Jul 28 2011

Black Mothers Are Least Likely to Breast-Feed … Is a Breast-Feeding Doll the Solution?

A recent CDC report found that non-Hispanic black women in the U.S. were least likely to breastfeed compared to other racial groups, despite the fact that breast milk provides superior nutrition, natural immunity, and possible allergy prevention for babies who receive it.

Data suggest that there may be experiences unique to non-Hispanic black women that contribute to their decision to bottle-feed:

  • Lack of culturally relevant information and images of non-Hispanic black women breast-feeding.
  • Perceptions that breast-feeding is inferior to formula feeding or conflicting messages about breast-feeding.
  • Need for non-Hispanic black women to return to work sooner, where, until recently, support for breast-feeding was often insufficient.
  • Lack of social or partner support.

Spain-based Berjuan Toys thinks it has the solution to raising those breast-feeding rates — a breast-feeding doll that acculturates young girls to value breast-feeding and view it as a normal part of motherhood. Breast Milk Baby comes with a halter top that a child wears to “nurse” the doll. Located on the outside of the garment is an appliqué where the child places the doll’s mouth to simulate breast-feeding. The doll makes motions and suckling sounds when a sensor in its mouth is near the appliqué. The doll sells for 69.99 and is currently only available online. Two million have been sold in Europe.

Those for and against the toy are equally vehement about why their opinion is the right one. A Facebook page “Against the Breast Milk Baby Doll” has been created, and an online petition asking U.S. toy stores not to stock it has been circulated. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly mentioned the doll on his show, saying it pushes little girls to grow up too soon.

Berjuan Toys rep Dennis Lewis says the doll is a much-needed antidote to a culture that advocates bottle-feeding at the expense of breast-feeding, even though it’s known to offer health benefits for mother and child.”This is an important issue, because if little kids start learning about breast-feeding when they’re young, it becomes an easy choice for them when they are older,” Lewis says. The doll is a fun way to let children play out “the importance of natural breast-feeding.”

It seems a bit ridiculous to spend $70 bucks on a doll that is supposed to encourage behavior an imaginative child will do without the high-tech gadgetry. A child who witnesses breast-feeding will emulate it in play. My daughters saw me nursing their younger siblings and when they played “mommy” they pretended to breast-feed. The sucking sounds coming from the doll are unnecessary and a little creepy n my opinion.

-by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com