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Friday
Aug072009

Spanish Toy Maker Introduces World's First Breastfeeding Doll… ¿Y Qué?

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A few nights ago, my husband was listening to a podcast and said, “Hey, Google ‘breastfeeding doll’ for me.” The first hit was a UK news article on el Bebé Glotón, the world’s first breastfeeding doll.

Scrolling down, I was surprised— but not that surprised— to see the doll referred to on a handful of American blogs as “the creepy breastfeeding doll.” FOXNews.com covered the story as well, offering the following from its managing health editor:

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 Bebé Glotón 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.”

Fox News, along with many other English-speaking reports have translated the name Bebé Glotón literally as “Baby Glutton” without examining its cultural context, which in turn incited comment furor such as “Breastfeeding is not gluttony!” In Spain, a bebé glotón is a non-judgmental term for a ravenous baby and it probably safe to assume that Spanish toy maker Berjuan did not name its product with the intention of implying that this is a mortal sin-committing doll designed to mimic Bacchus or Caligula.

The Spanish media coverage of the doll describes the doll and the accompanying halter top that the child playing with the doll must wear to activate the sucking motion, the companies that helped develop the doll and that the doll is endorsed by FEDALMA, the Federación Española de Asociaciones pro-Lactancia Materna.

In snooping around on a few Spanish lactation forums, it appears that the main complaints with the doll are that it comes with a pacifier, is not available until October and that the halter top comes with flowers instead of nipples or breasts. Several moms have had their kids ask if the Reyes Magos will bring them one for Christmas.

Not everyone in Spain is as excited about the doll as the parents on the lactation forums. The kindest of the comments following this television news story include calling the doll sexist and a gilipollez. The cries of sexism were echoed abroad as well. I suppose that this doll is considered extra-super-sexist because it connects its users with their biology, as opposed to the thousands and thousands of dolls that come with bottles. Young children are not really playing mother or parent to baby dolls with bottles; rather, they are BABYSITTING while the doll’s powerful corporate attorney mother works outside of the home.

Right?

My husband and I, having lived in Spain, always get a kick out of Americans freaking out over breasts and, as you know, white people like to study abroad so that they can regale everyone they meet with unsolicited stories of their exotic experiences. Topless beaches are normal in Spain, which was totally shocking to both of us at the time. I’ll never forget how hard I laughed after watching a commercial for breath mints at a friend’s house. The ad was simply a shot of a toned and tanned female torso slowly put something in her mouth, which was out of the view of the camera. A similarly toned and tanned male torso did the same. When we realized the commercial was for breath mints, we all laughed and yelled, “What the hell?!”

Spanish company Flex recently produced a commercial for its mattresses by featuring an actual birth on one of its mattresses.

The dominant American culture clearly sexualizes the breast. At the same time, the underlying belief that actual female sexuality is terrifying and dirty seems to cloud breast-related discussions. I wonder if it is time for those who think a breastfeeding doll with an accompanying halter top is immoral to get honest with themselves, take a look at their daughters, nieces, granddaughters, et cetera, and admit that they are scared that they will grow up too soon. Maybe it comes from fearing that they will become sexually active at an age they consider too young, which may lead to pregnancy, which in turn may lead to financial difficulties and perceived loss of opportunities. Maybe it comes from a belief that women need to remain pure and non-sexual until marriage. Perhaps it comes from personally feeling ashamed of or trapped by ones own biology and projecting those feelings onto the little girls in their life.

And maybe we should save the rage over hypersexualization and commercialization of children for things like this. Can we really put a breastfeeding doll at the top of a slippery slope that leads to teen pregnancy (read: teen sex) or undefined trauma in later life?

 

 

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Reader Comments (21)

I tried to breastfeed my stuffed animals, so really what's the big deal? Also, my mother didn't breastfeed, so I'm not sure where I picked it up from. Maybe I will order one for my nieces (I'm sure their mothers won't mind).

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

Yes! I loved the links to actual sexualization of young girls. I don't understand what breastfeeding has to do with promoting teen pregnancy at all. Thank you for this post.

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFun Mama - Deanna

I'm doing a short article on this on my blog tonight to finish up "World Breastfeeding Week". I'm less concerned about the sexualization of young girls with playing with baby dolls of any sort, than with playing with Barbie dolls, or (worse) the flagrantly sexual child images you linked to in that last paragraph. There are far worse things to worry about than *gasp* that girls might breastfeed their babies, as opposed to bottle- or spoon-feeding them.

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

OH. MY. GOD. I've heard a lot of nonsense over this doll, but the "might traumatize little girls" just takes the cake. I am so flabbergasted at how far-reaching that is that I don't even know what to say. Guess I better put a shirt on, cuz I'm sitting here topless after breastfeeding my *gasp!* almost ONE YEAR OLD baby and I wouldn't want to TRAUMATIZE him. o.O

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJill

My kids pretend to breastfeed their babies too.

Such a good point, Kathy! People freaking out over something so natural and normal while not batting an eye at handing young girls the overtly sexualized Barbie. Even Disney princess toys... have you seen the amorous/seductive facial expressions on their faces in all the Disney Princess merchandise? Sheesh.

This whole "scandal" is ridiculous.

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBuscando la Luz

I am happy that they are making this doll. All young girls (and even some young boys) like to play mommy to their younger toys. They are mimicking what they experience. My mother is planning on purchasing this doll for my daughter and I am completely okay with that. My daughter is only 1 and she already "breastfeeds" her baby doll. She doesn't need a shirt and sucking sounds to do a little role reversal with her "baby". Sometimes she brings her doll to me and uses sign language to say "nurse" and then thrusts the doll at my breasts. I'd rather have my daughter nursing a doll than bottle feeding one. People who say this sexualizes young girls are just too sexualized themselves. I can't get over how many people view breastfeeding as a sexual act. Even in places like Iran where women dress head to toe to keep men from looking at them breastfeed in public with no problems. Why? Because in places where formula isn't an option, breastfeeding is THE WAY TO FEED BABIES. Sometimes I wish that formula was made prescription only, it would really change the way people look at nursing.

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClarissa Jarem

My favorite is the very end of the Fox article. Just when you think you've heard all the stupidest things ever said about breastfeeding, someone comes along and compares it to erectile dysfunction.

ARGH. Associating bottles with baby dolls from childhood onward is one of the insidious ways that bottlefeeding continues to be treated as the norm in the first place! Hell, I'd order one of these dolls myself, if it weren't for the fact that it's hardly necessary to order a "special" doll to breastfeed. A regular doll works perfectly well. All they need to do is lift up their shirt! No extra accessories required. (Kinda like breastfeeding itself!)

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDou-la-la

I wrote about this same doll, and I 100% agree with your post and your reader's comments. I talk about how my 4 year old received a Barbie for her birthday that looks like a prostitute. No controversy there. But everyone is up in arms about a breastfeeding doll. My girls also nursed their toys because they saw me, my sister, my girlfriends breastfeed their actual babies. I guess we should have been hiding our shame, and nursing in the closet. So ridiculous this country can be!

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReality Rounds

What is the deal with that Barbie in fishnets?

Dou-la-la, Reality Rounds tackled that last paragraph of the article that you mentioned. She also reminded me of the fact that animatronic toys are just kind of creepy. Period.

August 7, 2009 | Registered CommenterJill

Riiight...because without the doll a child would never dream of breastfeeding one of their own dolls, stuffed animals, etc. After my daughter was born my son would sit on the couch next to us and feed his stuffed animals. Oddly enough he did so out of his belly button...

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpampered_mom
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