I'll admit it -- my first thought when I read about Breast Milk Baby was "creepy."
My second thought? That I'm behind the times.
The doll is this holiday season's tempest in a toy-store teapot, even though it isn't in too many toy stores, if any. When you hold Breast Milk Baby close to fake flower petals on a special apron, it makes sucking noises like a real, breastfeeding baby. Children who wear the apron can pretend to be mothers who have elected to provide nutrients the natural way.
Breast Milk Baby is no different materially than dolls that are spoon fed (remember the concern over whether it was sanitary to shovel mushy, fake baby food into a doll where it could fester for months?) or dolls that simulate bowel and bladder functions.
What sets Breast Milk Baby apart is that it involves the mammary glands, which are allowed to be shown on television, movie screens, billboards and beaches across America as indicators of sex appeal, but cannot be shown -- even modestly -- in restaurants, airports, shopping malls or any other public area for the purpose which millennia of evolution intended: to feed hungry babies.
Some pundits, apparently including Fox's Bill O'Reilly, find the doll offensive, perhaps believing that little girls -- and, dare I suggest it? maybe even little boys -- will be hypersexualized, one more (tiny) step toward a future where they will become teenage trollops and college bra-burners.
But there should be nothing "sexy" about breastfeeding, a natural part of parenting, the wonderful avocation that provides benefits such as sitting up all night with a feverish child and holding her hair back while she upchucks into a bucket or commode.
(If the toy industry were intent on providing simulated parenting at every level, it would create dolls like Heartbreak Hester, who launches into histrionics every time a boy breaks up with her or a classmate fails to invite her to a birthday party; Lead-foot Lettitia, primed and ready for her inaugural driving lesson; and Tuition Tommy, who needs upwards of $35,000 a year for college. But I digress.)
No, parents have far less to worry about from Breast Milk Baby than from the unrealistic body images that little girls develop from playing with Barbie, whose measurements if she were a real woman would be, in the words of the Huffington Post, "mildly terrifying."
(A photo available by Googling "Barbie vs. a Real Girl" shows just how ridiculous the doll's proportions are when applied to a real woman. Worth checking out -- and SFW.)
And yet, if anybody in my family were of an age to appreciate Breast Milk Baby, and even if one were available at a Black Friday sale later this week, I still wouldn't buy it and still would consider it creepy.
To my shame, that says less about the doll than it does about me.
Chris Schillig is an Alliance area educator and journalist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
@cschillig on Twitter