolls that simulate breastfeeding. So your little girl can be a little mommy at the ripe old age of two.

Children are intended to wear a bra-like halter-top featuring flowers over the nipple area, and when the doll is lifted to the flowers, it makes a sucking motion and sound.

Am I the only one who finds this downright creepy?

Dolls themselves are a touchy subject for many feminists/humanists/skeptics/free thinks/average people… The plethora of all things pink will make even the most lazy feminist stand up and take notice.

I mean… have you been to a toy store recently?

Anyway, whether you are pro baby doll or anti baby doll… the fact is that in our culture there is already exorbitant pressure of little girls to be socially stratified into the “little girl” role and often times that is a role that focuses on playing house and being the docile feminine article… dolls are the epitome of this.

And dolls that breastfeed simple add fuel to the “all women want babies” “real women have babies” “grow up and be a mother” ideas.

Finally… who in their right mind thinks that this is age appropriate? Shouldn’t we be teaching our little girls to run and play and explore and learn? Not preprogramming them for early pregnancies and childcare?

Let me be clear, we need mothers, we need little girls to grow up and want to be mothers… but we also need girls to grow up knowing that they have a choice and that they have the freedom to make that choice.

And something tells me breastfeeding dolls are not on the path towards equality.



And because it wasn't clear, let me add this:

Breastfeeding itself isn’t gross… Not at all.

What is gross to me is the encouragement of little girls to take on the roles/trappings/attitudes/work/social norms of grown women when they are still little girls.

Girls are already in a hurry to grow up… I don’t think we need to be encouraging them.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

First, breastfeeding is NOT GROSS! We have programmed ourselves so wrong...bottles and formula are not and never can replace breastfeeding and it is idiotic for us to ever think they can. Secondly, having nursed four children, children are curious of what you are doing. My boys are just as curious as my girls. And though they didnt have a doll designed to do it, all have held dolls to their chest to "breastfeed" them. Third, we should promote breastfeeding as normal to our children so that the act isnt lost forever. Fourth, Evan and I have learned that even when you dont engender them they just turn out that way. Our two oldest, Byron and Laurel, shared a room for four/five years and had the same toys and Byron went toward the more "boy stereotype toys" and Laurel picked the more "girl stereotype toys."

Lisa Davis

Kay said...

Breastfeeding itself isn’t gross… I will edit my post to make that clear.

What is gross to me is the encouragement of little girls to take on the roles/trappings/attitudes/work/social norms of women when they are still little girls.

Girls are already in a hurry to grow up… I don’t think we need to be encouraging them.

Liberty said...

I was originally very opposed to dolls for S. and baby dolls in particular, but I've talked a lot to child development people, and they have made some convincing arguments about the role of developing nurturing and sympathy for children. Of course, at S's daycare all the kids, boys and girls, play with dolls.

S. has told me she was nursing her doll - - in fact, she once asked me, during the weaning process, if I wanted to nurse on her. I explained that lactation was something that mommies do and that babies nurse, and she seemed satisfied, but it seems like a normal part of imaginative play.

And if kids are feeding dolls with bottles, pretending to nurse one actually reasserts the importance and normality of breastfeeding early on.

That being said, S. has a whole bunch of dinosaurs, tools and trucks to go with her kitchen and dolls. I think letting them play and feel out roles is one thing; forcing them to play with a particular type of toy or talking about being a "little mommy" creeps me out.

The only reason I'm weirded out by this doll is the same reason I'm weirded out by the dolls that cry, drink a bottle or wet: ther's a big difference for me between creative play with a static doll, and interactive play with a doll that performs actions. The one is imaginative and the other is responsive. S's dolls make no noise.

Just my thoughts as the mother of a 2 year old girl.

Lisa said...

Would you find it equally gross to see a child dressed up like a doctor or fireman? I am a mom and I am proud of it. I am also a credentialed (though expired) teacher and will work again someday. The best example we can be to our children is to make sure they are aware of anything and everything...I personally did not feel that I could be the best teacher and the best mother to preschool age children at the same time, but I am both, and will continue to be - there is just a time and season for everything.

Kay said...

