Sunday, July 24, 2011

9070: The Breast Doll Ever.

From The Chicago Tribune, here’s a companion piece of sorts to an earlier post on breastfeeding.

Is America ready for Breast Milk Baby?

Doll sparks debate ahead of debut

By Erin Meyer, Tribune reporter

Debate about a toy doll is brewing as its maker, a Spanish company called Berjuan Toys, prepares to start marketing the Breast Milk Baby in the U.S.

Designed for children 2 and older, the interactive doll simulates breast-feeding. It comes with a special halter top for the child to wear, featuring two flowers in the chest area that represent nipples. When Breast Milk Baby comes in close proximity with the flowers, it makes a suckling sound as though imitating a nursing infant. The doll also cries when it’s time to eat and burps after the meal.

The doll, known as Bebe Gloton in Europe, could be available in the U.S. soon if things go well for Berjuan Toys at a Las Vegas trade show July 31-Aug. 3.

“Acting just like ‘mommy,’ girls can learn another natural nurturing skill about taking care of a baby. Just like changing, bathing, swaddling, singing, rocking to sleep, and cuddling for a healthy baby,” company spokesman Dennis Lewis said in a news release.

In anticipation of Breast Milk Baby’s debut, supporters and opponents are weighing in.

“Children learn their adult roles through play,” said Seana Huizenga of the Lincoln Park chapter of La Leche League, a breast-feeding advocacy group. “It’s a cinch to find a toy bottle, but it’s impossible to find a breast-feeding doll.”

But Gigi Williams, owner of Gigi’s Dolls & Sherry’s Teddy Bears in Chicago, said she won’t stock the doll.

“You can put me down as a no thank you,” said Williams, who has been in business for 39 years. “I think they’ve gone too far, and I don’t think the children need that.”

Another Chicago toy store owner said she would jump at the chance to sell the doll at Galt Toys + Galt Baby.

“I will carry this one,” said Minya Oh, adding that she does not often stock interactive dolls.

“The child doesn’t attach the feelings to the interactive dolls,” she said. “But this one — I think it’s a very positive thing for the child to pretend with the mother.”

Huizenga said outcry by opponents of Breast Milk Baby is a reflection of a culture that stigmatizes breast-feeding.

“You realize how much the culture is against it still,” she said. “I am glad to hear there’s a doll like that out there.”

According to, the doll is intended to allow young girls to “express their love and affection in the most natural way possible, by simulating natural nursing.”

Dr. Larry Gartner, professor emeritus of pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago, suggested that the breast-feeding doll could be an effective teaching tool for children.

“It is something that children often do themselves … to imitate the mother,” Gartner said from his California home. “It’s the adults who are making it a sexual issue. I wish some psychiatrist would delve into why some people have negative responses to breast-feeding and figure it out.”

The controversy, company officials say, is evidence that the U.S. could benefit from more breast-feeding education.

“In Europe, it provoked some surprise, but not the controversy that it has caused in the States,” Lewis said. “The attitude that breast-feeding should be hidden illustrates why (the doll) is important.”

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