“Breast Milk Baby”, the controversial breastfeeding baby doll, is back in the spotlight. On this morning’s Today show, host Kathie Lee tried out the doll by allowing it to faux nurse at her own breast. Discomfort ensued, especially on Hoda Kotbe’s part. “Something’s just so weird about what’s happening right now.” said the host, questioning whether little girls should really be practicing how to breastfeed.
I know there are plenty of people who agree with her. But I’m not one of them. Like Kathie Lee, I think this doll is a perfectly fine idea—and, as she pointed out, no worse than little girls playing with Barbie, who is, she noted, “fully matured, if you know what I mean”. I’ll go even further: I actually think playing with this breastfeeding doll could help balance the view of women’s bodies girls get from Barbie (among other things).
People have reacted to this doll with outrage and disgust. I don’t get it personally, but I understand it culturally. Our society is not fully comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding. Breasts are seen primarily as sexual organs, so when women use them to feed their children, it feels awkward, obscene, even wrong. This weirdness is why breastfeeding in public is so controversial, and why giving little girls breastfeeding dolls might not be such a bad idea.
Is a breastfeeding baby doll really necessary? Of course not. But I don’t think it will do any harm. Considering that girls have been caring for baby dolls since ancient times, I think claims that the doll could be encouraging premature maternal urges are pretty hard to justify.
A breastfeeding doll gets a girl thinking about her breasts as nurturing and useful. Not only does this help a girl imagine herself as a nursing mother, normalizing the idea of breastfeeding, but it gives her a sense of the power of her body as a sustaining force, not just an object of desire. That’s a message I’d be more than happy to pass on to my daughter.
Check out the clip to hear Kathie Lee call out the sexist way our culture sees (and grabs) women’s breasts…and watch her take a trip down memory lane when she “nurses” the baby.
Summer Fun: Beach toys for babies and kids!