Let me start this post off by saying that I'm a little bit of a lactivist. I don't think I'm the scary kind, but I do champion the rights of nursing mothers, practice child-led weaning, and, well, use words like lactivist.
And I'll admit to having filched the toy bottle out of the package before giving my daughter a new doll for her birthday, in an effort to minimize the bottle-as-normative aspect of our culture. (See what I mean? That's lactivist logic.)
Meet Bebe Gloton—which translates out to "Baby Glutton" according to The New York Times, and "Greedy Baby" according to The Daily Mail. (I'll hold my comments on the name.) The doll, sold in both baby boy and baby girl versions, is being marketed as the world's first breast-feeding doll. When held up to the chest of young mommies-in-training, electronic sensors in Bebe Gloton's mouth "suckle" at strategically-placed daisies on the girl-sized halter top that comes in the box with the doll.
I'm creeped out just writing that. And I'm not alone. Bebe Gloton is garnering criticism as videos of the doll in action go viral, with readers' comments ranging from concern about the sexualization of young girls to fear over an unhealthy ramp-up in early maternal desires.
I think both of those criticisms are a little silly. As fellow Her.meneutics blogger Christine Gardner wrote for CT a few months ago, breast-feeding is not sexual; it's the way we were designed to feed and nurture our young. In my time as a nursing mother, I've come to view breast-feeding with the same sense of awe and wonder that I feel for much of God's creation. That milk, my milk, is capable of feeding and sustaining life, providing everything my babies need to thrive and grow, is nothing short of amazing.
As for an unhealthy increase in maternal desire, and the claim that Bebe Gloton is somehow going to contribute to a rise in teen pregnancy rates, I don't really see how Bebe Gloton differs from any other baby doll, in that respect.
But still. There's an ick factor that I can't put my finger on. I'm not creeped out by children pretending to nurse; in my house my daughter nurses her dolls, and my son nurses his trucks. Larger stuffed animals nurse smaller ones, with little regard for species or even genus. Polar bears nurse baby rabbits. Mama monkeys nurse ducks. I've never seen this as anything but the imaginative play children engage in as they mirror the world of adults, no different from draining imaginary pasta while pretending to cook dinner.
But Bebe Gloton freaks me out. Maybe it's something about the electronic sensors, mechanizing something that derives much of its beauty from the fact that it needs no electricity, no sensor, no prop? Or maybe it's the fact that the daisies look like pasties.
Either way, I know this: Bebe Gloton isn't going to be on any of our Christmas lists this year. Admittedly, I can't put my finger on why, but I know creepy when I see it.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go nurse my baby.