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Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Reborn Dolls: a Balm for Infertile Women or an Insult?

Realistic baby dolls can help women going through IVF or baby loss, but others find them upsetting or a bit too realistic for comfort.
A few years ago when watching a television documentary called ‘My Fake Baby’ I discovered reborn dolls. These are dolls that are so realistic they look like newborn babies. They are painted to show veins, blemishes and milk spots that newborns typically have and they have micro-rooted real hair, or expertly painted on hair. From a distance, they could be mistaken for a real baby.

They can fetch hundreds of dollars in a booming, competitive market, where many women (and some men) are only too keen to part with their cash to own one.

Therapeutic Dolls?

Some women who are infertile and going through IVF procedures find them a comforting balm for the stress they endure through the gruelling treatment and some women say they have helped them to deal with the pain of a miscarriage, while others find the idea insulting and say that to hold a ‘plastic’ baby would have made matters worse and the idea of a ‘fake’ baby is creepy or wrong.

Personally, at the times when I lost my babies I would have found them very upsetting. I burst into floods of tears at the sight of every newborn and all the women in the world suddenly seemed to be heavily pregnant when they hadn’t been before. If someone had presented me with a reborn doll during those times in my life, I would have ended up a crumpled heap on the floor. I tried to avoid babies until I had a successful pregnancy and then they became less painful to look at.

Every woman reacts differently to miscarriage or infertility problems, though, and some have found cuddling a reborn doll therapeutic. One pregnant mother happily sold her collection of reborn dolls after her IVF treatments had finally worked. She used the money to buy things she needed for her child.

Are Doll Collectors Deluded?

For some reason this has created controversy and some doctors such as Dr. Ablow suggest that women who buy them have a mental illness and aren’t living in the real world. He even likened doll collectors to people who use street drugs.

Art Form of the Newborn

I say whatever helps someone get through IVF or grief is good and if owning a reborn helps, then great and I do think the dolls are fantastic art forms and not in the least creepy. If I had an artistic bone in my body I would love to make them myself but unfortunately God did not bless me with the ability to paint. I did, however, have one made to look like my son when he was a newborn. Why? Because it’s a beautiful way to immortalise lovely memories, just like professional photos or footprint pictures are, only better.

The truth is, the vast majority of women who buy reborns or any other doll do so just because they appreciate the art and not because they have a deluded fantasy that the doll is a real baby. If some find them comforting in times of stress, why is that wrong?

Men the world over collect realistic electric train sets and spend weekend’s playing with them. They disappear into the attic to play with their train set after a row with the missus and no one accuses them of having a mental illness. Millions of fully grown men are also obsessed by computer games such as ‘SIMS’ and ‘World of War Craft’, but they are not deluded or accused of regressing into childhood the way women are if they buy a doll.

Comfort for Women Who Lost Babies

As well as helping some infertile women and those who had miscarriages, reborn dolls are now increasingly being used in old people’s homes because staff find that elderly people with dementia are calmer and happier if they are given a doll to cuddle. One elderly woman who lost her newborn daughter years previously agonizingly relived the event day after day due to her dementia. It was distressful for the staff, too, who had to keep telling her that her daughter was dead over and over again. Eventually, they bought her a reborn doll and told her her daughter was asleep in her crib. Although this was fantasy, it gave peace of mind and happiness to an ill old lady in her last phase of life.

Dolls Used in Films

Reborn dolls are also used on television in films in addition to real babies. In the extremely popular TV series, ‘Call the Midwife’ (the true memoirs of a 1950’s London midwife), reborn dolls were used during the childbirth scenes.
Anyone who appreciates the beauty of a newborn should see the art in this form of doll even if they don’t personally like them and if it happens to help with grief in some people then that is just an added benefit. Maybe doctors should try it instead of over-prescribing drugs?


  1. Are These the Weirdest Dolls Ever? Lifelike ‘Reborn’ Babies Have Nails, Hair, Eyelashes, and Even Saliva. Daily Mail, 30th May 2011.
  2. Meet the Reborns: The Incredible Lifelike Dolls that Cost Hundreds of Dollars and Even Come with Birth Certificates and Human Hair. Daily Mail, 17th July 2012.
  3. Fake Babies, Fake Lives. Dr. Keith Ablow. Fox News, 28th June 2011.
  4. Reborn Dolls and Miscarriage Healing. Bella Online, Miscarriage News 2012.
  5. Midwife Terri Coates: If I cried they'd keep the scene. I couldn't help it, it was so real. The Sun, 28th January 2012.

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