Breastfeeding is an uncomfortable topic in many circles. A woman’s body is viewed in such sexual terms that breastfeeding can be viewed as an embarrassing necessity rather than a nurturing aspect of mothering to be celebrated.
My mother-in-law was a self-proclaimed “former hippie,” and she was the first woman I met who truly celebrated breastfeeding and proudly breastfed in many contexts without a glimmer of embarrassment and practiced extended breastfeeding as well. I learned a lot from her in respect to this topic. This was a contrast to the typical attitude towards breastfeeding I had experienced.
In the context of nourishing/feeding a baby well, breastfeeding is an emotionally debated topic. Those unable to breastfeed resent the attitudes towards bottle-feeding that breastfeeding advocates have. Those who breastfeed resent the embarrassment that others feel towards them when they do so in public. Claws can come out when a mother feels her motherhood is in question because of the choices she makes in regard to this issue. I’ve seen and heard just about everything in regard to this issue.
However, I hadn’t heard about the breastfeeding doll until today. This Breast Milk Baby was made so that little girls can learn to nurture babies through the art of breastfeeding. It comes with a halter top with sensors covered with petal appliques acting as nipples. When the doll is held near the sensors, it makes suckling noises.
It’s been popular in Europe, but hasn’t hit the mainstream shelves in the U.S., for the most part because of people being uncomfortable with it. Critics say that the baby doll is too sexualized.
A few thoughts:
I have heard just about everything, so I am not surprised that the act of breastfeeding is considered “sexual.” It is ridiculous, but no, I am not surprised. It is just one symptom of a society that views women almost solely in sexual terms, instead of a more holistic viewpoint of women. A woman’s body was considered comforting and nurturing as well as sexual in more balanced way in the past. Nowadays, a woman can’t simply feed her child without being accused of being too “sexual.”
There has been a backlash in our culture with groups of ladies fighting for the right to breastfeed in public, of sharing the health benefits of breastfeeding, and giving new mothers support in their breastfeeding attempts. It has certainly changed the culture in regard to this topic.
Yet, I feel that we will always feel discomfort in regard to breastfeeding unless we are able to fix the overarching wrong attitudes towards women in our culture. Until we can celebrate women without making them sexual objects, breastfeeding is going to be a ripe breeding ground for discomfort.
As far as the doll itself, I have to say I think it a little unnecessary. Girls who are familiar with breastfeeding (generally because of a younger sibling), end up being quite comfortable with the topic and will quite naturally pretend to be breastfeeding their babies — no halter-top needed. But for a little girl without younger, breastfeeding siblings, the doll could be a good introduction. I think that our reaction to the doll says more about us and our views then it does about how children would see it.
What do you think? Do you think we overreact to this natural process in our culture?