Women struggling with infertility have found a way to love and care for a little bundle of joy – a lifelike baby doll that can cost more than $20,000.
These creations, called “reborn dolls,” are hand-painted with details like freckles, rosy cheeks, specific facial expressions, skin textures, and even birthmarks.
And new mothers can opt for additional features, such as battery-operated “breathers,” human hair, or a scent that mixes baby powder and baby detergent.
Women gave these dolls names and personalities and dressed them in the latest fashions. While outsiders may be amazed by this unique collection, a growing community of women have “adopted” these almost real-looking babies, claiming that the new addition to the family has improved their lives.
Cassie Webber (pictured) had her uterus removed at the age of 25 after doctors discovered precancerous tissue. She originally had five godchildren, but when they moved away, she started looking after the reborn dolls. One is pictured above
Ms Webber said the dolls all had their own personalities. She said her first doll, Gideon (pictured), was a fan of glitter, bows and Peppa Pig. But she gets to know her second doll, Avie, which she won from an artist
Dolls are available for less than $50, but there is now a market where dolls are selling for more than $20,000 each
Doll therapy has long been used to treat patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Although the treatment is somewhat controversial, it appears to be supported by many mental health professionals.
Psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall told Today.com that many reborn collectors use their dolls to deal with grief, miscarriages or other types of loss. “For some women, doll ‘mothering’ allows control over variables in the relationship rather than responding to the needs of a real baby and supporting its development and growth.”
These “born-again moms” find each other online and form vibrant communities where they share sleep schedules, diaper changing tips, and other typical “new mom” topics.
Many people own more than one reborn doll. Cassie Webber is the mother of two reborn dolls, Gideon and Avie.
Webber was diagnosed with precancerous cancer and underwent a hysterectomy in 2017. “I was about 25,” she says. “A hysterectomy is a serious thing.” And if you think about it, I wanted to be a mother since I was a little girl.’
She stumbled upon a “day in the life” YouTube video featuring a reborn doll, which led her to extensive online communities.
Webber found comfort in her five godchildren, but some moved far away. When she became interested in reborn dolls, “it was about coming to terms with the loss of my godchildren and at the same time having something that I was missing.”
Gideon, her first doll, is three years old and loves glitter, bows and Peppa Pig. She loves jewelry, bracelets and anything girl related. Webber is still getting to know Avie, who is about 18 months old. She won the doll from an artist and asked that her facial features be modeled on her wife’s.
“I’m still getting used to them and understanding them because they all have kind of different personalities?” And I know it sounds silly, but even my mom sometimes said, “She looks a little weird today. “
At first, she says, it was scary to walk around with her first reborn doll.
She imagined people asking, “Why would you carry around a doll?” You’re an adult. You should get out of there,” but says that’s not the case at all. “I think it’s just so natural and normal.” And I get a lot of comments [online] and said, “Oh, I wish I could go and take my babies with me, and I wish I was brave.”
Psychologists say the dolls can be useful for cuddle therapy and can help people struggling with mental health issues
The Price of Parenthood
Although you can purchase a reborn doll for less than $50, most cost at least a few thousand dollars. The most expensive one we could find cost over $22,000. Webber’s dolls cost about $1,300 each.
Why do they cost so much? Time. The extreme attention to detail means these dolls require months of handwork by the artist. This includes sculpting facial expressions and fingernails out of silicone or vinyl, hand-painting skin textures, and “rooting” each strand of real human hair into the scalp.
Material costs also add up – especially if the doll has battery-operated “breathers” or a baby-like scent (often created by mixing baby powder and laundry detergent). A $6,500 doll on eBay has a removable umbilical cord and a realistic “drink and wet” feature.
The pictures above show three reborn dolls and their price tags
About Kim Komando
Sound like a tech pro even if you’re not! Award-winning, popular presenter Kim Komando is your secret weapon.
Listen to over 425 radio stations or get the podcast. And join over 500,000 people who subscribe to her free 5-minute daily email newsletter.
“I don’t hurt anyone”
Webber says no one has been rude or mean in public, although people are more brazen online.
“It’s interesting because as puppet people we’ve faltered a bit and it’s Dr. Phil episodes where people just think, ‘Oh, these crazy people,’ but they’re actually therapeutic and they help,” she says.
She said she takes it in her stride if someone isn’t ready to understand.
“I’m not hurting anyone.” And at the end of the day, I’m just being creative. “I love writing and I love creating stories and bringing them to life.”
Caring for reborn dolls has another advantage that doesn’t apply to real children.
“You don’t have to worry about them every day and you get a break,” says Webber. “She’s just in her room hanging out. And whenever I just want to spend some time with her first, we get ready and then we go do something, whether it’s going to the park or painting here.”