When an Edmonton mother of three wanted to explain the birthing and breastfeeding process to her young children, she decided a birthing doll would help explain it better than she could with words alone.
Adriana Guerra had seen birthing dolls while training to be a doula, and decided to make her own for her children to play with, and learn from.
“One of my trainers had a little doll from Brazil, and it was a birthing doll,” she recalls.
“I looked at it, and I said ‘oh this is a great tool.’ I made one for my own children because I was expecting my third child, and we used it as a learning tool – about how the birth was going to go.”
Imagine a simple, soft material doll, much like a Cabbage Patch Kid, with an opening for a baby doll to emerge.
The dolls come with an infant that inserts into a tummy pouch; created by a second layer of fabric sewn across the mother doll’s front, with an opening at the bottom. The doll also comes with a detachable placenta and umbilical cord.
“They can show a mother that is pregnant, they can see how the baby is inside the belly, then they can see the birth of the baby, and the baby comes with a placenta and a cord, and they can talk about the placenta and the cord – what they are and what they’re used for,” Guerra explains.
Simplicity was a key focus for Guerra. She wanted her children to understand the basics, without being overwhelmed with too much confusing detail.
“The idea of showing how a birth happens in a natural way, in a very simple way, it is a way to learn, to keep them interested,” she says.
“I think it is a very, very good learning tool because children learn through play.”
Each infant has a snap on its mouth that can be attached to a snap on the mother doll’s nipples to mimic the breastfeeding process.
By including education at a young age, Guerra believes a child’s comfort level when it comes to experiences like childbirth and breastfeeding will be improved.
“He learns this is the way children come into the world. When he is an adult, he will carry on with that belief, and things are not going to be scary, they’re not going to be unnatural.”
When the dolls were initially conceived in 2007, Guerra was studying to be a doula. Her fellow students soon caught wind of her birthing dolls, and wanted some of their own. After that, the demand continued to grow.
“Immediately after, my doula colleagues started to request some, family wanted some, friends… and it ended up being a business.”
In 2008, Guerra started the company “MamAmor Dolls” to sell her creations. In Spanish, the name means “mother love.”
They’ve since been used by expectant parents; to give older children an idea of what’s to come, as well as midwives, doulas, and sexual education teachers.
“This is the best way to do it, just tell them exactly what’s happening with a tool that’s simple and visual.”
There are numerous styles and skin colours, and the dolls can even be custom-made to resemble a customer upon request. There are also caesarean versions of MamAmor Dolls. Guerra says they’re recommended for children ages 3 and older. They cost between $160 and $200, and Guerra says she’s already sold 400 this year. Most of her business comes from online sales. She has since employed five Edmonton workers and two women from Uruquay to help her sew the dolls.
Guerra says MamAmor dolls are all about showing children that childbirth and breastfeeding are natural life processes, and nothing to be squeamish about. She’s seen the benefits of the dolls – and the conversation they spark – firsthand.
“Play is a fabulous way of teaching them about the world, and something that is very natural in humans is birth,” she says.
Guerra believes incorporating birth into regular play makes it more natural, comfortable, and establishes these processes as a part of life. Guerra believes children deserve to hear the truth about childbirth.
“Children need to know the truth. These days, children are really smart. They really need to know what happens. You don’t have to go into details,” she says, adding the level of conversation would depend on the age of the child.
“I truly think it’s important to tell them things are the way they are,” she adds.
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With files from Su-Ling Goh