Thursday, March 31, 2011

Breast feeding: for mature audiences only?

I got caught up in a bit of an online debate today around breast feeding.  Apparently there is this new toy down south that has sparked controversy because it *gasp* encourages breast feeding.

See the shocking news clip here.

Having worked with young children, I have seen young ones mimic breast feeding their dolls, just as I have seen them bottle feed, spoon feed, burp, change diapers, read stories, put down for naps, and yes, even spank them. Roll playing is an important part of a child's development.  It helps them form their own values, ideals and even memories based on what they have witnessed Mom, Dad and others do and say.

So at what point do you draw the line in children's role playing?  Would you tell your child that it's okay to bottle feed baby in public, but not breast feed?  Haven't women been struggling for that right for generations?

Canadian Living asked on their Facebook page whether a breast feeding doll was "too much" for young children to be playing with.  The answers were varied and heated.  Some people were disgusted.  Some thought it was robbing children of their innocence.  One woman thought it was a step away from giving them sex dolls to see how babies are really made (really?).  Another worried that such a toy would surely draw the attention of pedophiles.  Many seemed to adopt the idea that it was pushing children into an adult situation that is not age appropriate.

See the shocking comments here.

The really unfortunate thing is that many of these opinions came from women who claim to have themselves breast fed their children.  So it would seem many have bought into the notion that although healthy, breast feeding is still kinda wrong.

Personally, I think it's the adults who have twisted ideas about breast feeding, which makes it all the more important to assure young children that it's not yucky, silly or otherwise inappropriate behaviour.  Nor is it "adult-only" behaviour.  No, breastfeeding is most certainly an adult-child phenomenon, so why shouldn't children have a stake in the issue?

That said, I would probably not buy the toy.  I'm personally not a fan of automated toys with singular functions.  I think they discourage the use of imagination and creativity.  That, and changing batteries is annoying.  But I would not discourage my kid from breast feeding his or her (yes, boys like to mimic breast feeding too) doll, teddy bear or even GI Joe.

What do you think?