Breast-Feeding Doll Too Real for Comfort?

A toy that mimics breast-feeding on girls' chests is causing an uproar.

ByABC News
August 6, 2009, 6:52 PM

Aug. 7, 2009— -- American girls own dolls that pee, dolls that suck on a bottle, dolls that burp or sit on a potty -- and all are accepted as appropriate by most adults.

But a new doll that breast-feeds has pitted expert against expert and mom against mom over whether this toy has gone too far. None can seem to agree if the Spanish-made Bebe Gloton doll is natural, useful or disgusting.

The doll is currently sold only in Spain, though Berjuan, the company that makes the toy, said that it will be marketed in the United States next year. The doll allows children to imitate the act of breast-feeding by using a special halter top that comes with the toy. The halter top is made from a colorful material with two flowers positioned where nipples would be.

When the mouth of the doll is brought close to a sensor embedded in the flower, the baby makes motions and sounds consistent with suckling.

Cesar Bernabeu, director of sales and marketing for Berjuan, wrote in an e-mail to that psychologists and teachers were consulted in the development of the toy, and that it has garnered the approval of the Asociacion Pro-Lacttancia Meterna de Espana, a pro-breast-feeding organization in Spain.

"We realized that the reaction was so positive with the girls when they were imitating their moms and saw that they react to the doll like it was a little sister," read Bernabeu's remarks, translated from Spanish. "Their faces of happiness said it all."

However, a viral video demonstration on YouTube has been met with remarks that the doll is over-sexualizing young girls, or forcing girls to grow up too quickly, or teaching young girls about a natural part of motherhood.

The company responded to the concerns in their email. "Breast-feeding is completely natural; it is not something that we have invented ourselves, it is something that is done all around the world," Bernabeu wrote. "There are studies that discuss the benefits of breastfeeding, and there are associations around the world that are ... supporting this."

But not all mothers agree.

"I heard people talking about it but, honestly, I thought it was a joke," said Ilina Ewen, a writer for the Deep South Moms and her own blog Dirt and Noise.

"There are just things that I think kids are too little to understand," she said.

Ewen worried that if her two boys, ages 4 and 6, saw the toy, they would be confused because neither had been breast-fed.

Yet Ewen admits she has seen many young girls mimic the behavior after watching their mothers nurse their infant siblings.

"They don't understand they just see other moms doing that. Let kids use their imagination and play with a doll and not deal with what it can do," Ewen said. "There's no need to turn it into something that's anatomically correct. Not at this age."