Animatronic baby dolls that coo and chortle when their sensors detect motion nearby often startle me when I wend my way through the toy department in Wal-Mart or Target. These “lifelike” dolls strike me as creepy and I scoot into the Barbie aisle as quickly as I can with maniacal laughter echoing in my wake. When I was a girl, my neighbor across the street had one of the first “Baby Alive” dolls, but I thought a doll that “’eats’ and ‘poops’ just like a real baby!” was just gross. Today there are a number of potty training dolls on the market but the arrival of educational toy manufacturer Berjuan’s Breast Milk Baby has sparked controversy among American parents because the doll encourages children to imagine breast-feeding rather than bottle-feeding their babies.
Indeed, Berjuan created the doll, which has been a best seller for several years in Europe, to promote breast-feeding. Supporters point out that the bottles typically supplied with baby dolls are not neutral but actually teach children that bottle-feeding is the norm despite the fact that breast-feeding is much healthier for infants. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 “Breastfeeding Report Card” notes that "3 out of every 4 new mothers in the United States now start out breastfeeding.” Unfortunately, “rates of breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months remain stagnant and low.” The report finds that the majority of mothers want to breast feed but still face multiple barriers such as stigmas or prohibitions against breastfeeding in public or in the workplace. Hopefully, the puritanical attitudes that class the subject of breast-feeding in the realm of sexual taboo will fade long before today’s six-year-old dolly mamas grow up and have their own infants. Thus the Breast Milk Baby is an educational toy with lessons for adults as well as children.
Here is a link to the European version of the commercial for “The Breast Milk Baby.” FYI it includes scenes of a real infant nursing which probably won’t appear on TV in the U.S.
Berjuan’s website currently offers six different models of The Breast Milk Baby for $89 a piece. I was pleased to see Jeremiah and Jessica, two black dolls, included in the line-up. Re-sellers on Amazon.com have already marked the price up to $118 and warn that they won’t have any dolls to ship until November 2011 so place your order now if someone on your list wants one for Christmas!