I'll admit it, going shopping for little girls can be a lot of fun. I'm a sucker for hair bows that need to be Velcro-ed onto baldish heads. I melt at the sight of the baby tights with ruffles on the rump. And don't get me started on patent leather Mary Janes. I'm still wearing them"40-plus years later. But the only little ones left in my extended family are of the XY variety. And as progressive of an aunt as I might pretend to be, I probably won't be brave enough to get them glittery shoes unless they ask directly.
But there is one toy traditionally purchased for females that I'd be thrilled to buy for a little boy in my life -- a baby doll. Both of my sons loved taking care of plastic infants when they were little. My younger son's "special guy," affectionately named "Blue Baby" for the color of his now-tattered cloth body, still sits on a shelf in his room perched between the soccer trophies and his rubber band collection.
But I probably won't be buying my nephews the "Breast Milk Baby." If you haven't yet heard, Spanish toy manufacturer Berjuan Toys has begun U.S. sales of a more or less classic baby doll. But instead of being packaged with a plastic baby bottle, this doll gets its pseudo-nutrition the "natural" way---through simulated breast-feeding. According to the company press release, this is how it works:
"The Breast Milk Baby simulates the breast-feeding process by including a fashionable halter-top that a young girl can put on like a vest and when she brings the Breast Milk Baby doll’s mouth up to the pretty flower decoration on the vest the doll makes a soft, suckling sound. The two flowers on the halter are positioned where the nipples would be and when the mouth of the doll is brought close to the embedded sensors in the flower, the baby makes motions and suckling sounds."
I don't have most of the same issues with the toy -- that it sexualizes young girls or makes them grow up too soon -- that some parents seem to have. ? And I certainly don't agree with Bill O'Reilly or his Fox friends that the doll is in any way disgusting or a boon to teen pregnancy. But it certainly doesn't seem like anything a little boy would want, especially with the "fashionable halter top" and "pretty flower decorations."
And as a mom of two boys and aunt to five, I have to admit this makes me kind of sad.
I want the boys in my life to be encouraged to play with dolls and babysit. I want them to grow up to be nurturing and excited about parenting. I want them to experience fluidity in traditional gender roles. My husband and I shared just about everything when it came to child rearing in the infant and toddler days. But the one thing he couldn't participate in was breast-feeding. And not being able to help provide sustenance to his babies made him feel a little sad, like he was missing out.
I'd hate for little boys to feel like they are missing out already. Sure, they can try on the halter if they want to, but unless modern medicine makes some significant advancement in the next 30 years, breast feeding is not something in which they will be able to actively participate. So let's hope toy manufacturers don't stop making those plastic bottles filled with fake grayish milk any time soon.
What do you think of the "Breast Milk Baby"? Is this something you might buy for a child in your life, boy or (more likely) girl?