Libby: Thank you for that… I think the idea of dolls or no dolls is a personal one and I know you and S’s dad are teaching S. lots of different options… I, like you, cringe with the whole “mini mommy” stuff… and this seems like that. Also, your point about creative play as opposed to responsive play is really good. I hadn’t thought of that, but it is another reason to dislike this product.

Lisa: Nope… but I fail to see how they are the same things.

Play acting a job is different from playacting “adult only” sorts of behaviors.

And again, my (Personal) main problem is the speeding up of little girls into little women.

Pagan Sphinx said...

As a strong proponent of breastfeeding (the real kind, not pretend ;-), I have two thoughts and maybe more.

Firstly, I breastfed my own two daughters who are now in their early 20s and I was a breastfeeding peer counselor for the Women, Infants and Children federal nutrition program. I am also a teacher of young children, having worked extensively with them from toddler-hood through 2nd grade. I am a developmentalist; believing that learning and social-emotional development are securely inter-twined.

I agree with Anon who stated that children are curious about babies, which includes how they're nourished. Little girls have traditionally fed babies with play bottles and I've seen many boys (though less often, but when there is a new baby in the house) do so as well. I think what I take issue with in the video is the marketing, if you will, of the whole concept of children pretending to breastfeed. It's like everything else in this commercialized society of ours: kids don't get to just pretend with "raw materials". In this case, I don't believe so much that it is bad for little girls to want to pretend to breastfeed. Children try on different hats as they're growing and learning. What bothers me is that this society can't leave them alone to do on their own. Case in point: I have a photograph of my first-born daughter sitting in a mini rocking chair next to my adult one, with her shirt pulled up and her baby doll tucked under it, as I sat and really nursed her infant sister. That daughter now is an ardent feminist, married to a wife and prefers at this time to not want to children; perhaps ever.

This is an interesting thread...I will be checking it.

Ha! The comment verification (why, oh why, do you use it??) is actually funny "squir" all ya need is a "t" at the end to make it topic relevant! :-)

kcinnova said...

My $.02 --
I myself played at breastfeeding my dolly. I wanted to grow up and be a mommy. This choice bothered my parents (they thought the dolly incident was cute) because they wanted me to grow up and have a career. (Not that they mind having grandkids, of course... although my father said he wasn't ready for that when I told him I was expecting my first baby, 3 years into my marriage).
I don't see feeding a baby any more mimicking of adult behavior than playing at being a fireman or shopkeeper. It's how children learn.

I am much more concerned about little girls playing with Bratz dolls (even more so than Barbies) where teen behavior is foisted upon little girls as something to be aspired to.

And although my little boys never had weapons and didn't watch anything more harmful than Barney, they still made guns out of Lego's.

kcinnova said...

Adding on here to say that Pagan Sphinx has an excellent point: the creepy part is that there is commercialized marketing going on here -- children are given (or see on commercials and beg for Christmas) plastic tools to do something that should come naturally: imagination.

Alicia said...

I can't agree with Liberty strongly enough. Baby dolls are fine. They let the loved child get to act out the loving behaviors he or she experiences, and work them into her/his play. I think they can be valuable in letting the little person make sense or what’s happening around and to them, be a great comfort object, and if someone’s paying attention, they can also be a really great means of communication for anyone on the outside watching.

Dolls that actively interact with little kids promote a particular kind of behavior, and shape the play from being creative, and representative of what the child is doing in the rest of his/her life, into whatever role that doll is promoting. A breastfeeding doll it pretty much just a breastfeeding doll, and since you have to strap on a particular garment to play with it, doesn’t really lend itself to other forms of more expressive play.

I agree that breastfeeding is natural, and wonderful, and the best thing possible for mothers who can produce enough milk, and babies who can digest it properly. This doll, however, isn't really helping the cause. It's just creepy, lives very firmly in the uncanny valley.

Little girls who see people breastfeeding, will pretend to nurse their dolls. Little girls who see people bottle feeding, will pretend to bottle feed their dolls. We shouldn't need this weird toy to teach our children what we ought to be doing by example anyway.


-Alicia T.

Elyse Anders said...

I'm not fond of sending the message, "Oh, don't you want to be a mommy?" to little girls. Which is really my only gripe with babydolls.

The reality is that children want to emulate their parents; they want to act like grown ups. Little girls want to be mommies because their mothers are mommies. Little boys want to be mommies, too, you know... we just tell them no, hand them trucks, and tell them to move along.

