Child's Play

When I was a kid, my friend Deirdre had all the cool toys, including Baby Alive, who you could feed mush to and then it would come out her bottom and you could wipe it up.  I think there was also diaper rash.

 It boggles my mind, now, that I could have yearned to wipe a plastic butt, but oh, did I want Baby Alive.  My mom said drily that if my imagination was good enough to play at being a mother and having a baby, I could work up some imaginary poo to wipe, too.

 And of course now I agree with her, which is perhaps why I thought it was a little hilarious when, recently, a Spanish toy manufacturer came out with a baby doll that imitates nursing, making sucking sounds when it’s brought close.  Apparently it comes with a halter top that looks like a nursing bra for “Mommy” to wear.   

Do we really need a doll that fakes this?  I mean, once the kid can imagine herself as a Mommy, can’t she pretend the baby is nursing, just like she pretends the baby is crying or burping?   I’ve seen kids do it all the time!

Also, how weird that it makes sucking sounds, since real nursing babies don’t, actually, sound like they’re slurping up a slushee.

But whatever, I thought, I just won’t buy one. 

But apparently the nursing baby doll has sparked controversy of a different sort.  One article claims that:

parents around the world have criticized [the manufacturer] saying the idea of breast-feeding is too grown-up for young children — and may even promote early pregnancy. 

The article goes on: 

“Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing health editor of, said although he supports the idea of breast-feeding, he sees how his own daughter plays with dolls and wonders if Bebe Gloton might speed up maternal urges in the little girls who play it.

“Pregnancy has to entail maturity and understanding,” Alvarez said. “It’s like introducing sex education in first grade instead of seventh or eighth grade. Or, it could inadvertently lead little girls to become traumatized. You never know the effects this could have until she’s older.” 


               Don’t get too maternal with that doll, now, Missy!

There is so much wrong with this “controversy” and this article, so let’s get some things clear:

·      Breastfeeding isn’t weird.  Whether any actual mother nurses her baby or not, our species are mammals and we produce milk when we have babies.

·      Playing at being a parent is a normal thing that kids do.  That might include any aspect of normal parenting.

·      Breastfeeding isn’t sexual even though breasts are also sexual.

·      A baby doll that simulates a baby who is an alcoholic, suffers from erectile dysfunction or is a prison in-mate (which the article suggests are analogous) would be troubling and wrong and have nothing to do with normal maternal role play.

The weirdest thing in this article is the concern that a little girl pretending to breastfeed might be enticed to get pregnant too early.      


I don’t get it.  We are talking about girls who are already pretending to be mothers.  What does the sucking noise add?

My son was never really into dolls, but my daughter likes one she’s named “Potato.”  I must have told her that what a mother eats affects the flavor of her breast-milk, because whenever she pretends to nurse Potato, she lets me know the milk now tastes like hot dog, or strawberries or oatmeal.  She also pretends to change Potato’s diaper (even without fake poo).

 And then after a few minutes of playing the maternal role, usually she’ll fling Potato aside and resume fighting Bad Guys or looking for Blues Clues or singing songs or doing puzzles.  That longing for the maternal role is normal, but transient.  Mostly she likes being a four-year-old.