Though few would think twice about giving a child a baby doll that comes with a bottle, a breast-feeding doll being released this weekend at a trade show has stirred up a lot of controversy. It already is sold in Europe, but there are (strong) mixed feelings about it on this side of the Atlantic.

As quoted in Tara Parker-Pope’s Well blog for the New York Times, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said. “I just want the kids to be kids.” There’s also a Facebook page calling for a ban on the doll, but another Facebook page promoting the doll has more fans.

While Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, acknowledges concern that the doll sends too strong of a “breast is best” message, he believes children will not be swayed just by one doll. He says, “Dolls are very important, and admittedly dolls can send certain messages. Barbie is the classic example, but there are a lot of other messages kids are getting from different places.”

Though it’s important to bring up the fact that not all mothers can or do breast-feed,  a baby doll that comes with bottle could also be considered to be promoting an agenda as well. Why can’t there be room for both?

I can’t disagree with those who find the look of it a little weird-looking—the doll comes with a halter top that has two flowers that symbolize breasts. When the doll’s mouth gets close to the flowers, it makes a sucking sound as if it’s drinking. Afterwards, it cries until it’s burped. However, I think what’s shocking it’s that it’s so different from that shove-a-bottle-in-its-mouth variety of baby dolls we’re used to.

There is plenty of research on Barbie,  and other dolls, so it’s not unfounded to think a breastfeeding doll could have some long-term impact on children’s attitude towards breastfeeding. However, why should promoting breast-feeding be a bad thing? It’s completely natural, environmentally kind, and it has health benefits for the mother and child. Why can’t children learn about breast-feeding and bottles?

My sister and me in the 80's

As a kid, I was never into baby dolls or playing “Mommies and Daddies” (I  wonder what research might say about kids who played with My Little Pony and Care Bears dolls), so I don’t really have any personal anecdotes on how influential I think baby dolls are. I will admit I was intrigued by breast-feeding, though, and when the cat would start to knead and purr, I used to think she was “trying to find the milk.” At age 4, I hadn’t yet learned that not everybody has milk in their boobs all the time. Good thing I got that straightened out.

So what do you think—is this doll weird? Creepy? Cool? Would you buy it for your kid? 

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