And girls aren't really being taught that if they're lucky they'll grow up to be moms one day. They're being taught that they can be anything they want to be and that they can do anything boys can do (whether that's actually being nurtured in certain subjects is another discussion altogether.)

So perhaps the babydoll isn't such an evil thing. Like Lisa said, kids play fireman and doctor and all kinds of things. The reality is that parenthood IS part of adulthood. Maybe the problem is that boys aren't being encouraged to "play daddy".

Anyway, I think I'm rambling a bit here... regardless of whether the idea of indoctrinating little girls into gender ideals is disgusting, I think indoctrinating them into bottle culture is even more disgusting. Breastfeeding is good. It's healthy. It's normal. It's ideal. Teaching girls this while they're learning about what mommies do is a great way to overcome the stigma of breastfeeding.

People get so weirded out by boobs. But they're just boobs. And they're there for the specific purpose of feeding babies.

Right now, the message we're sending girls is that "babies eat from bottles". Period. There is no other way to feed them. Then, as they become old enough to understand sex, we start telling them about how breasts are filled with milk ducts, and develop in preparation for nursing children. The problem is that their function is still paired with the icky weird secret sex stuff like periods and pubic hair, and are otherwise just for attracting boys.

Instead, we SHOULD be teaching children that babies nurse. And if you're going to feed your baby, this is how you do it. Unlike periods and growing a bush, breastfeeding isn't something you can even possibly keep to yourself. It has to be shared with another person, and it shouldn't be something women are ashamed to do.

And anyway, I don't think anyone's going to be more or less likely to have children based on the thrill of having a cold piece of plastic pressed up against her chest vs any other function a doll has.

L. said...

I agree with some of what's been said and disagree with some of it, but first I want to give kudos to you, Kaylia, on always writing such an interesting blog, for starting such a thought-provoking discussion, and for attracting commentors who are so knowledgable and care so deeply.

Me, I'm all for teaching little girls and also boys that babies nurse. I was very pleased with the publicity given recently to a fast-food restaurant in Florida whose manager kicked a woman out for nursing. A large group of nursing mothers showed up there to protest, and the restaurant apologized, gave them all a free meal but moreso, the event got a lot of publicity and hopefully some restaurant managers are smarter today because of it.

I find the doll creepy and unrealistic. I'm all for what someone above referred to, I think, as "imaginative play." The whole idea of it, the special apron, is just weird to me.

Lastly, to all of you who have so passionately talked about breastfeeding, please remember your friends and sisters and cousins who, for legitimate reasons, can't breastfeed. It's hard enough on the mother in that situation.

It's not fair for women who are so passionately pro-breastfeeding to stigmatize everyone who bottle-feeds.

I wish people would teach their kids that life is complicated and we can never really know why someone else is doing what they're doing and who deserves our scorn or our compassion.

Elyse said...

@L

Being pro-breastfeeding does not mean being anti-bottle-feeding. But Bottles should not be the default image of how babies eat. Too many women give up breastfeeding for reasons like that it's gross or weird or their husbands don't want to share their boobs or they're just plain discouraged by friends and family members who are uncomfortable with it.

I actually had a friend visit my home, stay with me, and got very indignant about the fact that I had the nerve to breastfeed or pump while she was visiting. She's since changed her stance, but she called it disgusting. She said pumps were "too much like a cow". It was incredibly stressful during her stay and it came close to costing us our friendship. But had that message been coming from my husband or my parents, I think it would have been incredibly difficult to continue... if not impossible. And that attitude does not belong to some fringe minority. When public breastfeeding gets brought up, normally civil people become uncivil quite quickly while insults and accusations get thrown around.

Why not have a doll that just puts out the message that babies nurse?

BTW, I am one of those women who had huge troubles breastfeeding. I had to supplement in order to keep my son from starving to death. So I'm not judgmental of women who need to use formula... and I do agree that the "formula is evil" crowd needs to STFU. However, women who just think BFing is icky and that children shouldn't be touching their mothers' sexy parts need to grow up.

Pagan Sphinx said...

