Reborn Babies – not what you think

I’m not easily shocked. But I was left speechless today. A good friend of mine regaled me with her recent experience of meeting the parent of a reborn baby. Want to see some – check this out. I do appreciate the craftsmanship.

Never heard of them? Neither had I.  Apparently they have been around since the 1990’s. Where have I been?

Turns out the 60+ year old seemingly normal gentleman and his wife had adopted a reborn baby. Simply put it is a silicone doll. But not just any doll. It is so cleverly crafted that the really good quality ones are VERY lifelike. There have been instances of police being called to rescue babies left in a car only to find that on opening the door, it is a reborn baby doll.

Picture credit – Google images

The birthing was so emotional they were reduced to tears. Some creators of these dolls provide a full on ‘birthing’ experience as part of the adoption process. From what I’ve seen on YouTube most reborns arrive packed in boxes. The baby is wrapped in a bunny rug, it’s head wrapped in tissue paper, or in one video I saw, a nappy. I suppose it stops the head from breaking. Ewwww. Seems so wrong when you see the reborn emerge, looking like a real baby.

It transpires that this couple had purchased a good quality one. They can be very expensive – anything from a few hundred dollars to many thousands.  Thus far it has cost them over AUD10,000.00. That includes the cost of the doll, setting up a nursery, buying all the requisite baby gear as you would for any  newborn. Really truly like it was an actual living baby. He complained that their baby had gone from 4 hourly feeding to 2 hourly and his wife was exhausted, unable to do anything else but care for the baby.

On an online forum someone complained that their baby had gastro.  WTF?! (excuse the language…) Who in their right mind wants a pretend baby with diarrhoea?

He went on to describe a life that revolved around their baby to the extent that his wife is now breastfeeding it. For real. She has started lactating.  Formula is a supplementary feed if she does not have enough milk. Their weekly shop includes nappies, formula, and other baby essentials, including maternity bras. They have introduced their baby to their adult children, neighbours and friends with mixed reactions. I wonder why. To be honest I wondered why to most of what I heard.

Not only are they planning a big first birthday bash, pony rides included, there are plans to adopt another. The baby ‘grows’ and develops. As with all proud new parents he rattled off birth weight, length and current weight.

Apparently there is a large world-wide community of reborn baby families.  I felt like I had stepped into some weird, surreal alternative reality, listening as the story unfolded, revealing more and more bizarre facts. I am the first to acknowledge that life-like babies can provide a useful therapeutic adjunct to those suffering loss and grief of a child. And as therapy aids for the elderly.

But what I heard today went way beyond that. When I googled for images, I came across a Harry Potter reborn, a couple of blue Avatar aliens, a zombie reborn….

According to Wikipedia, the craft of making reborn dolls began in the United States in the late 1990s. Reborning follows a long tradition of collectors, artists, and manufacturers restoring and enhancing dolls in order to portray more realism. The internet has allowed doll artists and collectors to create an online society focused on reborn dolls.  In 2002, the first reborn was offered on eBay.This has expanded the reborn market allowing artists to open online stores which function figuratively as nurseries. The niche market for the dolls began with doll collectors who admired the superior lifelike accuracy of the doll. The market quickly reached those who wanted to use the doll as an emotional outlet, either to mother or for therapeutic purposes. Mass media coverage has helped to develop the phenomenon in other countries.  Reborning enjoys popularity in the United Kingdom and Australia, but has also reached Canada, the rest of Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Doll manufacturers have also taken advantage of the trend and sell supplies, tools, and accessories catering to reborn followers. This has allowed reborners to invent new techniques causing the dolls to become increasingly realistic over time. Magazines, books, organizations, and conventions dedicated to reborn dolls have been started as a result of this popularity.

This has left me feeling deeply disturbed. For many reasons.

What do you think?

Raili Tanska

Love your kids – unconditionally 

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30 thoughts on “Reborn Babies – not what you think

  1. Well, fortunately, this time, the “like” button has disappeared again! My first response was immense sadness that people are so emotionally malnourished that they have to do this. The second thought is that we appear to be going into an age of robots. I read a study on how young people can actually feel sad, love, anger, empathy, sympathy, admiration, jelousy etc for robots. The sex toy female robots are quite amazing if you have seen them. So, babies are a logical spinoff. In all robot situations, we can experience life without the hassle of doing the work, caring for an actual baby or having a relationship with a real person….

