Recently, heated debate on a simple children’s toy has made national headlines. A baby doll called Bebe Glotten, originally from Spain and quite popular across Europe, is due to hit American shelves at the end of the summer amidst very mixed reviews. Why so much angst about a doll? Perhaps the explanation is in the name; Bebe Glotten translates to “Breastfeeding Baby Doll” – a simple title that is somehow very complicated for the American public to accept.
The doll, which makes both sucking and crying noises, comes with a halter-top from which to “nurse”. The halter has two flowers where nipples would be, which have sensors inside that signal the doll to make sucking noises when held close. Children wear the halter, feed, and nurture their baby doll, and then practice burping the “baby” after feeding it. The doll will even cry when it needs to be burped.
Since hearing about this toy, I have explained its unique characteristics to a wide variety of people. It seems that they generally latch on to very different opinions about this doll: 1. A doll that breastfeeds is inappropriate for children to play with and will encourage poor decision-making regarding sex and early parenthood; and 2. This is a harmless plaything that many young children will enjoy and could possibly foster educational conversations about breastfeeding between parents and children, as well as help to make breastfeeding a more acceptable part of our society.
For example, the infamous Sarah Palin (never one to keep her family values to herself) feels this doll is “pornographic”. Similarly, conservative news sources are determined to prove that this doll is “too much, too soon,” or something that will force the children who play with it to grow up faster than is healthy. Others - lactation consultants, pediatricians, mothers, and consumers from all walks of life agree the doll is harmless (if expensive!). Advocates for the doll express the value of normalizing breastfeeding, which the scientific community has confirmed to be an endeavor that promotes health for mother and baby. They encourage parents who are considering the Breastfeeding Baby Doll to be open with their children about the process of breastfeeding, allowing any questions or conversation that it prompts.
The overwhelming opinion of those whom I have spoken with, as well as experts who have been interviewed on the topic, is that the impact of this Breastfeeding Baby Doll will depend on the attitude parents adopt towards it. If the doll is portrayed as inappropriate, it is likely that any child who encounters the doll will also view breastfeeding as inappropriate, shameful or something that shouldn’t be displayed. If the doll is explained honestly and the practice of breastfeeding becomes an open discussion, it is likely the child will view the practice more positively.
Fox News interviewed two health practitioners in the Twin Cities about their opinion on the Breastfeeding Baby Doll – I highly recommend watching the segment (and checking out some of the other links about the doll below) – I would love to hear YOUR thoughts on this toy!
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First of all, I do not have a problem with the toy. However, I think we overestimate the ability of children that young to fully comprehend what is going on around them and that perhaps you are overreacting as much as those who want to ban the doll.
I've worked with children a lot and there have been countless times when adults think there is a huge issue or a giant moral dilemma that will perpetuate negative behaviors in the future (such as having sex too young or thinking breastfeeding is shameful). Then when the parent or teacher goes to have an "honest conversation" with them, the child has no idea what they're talking about and just smile and nod or look confused.
This is not because children are stupid or unintelligent, but because they are only really interested in themselves at young ages. Listen to their conversations, most of them tell stories about other people in the first person perspective and not as a third person observer (I think it is very fascinating). We want to treat them like little adults but let's be realistic about their limitations. For example, children don't understand sarcasm until about age six and do not understand lying to protect someone's feelings until about ten to twelve. Breastfeeding may not be quantum physics, but it’s not some major issue that we have to indoctrinate into kids heads at five years old.
We've gotten to the point where kids cannot be kids and grow up on their own. We are so afraid that they may fail or think the wrong thing about a toy or issue. What's the point of talking to a five year old about breastfeeding? They know it happens; most of them have seen it before if they have siblings. Who cares if they think it is gross or beautiful? They believe in cooties and that kissing people of the opposite sex is gross.
Children grow up and develop their own thoughts and attitudes that do have a basis in their upbringing, but how many people do you know hold different views than those of their parents? If this doll and the grossness/beauty of breastfeeding is such an issue, then we should really go after how some Christians, Jews, Muslims, Republicans, Democrats, or etc are causing more damage to society because they don't accept other beliefs or cultures. But we don't, we go after a stupid toy that won't end society or make it a haven for people who breastfeed. Society will go on as it normally does and history will repeat itself, as it does, and we’ll be having this conversation again with some other toy.
I appreciate that you are trying to bring awareness to an issue you believe to be important, but I think you are wasting your breath, or fingers. Your article that is actually on the importance of breastfeeding is a much better use of your talents and time. Children like to play with things that intellectually and physically engage them and they've always wanted to pretend to be mommy or daddy. The fact that gets lost in this argument that I think is the most important is: CHILDREN PRETEND TO BREASTFEED EVEN WITHOUT THE TOY.
If this toy gets banned, children breastfeeding dolls won't suddenly end and neither will breastfeeding. As terrible as banning gay marriage is, it doesn't make homosexuality stop (just ask several of my cousins or my brother-in-law's brother) and doesn't make the public think less of it (the public has a higher opinion of homosexuality now more than thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago).
So I guess to summarize my point: Use you talent and energy for spreading the word on the benefits of breastfeeding like you did in "Suck On It! Why America Needs to be More Breastfeeding Friendly." Maybe even start a petition or something. But please leave the nitpicking over a toy that won't change society to those who like to hear themselves talk, even though they can't finish a term as governor. You're so much better than that my afro'd friend.August 15, 2011 - 12:35am
I wouldnt say this is pornographic, but I do think that we are rushing our children to grow and act out certain roles that are defined bu their sexuality. Example: what do we buy little girls? Kitchen toys, strollers, dolls, dress up clothes or even make up... we are teaching them that they have to learn how to cook, care for children and while doing all this, they have to be beautiful by dressing pretty and adding make-up. Yet when it comes to boys toys, we buy them toy drills and hammers, thus teaching them that they have to be a provider by working hard... This stigma is what for many years we have been trying to get away from... The woman cooks and cares for childern while the men work hard.August 1, 2011 - 5:19pm
Vavilla01 - thanks so much for your comment!
I absolutely agree with your point that our society tends to inundate children with messages about gender and what girls should play with vs. what boys should. This is a dangerous thing and it ends up perpetuating stereotypes and stigmas (as you said). However I don't necessarily believe the controversy over the Breastfeeding Baby Doll relates completely to this gender norm issue, as much as it pertains to a parent's attitude towards holding real, open conversations with their children (boy and girl). After working in a preschool classroom, I have seen that boys love to play with dolls as often as their girl peers do (especially if their parents just had another baby!). Breastfeeding Baby Doll will be no different in my opinion, and could even promote better opportunities for boys to "try the halter on for size" and walk in a mommy's shoes for a while. If parents are willing to have a conversation about this wonderful, healthy behavior, there is no reason that this doll will perpetuate the old-fashioned gender norms we are working so hard to get away from. Thoughts?August 2, 2011 - 2:56am