By now you may have heard that a new baby doll is hitting our shelves. But this isn't any old doll. It's Breast Milk Baby, the world's first breastfeeding doll, now arriving in American toy stores. (It should come as no surprise that this doll was created in Spain, not here.)
A few of my friends have emailed me to hear my professional and personal opinion about BFB. I have given it lots of thought and have come to one conclusion: I have problems with Breast Milk Baby, and not because of the common complaint that the doll sexualizes little girls.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with breastfeeding. I nursed both of my children, both at home and occasionally while "tarped" in family friendly places. When my son was four, he used to sit with me while I fed his sister. Breastfeeding, while definitely an intimate experience, is not sexual and shouldn't be treated as such. Breasts (by the way) aren't just sexual either. They serve a biological purpose and not just an erotic one.
That being said, here is my problem: We, as usual, have trouble with basic anatomy.
We call parts "private" instead of naming them (except of course when it comes to the "vajajay," a gross misnomer for vulva).
American dolls don't have genitals. (French ones do. Check out Corolle's Emma and Paul.) We have debate on whether or not our five-year-olds (kindergarteners) should learn the accurate terms for their genitals (feel free to see an old Fox News debate of mine here).
We have dolls that drink from magic bottles. We have dolls that urinate out of a hole between their legs. But even those dolls with "biological functions" don't have genitals.
So my beef really isn't with the doll; my beef is with our culture. How are kids supposed to make sense of Breast Milk Baby if the majority of their dolls are missing genitals a la Barbie and Ken? How are they supposed to understand Breast Milk Baby if we debate whether or not it's okay for our children to see OUR own breasts?
I have written about our fascination with breasts before (check out Part I and Part II). In the past 18 months, we have had issues with our children seeing breasts -- even when it comes to preventing breast cancer and with our kids seeing cleavage, i.e. Katy Perry on Sesame Street.
Introducing BMB in American culture further complicates our relationship with breasts. Sure, breastfeeding is natural, wonderful, and something we shouldn't be embarrassed by or ashamed of, but think about how we really treat breasts in pop culture and in our own homes. If we have a healthy attitude about them, then this doll is no big deal. But if we don't, well, then we have a bigger problem.
I suppose, in the end, if my son or daughter wants to play with Breast Milk Baby, I won't have an issue with it -- but only because they have an amazing understanding of bodies, babies and pregnancy. But if we introduce it out of context and without having provided our children with a positive (and complete) perspective of human anatomy, all it does is perpetuate our overwhelming obsession with women's breasts. And that's not healthy.