Their Bad Mother

Their Bad Mother

Baby Got Boob

Emilia isn’t one for dolls, really. She much prefers taking them apart and incorporating them into art installations than she does cuddling them and pretending that they’re real. Because they’re not real, as she likes to remind me whenever I suggest that perhaps Shoggy or Zoe or Dora might like to get to bed at a reasonable hour in her company. ‘They don’t sleep, Mommy, because they’re not real,’ she informs me with a barely contained huff of impatience, my ignorance on all things doll-related clearly a pain to her. ‘They don’t do anything real, unless I make them do it.’


Which, too right. And interesting, given the recent minor hub-bub about a doll that breastfeeds, because for all of Emilia’s disavowals of what dolls can and can not be made to do, she’s always been emphatic that when pretending to feed a baby doll, one must pretend to nurse it, because that is the closest approximation of what is really done with real babies. Emilia is right: make-believe is at its best when it mimics something of the real, and many – most? – real moms breastfeed their babies for some amount of time, so why shouldn’t there be ‘hungry baby’ – my preferred translation of the Spanish Bebe Gloton, the name attached to this particular product – dolly that is marketed as a nursing baby, rather than a bottle-fed baby?


Two objections (discounting those objections that reduce to ‘eww, breastfeeding,’ because, seriously) have been raised in online discussions about Hungry Baby: that the nursing bib/halter-thingy that seems meant to shield girlish chests from pretend-nursing is weird and creepy, and that a doll marketed as a ‘nursing’ doll is unnecessary, because children can pretend to nurse any old doll, regardless of whether that doll comes with a bottle or a nursing bib. The first point is well-taken: the bib/halter thingy is creepy and unnecessary. But it’s an easy thing to remedy: you don’t like the bib? Toss it. It’s not a reason to dismiss the product entirely. The second point has a point, but it also misses the point: marketing dolls as nursing dolls is necessary, I would argue, because it counters the dominance of dollies-with-bottles. Children can pretend to breastfeed any old doll, but they don’t, and they don’t, arguably, because pretty much all of those dolls come with what are more or less express instructions to bottle feed this baby, dammit.


Not that there’s anything wrong with a child pretending to bottle feed a doll, or that there’s anything wrong with bottle-feeding in general. But if you wander into the baby doll section of any Toys-r-Us, you’ll see every aspect of pretend-motherhood represented except for breastfeeding. Every baby doll with accessories comes with a bottle. Every one. Which teaches our children what, exactly? That bottle-feeding is the maternal norm, which implies by exception that breastfeeding is not the norm – or that if it is the norm, it is a norm that  should not be emulated. That’s why marketing dolls as breastfeeding dolls can be a good thing – it counters the marketing of bottle-toting dolls. It advertises an alternative. It normalizes the alternative.


Granted, Emilia came to her own conclusions about dolls and bottles – her limited experimentation with playing with baby dolls included breastfeeding those dolls (publicly, no less.) So perhaps she’s evidence that the examples lining the toy store shelves are no match for the example set at home. But the battle for the social acceptance of breastfeeding is not a battle that is fought primarily in the home – it’s a public battle, about public ideas and public biases and public neuroses. And the marketing of toys and selling of toys are public practices that inculcate ideas about what should or should not be public. Breastfeeding should be publicly accepted and encouraged; by encouraging children to incorporate it into play, we promote that acceptance, and so extend the domain of the practice of nursing.


And that, my friends, is all win.


Comments read comments(10)
post a comment
Tracy Hamblin

posted August 4, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Thanks for looking at the bright side. Everyone’s been so “disturbed” by the doll, no one has brought out the fact that the doll does promote good feeding practices. There’s nothing sweeter than a baby nursing a baby.t

report abuse

Suzy Voices

posted August 4, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Such a sweet picture!! And I totally agree with you :)

report abuse


posted August 5, 2009 at 8:26 am

I couldn’t agree more. Well said! What a sweet photo!

report abuse


posted August 7, 2009 at 12:47 pm

“Marketing dolls as nursing dolls is necessary, I would argue, because it counters the dominance of dollies-with-bottles.”
Why can’t you just apply your bib solution to the bottle that comes with the standard doll, and just toss it?

report abuse

Beth in SF

posted August 7, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Good stuff. Well said. Basically everything I should have said when I first saw the debate the other day. Whether or not people like the doll, it’s COMPLETELY HARMLESS.

report abuse


posted August 27, 2009 at 2:02 am

“Children can pretend to breastfeed any old doll, but they don’t”… but they do, and you’ve provided one adorable example. Girls I know who see breastfeeding emulate breastfeeding with their dolls. I agree that adding this part of motherhood to the toy aisle is a good idea, but DARN, that shield thing is creepy. I vote for providing by example (although I’m certainly not arguing with anyone who wants the doll).

report abuse


posted October 10, 2009 at 4:14 am

How strange! How you people are motivating young girls to go for breastfeeding.This breastfeeding doll is such a bad idea.I did’nt like it all.These dolls should be banned as soon as possible.

report abuse

David at Front Porch Babies

posted October 26, 2010 at 11:23 pm

this dolls are perfect for those little girls who wants to breastfeed their dolls.

report abuse


posted March 17, 2011 at 7:54 am

Hi,I am from Canada. I’m new to and just saying hello.

report abuse


posted June 7, 2011 at 9:00 am

THIS PICTUER IS SO FUNNY, BECAUES a little girl breaastfeed a doll.
it can help her when she grew up and get herself mom. i’m agree whit this pictuer/ i’m from iran/tehran/robat karim

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Their Bad Mother. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Inspiration Report Life As A Concious Mom Happy Reading!!! ...

posted 4:50:01pm Jul. 05, 2012 | read full post »

The Road To Heaven Is Paved With Maracas
Last weekend, I went to Mass for the first time in well over a decade. To say that it was a strange and disorienting experience would be to understate things dramatically. But it was also a deeply comforting and familiar experience. I know that ...

posted 9:30:01am Mar. 09, 2011 | read full post »

Dear God (On The Catholic Church And Abuse And Evil And Crises Of Faith)
This weekend, I read an article in New York Times Magazine about the crisis surrounding the Catholic Church in Ireland as new, horrible, stories emerge about sexual abuse of children and efforts by the Church to cover up those stories. It was a ...

posted 1:34:44pm Feb. 16, 2011 | read full post »

Buy Yourself Roses For Valentine's Day
You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your ...

posted 9:07:07am Feb. 10, 2011 | read full post »

There But For A Rocking Chair: On Love and Fear and Keeping Our Children Safe
Before Emilia was born, I fussed endlessly about babyproofing. Never mind that it would be months before she would even enter the world, let alone move around it and find its electrical outlets: I was convinced that when it came to babies, there ...

posted 6:46:18pm Dec. 16, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.