Some baby dolls wet themselves, crawl, cry, and talk. Some come with bottles. Some even burp, but a new doll actually suckles in an attempt to teach little girls how to breastfeed.
The Breast Milk Baby was created by Berjuan Toys in Spain. It was awarded the Dr. Toy Top 100 Best Children's Product of 2011. Specifically, it was recognized for being one of the most "social responsible" products for children.
Dr. Toy is a child is a child development expert in San Francisco. She evaluates doll and other toys for consumers, The Associated Press reports. Her real name is Stevanne Auerbach and she "loves" the doll.
"We felt that it had merit in dealing with new babies for the older child," she explained. Auerbach feels that since breastfeeding seems to be better accepted in Europe. The toy has been more successful there. She feels that children in the United States are curious about breastfeeding, and the doll is just an educational tool to help them understand how it works.
In order for the breastfeeding doll to work, the child wears a halter with sensors sewn in the nipples, CBSLA reports. The sensors prompt the doll to start suckling.
The doll comes in eight varieties of skin tones and facial features, The Associated Press reports. Savannah, Tony, Cameron, Jessica, Lilyang, and Jeremiah also all burp and cry as well as breastfeed.
In the summer of 2011, Berjuan Toys announced plans to start selling the doll in the United States. The dolls were first released in 2007, and at the time of the press release, the company had made more than $2 million in sales.
The doll costs $89 and is a huge hit in Europe, but hasn't gained quite the same popularity in the United States. It actually hasn't even hit mainstream toy store shelves because critics believe the doll is "too sexualized" for kids, CBSLA reports.
One critic is Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. "I just want the kids to be kids," O'Reilly said upon hearing of the doll. "And this kind of stuff. We don't need this."
According to The Associated Press, Dennis Lewis, the US representative of Berjuan Toys isn't quite sure what O'Reilly meant when he said "we don't need this."
"We've had a lot of support from lots of breastfeeding organizations, lots of mothers, lots of educators," said Lewis. He also noted there are many people who have taken issue with the doll, but he believes that's just because they don't truly understand its purpose. He said that critics of The Breast Milk Baby usually have "problems with breastfeeding in general, or they see it as something sexual."
Sally Wendkos Olds, writer of the book The Complete Book of Breastfeeding, also fails to see Bill O'Reilly's issue with the doll. "I think it's just crazy what Bill O'Reilly it's sexualizing little girls. The whole point is so many people in our society persist in sexualizing breastfeeding, where in so many other countries around the world, they don't think anything of it.
Cynthia Epps, a lactation consultant agrees with this sentiment. Epps told CBSLA she isn't surprised the doll isn't as popular in the US as it is overseas.
"The controversy stems from when there was a natural shift in the 1950s to bottle feeding as the paradigm," Epps explained. "At the time, breasts were also simultaneously sexualized. Suddenly breasts became sexual instead of nutritive.
Dennis Lewis explained to The Associated Press that it has indeed been difficult to get retailers to sell the dolls. Lewis believes it likely has more to do with fear of controversy.
When plans to bring the doll to the US were first announced last year, parents were interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America about their views on The Breast Milk Baby. Oz Naporano said she would likely choose a different doll to buy for her daughter.
A dad named J.C. Renner, however, called the doll a "neat concept."
"We've got another baby due in June and I think it's going to be a neat way for our daughter, Grace, to connect with mom," he said.
Over a year later, sales have been pretty poor. Only 5,000 of the dolls have been sold in the last year, The Associated Press reports.. Dennis Lewis blames this on the phobia which seems to surround breastfeeding, which many consider to be "the healthiest way to feed a baby."