June 17, 2011— -- A new trend that many are saying is too hot for tots has babies strutting their stuff in two-piece string bikinis -- some before they are even able to walk or talk.
Bathing suits have evolved over time, growing increasingly immodest since their arrival. They have seemingly gotten smaller and smaller -- and the makers of these shrinking suits have been targeting younger and younger girls.
But infants in leopard print? Now it's not just the suits that are itsy-bitsy and teenie-weenie -- but who's inside them.
Called "babikinis" -- these two-piece swimsuits that are being sold across the U.S. are designed for babies as young as 3 months old.
Some say this two-piece for toddlers goes a bit too far.
"Horrifying," the mother of one toddler told ABC News.
"I would say a little bit inappropriate for the age group," said another mother, Shayne Bernstein.
Babikini, the company that manufactures the controversial swimwear, says that although the idea started as a gag, it's now a business. Their website indicates that the suits are sold in hundreds of stores in over 30 U.S. states and internationally.
"What started out as gag gifts for a couple of business associates has turned into a thriving business," reads a statement on the company's website. "Everyone who saw the little bikinis wanted one and so the story goes. Fast forward several years later and here we are up to our eyeballs in itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikinis, and we love it!"
Still, not everyone is impressed – a growing chorus of parents online find the bikinis disturbing. One person wrote that "sexualizing children -- intentionally or not -- is a crime…these clothing companies have lost their minds."
"Children need protection, not sexualization!" another online commenter remarked.
The outcry over babikinis comes shortly after an Abercrombie & Fitch garmet for elementary school-aged children generated similar outrage.
Just a few months ago the clothing retailer was pushed to pull their pushup, padded bikinis – marketed towards 7-year-olds -- off the shelf.
But the people who create and sell "babikinis' say that thunder thighs and baby fat in a two-piece has never looked so cute.
"It's really just for fun, it's a great photo op for parents too, something they can look back on," Gina Muzingo, the owner of Rock Girl Lounge Showroom, a Dallas, Texas boutique that sells "babikinis," told ABC News.
The woman behind the trend, Jennifer Gill, the owner of Babikini, told ABC news that she sells about 10,000 of the tiny suits each year. At $30 each, her company is pulling in about $300,000 per year on this bathing suit alone.