Breast-Feeding Doll Too Real for Comfort?

Even pediatricians, child development and toy experts can't agree on whether the nod to support breast-feeding in the Bebe Gloton (loosely translated as baby glutton) would be healthy for young girls.

"My take is that anything which reminds young girls that their bodies are something other, and more, than sex objects, is a very good thing," said Dr. Ronald Cohen, medical director of the Mothers' Milk Bank in San Jose, Calif.

"On the other hand, encouraging young girls to want to have babies at a very young age may not be so great," said Cohen, who is also the director of the intermediate intensive care nursery at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University.

But mom-blogger Carrie Lauth doesn't see a difference between encouraging adult play with a toy stroller or toy bottle and encouraging adult play with a breast-feeding doll.

"It's definitely something I would consider buying for my daughters because I've purchased in the past items that mimic what I do, like little baby slings for their dolls," said Lauth, a writer for Natural Moms Talk Radio.

"I think it's a fantastic idea, I don't' understand why it's a controversy," she said.

That line -- where playing parent meets the reality of parenting -- seems different for each expert too.

Psychologist Jay Reeve, CEO of the Apalachee Center in Tallahassee, Fla., said Bebe Gloton's realism goes too far.

What Psychologists Think of the Breast-Feeding Doll

"Of course, children have played 'parent' with dolls for centuries, but this new twist seems to focus not on what babies are like as much as jumpstarting a focus on breast-feeding," Reeve said. "I'm always a little disturbed by toys, games, or products that have the impact of accelerating childhood identification with being a full-blown adult."

Yet toy expert, professor and author Diane Levin, said the problem with Bebe Gloton isn't the breast-feeding. Levin has a problem with any toy that limits the play to a single activity.

"It's not good for children to have everything structured for them," said Levin, co-author of "So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids."

Levin has witnessed girls pretending to breast-feed dolls -- especially after seeing their mothers nurse siblings -- and thought it perfectly natural. But she said play, including boys playing soldiers, needs to be spontaneous and initiated by the child.

"As kids get used to instructive toys, they need more structured toys," Levin said. "We take the creativity away."

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