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November 11, 2012

Breastfeeding baby doll: creepy or groundbreaking?

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

“With retailers it’s been hard, to be perfectly honest, but not so much because they’ve been against the products,” he said. “It’s more they’ve been very wary of the controversy. It’s a product that you either love it or you hate it.”

Critics cite an unspecified yuck factor, or say it’s too mature for children. But Stevanne Auerbach loves it. The child development expert in San Francisco, also known as Dr. Toy, evaluates dolls and other toys for consumers, lending her official approval to Breast Milk Baby.

“We felt that it had merit in dealing with new babies for the older child,” she said, “and for the curiosity that children have in this area. Breastfeeding in Europe is acceptable and the doll has been successful there. We wanted to open up the opportunity.”

Sally Wendkos Olds, who wrote “The Complete Book of Breastfeeding,” also doesn’t understand the problem.

“I think it’s a very cute toy,” she said. “I think it’s just crazy what Bill O’Reilly was saying that it’s sexualizing little girls. The whole point is that so many people in our society persist in sexualizing breastfeeding, where in so many other countries around the world they don’t think anything of it.”

Olds called Americans “prudish in many ways,” adding the doll offers: “bodily awareness. It’s realizing that this is OK.”

Lewis blames lack of U.S. sales — just under 5,000 dolls sold in the last year — solely on phobia about breastfeeding, something widely considered the healthiest way to feed a baby.

“There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “The whole idea is that there’s still some taboos here. They’re difficult to justify and difficult to explain but they’re out there. You mention breast and people automatically start thinking Janet Jackson or wardrobe malfunctions and all sorts of things that have absolutely nothing to do with breastfeeding.”

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