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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Breastfeeding Doll Controversy

Not too long ago I noticed another scandalous headline about breastfeeding: apparently a Spanish toymaker has introduced a doll that little girls can nurse themselves. It even comes with a special "sling" that I can only guess is supposed to be like a nursing bra. Who knows, really. 
At any rate, I have mixed ideas about the doll. The idea might be a good one, I suppose - but it is a tad on the creepy side. I mean, in this household we don't need to buy a doll as a role model for my daughter; she has me to watch feeding her brother every two hours during the day. If they see it at home, they will no doubt figure it out and try it for themselves anyway. 
I did a quick Google search, which revealed that most of the negative attention the doll has received seems to come from the United States, where negative attitudes on nursing often prevail. (One skeptical article came from the UK, where breastfeeding rates are among the lowest in Europe.) This is evident in figures released from various sources and published on kellymom.com, which shows that in 2001, roughly 65% of women breastfed in the hospital. At six months, the figure dropped to 27% (some studies show figures as low as 12%), and by 18 months, none of the women surveyed was (even though some health organizations recommend nursing at least a year, if not two, for optimal health benefits). The countries with the highest rates of breastfeeding include Scandinavia, Switzerland, and (what a surprise!) Spain.  Most people in the US would cringe or think it gross to nurse a child for two years - whatever. (Let it be said, though, that any breastfeeding is better than none at all!)
So...parents are "wary of the breastfeeding doll" and the possible psychological damage it will do, yet teen queen Miley Cyrus can pole dance for an audience of young adults at the Teen Choice Awards this month and that raises little more than an eyebrow. Yeah, that makes sense. 
At any rate, the creepiness factor I'm feeling might be from people who consider it a doll that teaches girls to breastfeed. Rather than teach, I think it provides positive modeling that might just come in handy when they're older (much, much older, hopefully). Who knows - in the right environment, it could help people overcome their hang-ups about boobs being just for sex (see my last post), and further increase the rate of breastfeeding, which is good for mom and for baby. What's wrong with that?

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