    1. The thing with the reborns though, is that people actually DO the caring work. They talk about their babies as if they were alive, They complain about sleepless nights, sick babies – you name it, it’s all there for those who have plunged into the deep end of owning a baby suibstitute. The babies can be manipulated so they ‘grow’, they can be upgraded so they ‘age’ and progress through milestones….. I agree, I feel an immense sadness too. Emotional malnourishment is a good word to describe the phenomena.

  2. I remember the first time I saw one of these on ebay ages ago. There was absoluteky nothing in the description that said it *wasn’t* a real baby and everyone thought they were selling newborns on ebay!…I don’t know. I say watch ‘My Monkey Baby’ on TLC and call it a day.

      1. It’s a BIZARRE show that used to be on TLC here about 10 years ago, and is *exactly* what it sounds like…I couldn’t take my eyes off it so I’m glad it got canceled! 😂😂😂

  3. We occasionally get reborns in Oxfam. Our previous had a deep-rooted horror of them. She’d pick them up between two fingers and gingerly place them in the skip, taking care not to touch the doll itself. I’d pull them out, price them and put them in the window and they’d sell within a couple of hours. We had one whose tragic expression suggested it was being tortured – even that one sold.

    In the early 2000’s there was a lot of concern over schoolgirls whose one ambition was to get pregnant so they wouldn’t have to go out to work. To combat this wish schools purchased reborns that cried, supped and performed the obvious bodily functions. They’d loan them out to these girls, most of whom were my customers. It was weird, and I was fooled the first couple of times. You could tell how long the things had been in their possession by their reaction when they cried. I don’t know if it worked as a deterrent, but the experiment ceased after a season. Maybe the girls realised that they might feel differently about a baby built from their own flesh.

    1. I well remember that trend of using dolls to teach the realities of parenting. It was here too. Now that you mention it, I don’t recall hearing about its use the last few years. Perhaps it did not work as well as expected.
      It seems this whole reborn thing has quite a following. I can appreciate the skill that goes into creating the doll. Although, as Elizabeth said, most of the work seems to go into making the head.
      What concerns me is the deep bonding that seems to be a large part of owning such a doll – for some. It becomes all consuming, with the doll taking over the life of its owner as if it were a real baby.

      1. There’s something very sad about it; a lump of silicone purchased to fill a hole in the heart – better than nothing, but not as good as facing reality, moving forward and finding something real to fulfil you. I’d prescribe charity work as a cure.

        This kind of make-believe can be a real blessing for some. A young woman I knew with special needs – the sort of person we once would have referred to as simple – had a baby doll. It wasn’t a reborn doll, just one from a toyshop. She was very proud of her ‘baby’ and playing mother seemed to complete her.

      2. It’s with mixed reaction that I read about these reborns. Like you, I can understand the therapeutic value of having a doll to cuddle for some.
        But to turn them into a real baby substitute is a leap too far.

    1. I think the idea that judgement is a bad thing is a bad thing. Humans have evolved to use judgement in every action we do. Judgement is a survival tool. It has done us well. Without some kind of discernment, we can get pulled into some tricky situations. It is true “to each their own”, and some people do some very peculiar things without doubt! This post was an eye opener to me. I don’t like the reborn idea in case it could lead to some “tricky” psychological situations. That’s me using my discernment and judging that there are probably unintentional consequences of “raising” a reborn unknown to me. I suppose it might also be called caution? However, I think the reborns I have looked at are pretty grotesque body wise (that’s judging the realness and authenticity of their bodies). Some have got cloth bodies, dolls really, and others have got unfortunate movable plastic joints. All the art seems to have gone into their faces. I found that very disappointing. I expected “real” everywhere. These were just some thoughts coming to my mind as I read your comment on not judging. That was a gracious thing to say – thank you.

      1. You know Elizabeth, the same thoughts have occurred to me about the bodies of these dolls. In order for them to maintain the illusion, they must be clothed. Taking that metaphor the next step, covering up something that is not right, does not make it OK. The uses to which these reborns are put is what concerns me. I can see therapeutic value. Equally I can see possibly well intentioned but misguided attempts to fill a void.

    2. Like Elizabeth, Elaine, I have strong reservations about this trend of anthropomorphising dolls. Particularly to the depths that some seem to take it. It is not healthy. You may like to read Elizabeth’s and my comments.

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