The Breastfeeding Baby Doll — Coming to a home near you?

As a mother of three and a professionally trained Early Childhood Educator, I am often amazed at the advances that have been made in toys. My oldest child will be 21 this year and when he and his classmates had dramatic play at his preschool it generally revolved around improvisation and “make believing” certain items had become something else. The classrooms building blocks “became” multiple items such as: a hammer, an iron, a saw or a multitude of other items.

Advances in educational materials in the past 16 years have been phenomenal. The Cabbage Patch Kids that were all the rage have been replaced by baby dolls that come in all ethnicities. Barbie has evolved from a “Classic American Beauty” into a corvette driving, prom going hoochie-mama that has her own beach house and business. The American Girl dolls have started another wave of altered reality for our children, with their papers of origin, fancy written back stories, and matching clothes designed for them and their “Mommies.”

Well, hold onto your hats folks for what’s coming to America this year — it’s the Breast Feeding Baby! The doll comes with a halter top for a child to wear with a flower that allows the doll to imitate suckling. WOW, was my response when I saw it on the TODAY Show this weekend!

There has been a baby boom at my preschool in the last few months and our two and three year-olds have siblings that they have welcomed into their home and they are observing them as they are breast feeding. The children have come in and said things like, “See, I’m feeding the baby!” as they hold a doll close to their chest. It’s a beautiful thing to see and I have to admit I get a chuckle when the boys do it.

While I think it is really a healthy thing to talk about breast feeding and it provides a teachable moment for all the children to learn about the beautiful way that a mother’s body nurtures a child, I understand people’s concerns. Perhaps some parents believe it is best for children to imagine breastfeeding instead of creating a doll for everyday consumers. The overwhelming consensus on the TODAY Show poll was 76% of American parents who were polled did not like the doll. It is important to note, that this doll has been available in Europe for over a year and they can’t keep it on the shelf! I’m sure the dolls popularity in Europe has a direct correlation to their openness and willingness to discuss sex within their country.

I have to admit, while I love the doll, it would be more appropriately used as a demonstration doll in a Siblings Class, Lactation Class or a doll in a Sex Education class, however I value it’s usefulness as tool to engage children to talk about the important change in their life and to better explain what they are witnessing.

The debate will continue I am sure, but we all need to remember that as our times advance so do our children. Which brings up an entirely different subject, “Is it right to expose preschool aged children to a breast feeding doll in school or is this something that should be initiated by their parents?”

I would love your opinions on this subject!