At What Age Does Breast-Shaming Start?

The US will soon release a doll from Spain called “Breast Milk Baby.” The $89 toy will allow children to imitate the act of breast-feeding by using a special halter top that comes with the doll. Parents and critics are divided on the product, some claiming that the doll over-sexualizes young girls by forcing them to grow up too quickly, but supporters claim that the toy is a learning product meant to teach nurturing and provide valuable education on what is believed to be a healthy choice when it comes to parenting.

What’s the debate?

As ABC News reports, the halter that comes with the toy is made from a colorful material with two flowers positioned where nipples would be. When the doll’s mouth is brought close to a sensor embedded in the flower, the baby makes motions and sounds consistent with suckling.

It’s apparent that since the doll openly invites exposure to the idea of “breast,” “baby,” and ultimately pregnancy…some see this product — more than any other doll where the child playing displays the acts of feeding (from a bottle) or changing a diaper — as upping the ante in the world of pushing young girls, especially, toward teen pregnancy, even though dolls that require human caring have been around for generations.

Critics like FoxNews consultant, Dr. Keith Ablow argue:

“Little girls aren’t even aware how their secondary sexual characteristics will develop, let alone imitating how they’ll be used after childbirth,” says Ablow. “This is another way of turning little girls into adults…it contributes to the sexualization of children and makes them targets of assailants, frankly.”

Conversely, Dr. Ned Hallowell, a child psychiatrist says:

“I don’t think it’s sexualizing any more than a little boy standing next to his father shaving and putting on shaving cream.”

The medical community is in agreement that breastfeeding provides significant health benefits to both mother and child, but in this country the act of viewing a breast, discussing breasts, or relating to anyone other than adult women as having breasts in many instances is thought to be taboo. That is unless we’re discussing the latest celebrity who’s received “implants,” or discussing breasts in a purely sexual way, or unfortunately indicating the millions who perish from breast cancer — other than those instances you would think no other purpose exists. Some could draw the conclusion that in any other circumstance breasts are thought of in embarrassment or perhaps shame.

Can we not discuss what the primary use for breasts are?

Abroad, the female body is not always viewed as something so very puritanical unless for sexual purposes. Tessa Blake reports to HuffPo that marketing in other countries will routinely depict the naked female body. Perhaps the thought is, “Hey, this body lotion is for the uh…body. So we’ll put a picture of the body on the box.” Makes sense. In this country, you’ll see a muddied breast-like shape or outline. Breast-feeding though abroad, breast-feeding is often a no-brainer.

So why then is it inappropriate for breast-feeding to be part of the discussion in this country, and not just something only talked about at baby showers and with other new mothers? As we’ve learned, many women grow up in fear of their bodies. It wasn’t that long ago when it was intimated that the female body and things that happened therein were “dirty,” “disgusting,” and a “secret.” Many women of a certain generation can tell stories of having never had open discussions about their bodies and what changes occurred naturally just for this reason.

To that end, here’s what Bill O’Reilly had to say on the subject:

“I’m all for breastfeeding but this grosses me out. I just want the kids to be kids,” continued Bill O’Reilly, “We don’t need this.”

Tessa responded by saying, “I hate to break it to you, but children who see mothers nursing will mimic it. My daughter has been lifting up her shirt and “nursing” her babies for years. Are you suggesting this is shameful? What if she feeds her doll with a bottle? Is she not being a kid then, or is it just the breast that’s the problem?”

For O’Reilly, despite being a boob, it would appear that breasts are indeed the problem. Comments like these keep young people in the dark and promote the kind of uneducated thinking about their bodies, that could yes, lead to pregnancy and potentially a host of other uninformed decisions regarding their personal safety.

Several parents supporting the doll are making points about our natural development, and not hindering it. Aside from the fact that the doll could uncover the “taboo deed of breast-feeding” and bring it into the light, or that it promotes a healthful way of parenting, but at the crux of it all…children pretend to do what their parents do. It’s a part of normal development.

And about the whole teen pregnancy issue…tackling that bailiwick has very little to do with what types of dolls girls are playing with, and more to do with environment, influence, and education. So really, let the kids be kids and let them see what you do, let them ask questions, and be prepared to answer them honestly, but let’s not continue the cycle of shaming those things that are life-sustaining, and have more than just one purpose.

What do you think?

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