Adding to what Elise had to say in the comment above this one: a lot of women stop breastfeeding because it doesn't always come easily - for the mother and/or the baby. Many women I know who gave birth to children in the 80's (when I had my own girls) had mother's who did not breastfeed them in the 60s, when Playtex "nursers" were the big push on TV, with their hygienic, disposable pouches and a more "realistic" looking nipple. Without the benefit of role models who have advise to offer, it didn't come as naturally. Sometimes it just doesn't. In my case, I did have problems nursing my infant in the first two weeks because she didn't know how to latch on to the nipple. I almost gave up but I was determined, so I read a lot, I sought advise from a local lactation specialist and I persisted and was finally successful. One reason was that my baby couldn't latch on to a bottle nipple, either. If I was going to put effort into either, I wanted it to be the breast.

I hope there's more education and support out there now. I'm not yet a grandmother and there are no other babies in my life right now, so I'm not sure. I believe education and support can go a long way toward helping a woman stick with it if she really wants to breastfeed.

And Elyse also mentioned people thinking breasts are only sexual: one nurse in the hospital who tried to help me nurse told me that there are countless women who refuse to nurse or want to but can't bring themselves to touching their own breasts because, I assume, of their sexual hangups!! That really blew me away. And I'm neither an earth mother type,nor a suburban (baby) bottle blond. But come on. That is truly ridiculous and juvenile.

I knew one woman who had her baby within weeks of my own, told me that her mother refused to let her and her sister play with barbies because they had breasts. That was definitely on the far-right extreme of the Barbie controversy! Eeeeeech.

myrelish said...

Great post Kay.

I was lucky and breast feeding worked for me. I demand fed; any time, anywhere. I am sure that because I was so carefree about feeding, many people wouldn't actually notice that I was feeding a baby as I walked through the park or shops. It freaked other people out but it let me do what I wanted or needed.

Within my circle of friends there is an almost even mix of bottle and breast fed babies and we are all supportive of each woman's choice, parenting is hard enough without other mums giving you a hard time.

As a result my kids know that there are many different ways a child can be fed. Both my kids love role-play and have both been seen playing families and getting the baby to be breast fed (it was adorable to see). Of course they were playing with normal doll-like dolls, not plastic replicas of real babies or dolls that talk, cry, eat or make messes, they can use their imaginations.

I think kids are much smarter than we give them credit for. My 5 year old daughter came over to watch the video as it was playing and she wanted to know why the doll was so noisy, babies don't make that much noise when they feed, they snuggle, feed and fall asleep! Then she she said that was weird, why did the girl had to put a top on to feed her baby!

Let kids be kids, use their imaginations, have fun and explore rather than give them single purpose items.

maryt/theteach said...

Kay,, I agree kids should be left to kidstuff til they have to get involved in adultstuff...

moosh said...

Hear Hear Imagative play helps children learn but should come out of the mind of the child. Not some one's strange idea of a bra top that sucks.

Unknown Mami said...

I find the doll creepy and if my daughter wants a doll she's welcome to have one, but maybe not one that is marketed as a breastfeeding doll.

Breastfeeding is a great healthy wonderful thing to do, but I agree with L. that we need to stop stigmatizing women that for whatever reasons can not breastfeed.

I breast and bottle fed because try as I might and believe me I tried (with the help of professional) I was never able to provide enough milk for my daughter. It is terrible upsetting not to be able to do something that is supposed to come naturally and the judgmental comments of others made it worse.

Deb said...

Hi Kaylia - My grandson has a pink baby doll, and he loves to play "family". When his female cousin is in town, he is often helping her give birth and handing her the doll to breastfeed. I love the way the two of them play a "parenting partnership".

My grandson also has a doll house that he doesn't play with very often, but the other day we played with it together and the dinosaurs came to dinner.

Anyway, I didn't find the breastfeeding doll all that creepy. Kids are curious about bodily functions, women have breasts, this gives a girl a chance to "play". It doesn't mean the play limits her potential in life to only being a mother. The way my niece is being raised, she can be nursing her baby doll one minute, and working in the shop with her Daddy (my brother) the next. (They build lots of stuff together. She has an awesome go-cart that they made together.)

What I am saying is, by exposing children to lot of types of play, and not limiting their play, they learn the endless potential that is possible in this world. As parents (and grandparents), we can play with them and interject ideas about families and work to expand their thinking, and help them develop critical thinking skills.

Thanks for this opportunity to share.

-Deb