Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Baby Glutton" breastfeeding doll

This post is a continuation of Hobo Mama's celebration of World Breastfeeding Week: August 1-7, 2009.


Sam runs across funny tidbits like this as he surfs the internet for fodder for his own hilariously eclectic blogging. It fit with this week's breastfeeding theme, so I will present it to you here.

bebe gloton breastfeeding doll

A Spanish company has produced the first breastfeeding doll, Bebé Glotón, which I understand is supposed to be an affectionate term translating into the rather flat "gluttonous baby" in English.

There's a lot of controversy (natch) about this doll, so I can't even get to the official site above there because the bandwidth has been exceeded. Don't worry, though, you can see it on numerous other websites, filled with comments and commentary that appreciate or lambast (mostly the latter) the dollmakers.

Fox News (of course) finds it in questionable taste to allow young girls to play at breastfeeding. "The halter top has daisies that cover the little girls’ nipples and come undone just as easily as the flaps of a nursing bra would," says the article, which makes it sound smutty indeed. What Fox doesn't seem to understand about how the doll works is that the girl does not remove the halter, or indeed wear it au naturel; the daisies on the halter are supposed to represent the breasts, and it's when she puts the baby to these flowers that the doll stops crying and starts makes sucking noises. (On the package it's an adorably onomatopoeic "Chup chup chup.")

Fox also has the audacity to suggest that playing at breastfeeding is going to lead to skyrocketing cases of teen pregnancies, because girls will be unable to resist the "maternal urges" to have their own nursling. Well, I'm here to tell you that when my little brother was born when I was 9 years old, I played at nursing my dolls — there wasn't any fancy-dancy noise or motion, and I just lifted my shirt like my mother was doing with my baby bro — and I did not have my first child until I was 31, after having been married for 9 years. So clearly, playing at breastfeeding does not inescapably lead to unwanted teen pregnancy. What it does do is normalize breastfeeding and inspire girls to give it a try for real when they are mature enough to become mothers.

All right, so much for Fox's fair and balanced coverage. How about this "comedy" post by New Jersey columnist Eric Ruhalter? He scoffs at the idea of showing breastfeeding as natural: "I don't think any mom (pre-teen or otherwise) is contesting the fact that breastfeeding is healthy and natural. I think it's the clogged ducts and the cracked nipples that put them off." Then he echoes the fearmongering that playing at breastfeeding is going to induce unwanted pregnancies. (I'm sorry, but isn't it very young girls who play with dolls? By the time I was nearing puberty, my dolly days were over.) Then he finishes up with suggesting a range of other "what will they think of next!" dolls: "Bebe Sot - The doll who has a problem with a different kind of bottle, and loses his family, job and feelings of self worth? ? Bebe Limp - The male doll who experiences erectile dysfunction? Bebe Cell Mate - A weak unimposing doll that experiences all the indignation and humiliation of life in prison." Yes, let's compare breastfeeding with anal rape, shall we?

This post at Thingamababy is actually unbiased and informed. Not so all the comments, which are a bit painful to read through. Basically, there are those who think it's admirable in that it does away with the standard baby-bottle accompaniment and promotes breastfeeding, those who think it's unnecessary because any old doll can be pretend-breastfed by simply lifting a shirt (true, and cheaper), those who think that breastfeeding is sexual and so offering a breastfeeding doll with a halter is sexualizing young girls and turning them into tramps (Uhmmm...), and those who think it's just plain weird. Well, ok, I can see the point of all but the sexualizing. I also like that a lactation consultant wrote in to say that the latch should be wider. It really should.

This Associated Content post brings up another concern that some have had about this doll: Are we excluding boys from playing with it? I don't think so. If a boy is young enough to feel unashamed about playing with dolls in this culture, he's young enough not to understand and/or care about the difference between what mothers can do and what fathers cannot. I mean, I don't want to speak for every boy out there, but my experience watching boys play with dolls has been that (a) they're very young and (b) they don't think too hard about it. Actually, my 2-year-old tends to bring his dolls to me to breastfeed them, because that's what makes the most sense to him. I suppose if he were old enough to understand the function of the Bebé Glotón and want to play with it, he might either experiment with the halter himself, or bring it to whatever girl is playing the mother! Couldn't that be just fine, too, for boys to play at fathering by handing a crying "baby" to the mother to feed, and then walking and shushing the infant afterward? Works for me.

What's your take on the doll? I can take it or leave it as a doll, but I like it for what it represents. Apparently breastfeeding is becoming normalized enough that a manufacturer saw a way to make money off of it! All right, I didn't put it very well, but you know what I mean...


Jenny said...

I am just excited that there's something else out there other than the old doll-and-bottle setup. I would probably never buy it, though. My daughter is two and we recently bought her a Corolle Tidoo Suce Pouce (to celebrate the new baby who should be here any day!), because she didn't come with any bottles or pacis and is simple and high-quality. We either throw away or hide away any bottles that come with the other dolls she has. A halter top with magnetic flowers would really confuse her at this age. I'm hoping she'll see me breastfeeding her sister and will follow suit without all the frills. I think she will.

The Poor Husband said...

For a hilarious breast-feeding in public story, please check out
It gives a great account of some of our experiences while my wife was breastfeeding our children.

Hope you enjoy.

Missy said...

my LS mentioned something about this the other day, but i hadn't heard anything else about it yet. i want one so i can play with it.

actually - i'm trying to raise money right now to buy dolls so that everyone in our breastfeeding classes can hold one to work on positioning - i dont think we'll be using the glutton baby though. (oh god - the name kills me!)

Lauren Wayne said...

I love the look of the doll you got, Jenny. I agree the halter would be too much complexity at age 2, but it will be interesting to see if she breastfeeds her dolls once she sees her little sister eating. Fun!

Missy: My midwife, also a lactation consultant, used just a regular little doll, so apparently anything works! It really did help me, too, to see the way you hold a baby sideways instead of tummy to ceiling. We got a free doll for Mikko at the Salvation Army -- they had a big bin with dolls and stuffed animals that they just give away -- so you might try a thrift shop near you. Just make sure they're cleanish. :)

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