Bottle Feeding Baby Dolls and Breastfeeding
I wrote this paper about 8 months ago for a persuasive writing class I was taking in college. I have been wanting to share it somehow but haven't really known where to put it, so I thought I would share it with you ladies. I'm a social sciences major so that's why my paper is kind of geared towards socialization. Anyway, let me know what you think.
Bottle Feeding Baby Dolls and the Influence on Breastfeeding
"Babies do not develop "naturally" into social adults. Society makes us human." (Henslin) As young children we are shaped and molded into what society views as normal. Parents selectively decorate their unborn child's bedrooms in blues or pinks. Boys are given cars and guns as toys while girls play with Barbie dolls or jewelry. Many of the toys our children play with are influencing their views of the world and what is considered normal by society. With advancement in technology children are now playing with toy cell phones, lap tops, and tablets. Some view this as normal because they are only mimicking their parents. But what about toys that promote unhealthy lifestyle choices? Many young girls are given bottle feeding baby dolls. Some popular brands of baby dolls are Baby Alive, Baby Boutique, Kid Connection, and Baby Born. These types of toys are promoting that this is the normal way to feed a baby. Could the use of these dolls be influencing the way mothers choose to feed their babies?
This essay will be analyzing the surface, intended, and cultural levels of the use of bottle feeding baby dolls. In analyzing the surface levels of these dolls we will take a look at the different styles of packaging and accessories each doll comes with. A doll currently being sold on the market is called "Baby Alive". Baby Alive comes with various accessories that are considered normal in the realm of toddlerhood: a highchair, spoon, plate, and bottle. The doll comes packaged in a bright blue box with a comic style bubble that reads "I love you Mommy!" Another doll that is currently on the market named "Talking Baby Doll" and made by "Kid Connection" comes packaged with dark blue on the sides and hot pink on the top and bottom. She also comes with many accessories such as silverware, bib, diaper bag, bottle, toy keys, and a car seat style carrier. The final doll being described is by "Small World Toys" and named "All about Baby Giggle N Play Katie". Katie is dressed from head to toe in different shades of pink. She is wearing a pink hat, white and pink shirt, and pink pants. She also comes with accessories that are also pink: a bottle, diaper bag, dish and silverware. When Katie's stomach is pressed she says both mama and daddy. All of these toys have something in common.
By looking at the packaging colors, phrases, and accessories each doll comes with the inherent message that these dolls are intended to teach young children, girls specifically how to care for a baby. Each one of these dolls come packaged in bright appealing colors but each comes with different accessories. One thing they all have in common is that all of the dolls come with at least one bottle. The other accessories are all "normal" things a toddler may see their mother using on a daily basis. A young child may see a friend playing with the same, if not similar, toy thus reaffirming the connection of what's "normal". The bottle then becomes integrated and normalized with the rest of the accessories.
In analyzing the cultural levels of meaning we will paint a picture of the issue associated with bottle feeding. The AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months and continuing with addition of solid food for at least the first twelve months. The WHO's guidelines recommend breastfeeding for a minimum of two years. So in a country that strives to have the best of everything, why are America's breastfeeding rates so low? According to The WHO's (World Health Organization) data and statistics in the year 2007 the United States statistics of infants that were breastfed exclusively for at least six months was 13.6%. 13.6% is very low when comparison with other countries such as, Peru where the breastfeeding rates are at 69.9% and Egypt at 53.2%. (WHO) Statistics show that 25% of mothers do not try to breastfeed at all. The rates drastically go down every month after birth (Nation's Health). These statistics can only reprimand that these bottle feeding dolls are in fact a contributing factor in the normalization of bottle feeding.
Another possible contributing factor as to why our country's breastfeeding rates are so low could be the rise of mothers whom work outside of the home. Some may think expressing their milk with a breast pump will be too much of a hassle, or maybe it is not worth starting in the first place as they will shortly have to discontinue. However, there are laws set in place in order to protect the rights of mothers in the work place who breastfeed. In at least 48 states employers are required to provide reasonable break time and a location outside of the restroom for a breastfeeding mother to express her breast milk (State Legislatures). There are also laws protecting the rights for all breastfeeding mothers to breastfeed their child in any public or private location, without fear of being charged with public indecency. In fact, twelve states will excuse a breastfeeding mother from jury duty so she will not have to spend time away from her baby. These laws are set to counteract the stigma against breastfeeding that may prevent some mothers from wanting to do so outside of the comfort of their home. However, the cultural messages we are given at a young age from bottle feeding dolls suggest that it's okay to give into the barriers that might make breastfeeding more difficult, such as working outside of the home.
Some may be wondering what makes the cultural level of meaning so important. Why is breastfeeding so important? Breastfeeding provides many health benefits to both mothers and babies. A recent article in Nation's Health reads that children who are breastfed are less likely to develop asthma or become obese. In fact the longer they are breastfed the further the risk of obesity goes down. Children who are breastfed are also less likely to develop leukemia and have decreased risks of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Breast milk also produces antibodies when others are sick that protects babies from contracting common illnesses and infection. For mothers breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes (Nation's Health).
Health benefits are not the only advantage of breastfeeding. When newborn infants come into the world after spending 9 months in a warm cozy environment, being able to hear their mother's heart beat at all times, they may be conditioned to hearing it. When a mother puts her infant to her breast the child is assumed able to hear her heartbeat. A mother's areola also naturally produces an aroma scent similar to the amniotic fluid that babies are used to, making them feel "at home" rather than a stranger in a new world. Additionally, skin to skin contact also helps tighten the bond between mothers and infants. Breast milk is also individualized to meet the needs of each infant-or recipient-depending on what stage of development the child is in and if the child is sick. When an infant's saliva touches an areola it sends a signal to the mother's body letting it know what the baby needs at that moment. If the baby is sick, antibodies will be produced in order to strengthen the child's immune system. Since breast milk is every so changing the same health benefits cannot be replicated by formula.
The American Academy of Pediatrics argues that "Infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice." (AAP) The use of bottle feeding baby dolls presents bottle feeding as the "normal" way to feed a baby. In the eyes of a new mother who has never seen breastfeeding before, bottle feeding may be the only way they know how to feed a baby. While there may be many contributing factors for how a mother chooses to feed her baby evidence shows that breastfeeding may be the best option.