Parenting these infants is a dream: They behave and sleep like a doll — because that’s what they are.
For some families in Iran, the prospect of having more children poses too much of an economic or emotional burden, but they still want another kid around — so many are turning to Maryam Aghayee’s hyper-realistic baby dolls as an alternative to a living infant.
“Many of the customers for these ‘Reborn’ baby dolls are those whose children are complaining of being only-children in their families, wanting a sibling,” Aghayee, 24, told Reuters. Her toys let parents quell their kids’ requests without actually birthing another human.
“Parents provide them with these dolls to stop their nagging and complaining,” she said.
Aghayee began fabricating dolls for fun, finding joy in coloring rosy cheeks into the silicon she uses for their faces and applying their delicate eyelashes and hair for a lifelike final look. While initially begun as a hobby, her “Reborn” baby dolls were so impressive that, after she finished the second one, she began receiving orders from people who wanted them.
While many buyers purchase the lifelike dolls to serve as surrogates in lieu of having more children, she says grieving mothers are also finding solace in them, as are lonely, sibling-less youngsters.
“The custom of having one child is largely due to expenses and the economic situation,” Aghayee reflected on Iranian families’ tendency to not have multiple children. “But they don’t realize that having a real sibling cannot be replaced in this way.”
One customer, Mojagn Zabhipour, bought a doll from Aghayee to serve as a friend to her 5-year-old daughter Baran, who was repeatedly requesting another sibling. The pair now have frequent tea parties together and cuddle during bed time.
“The feeling of hugging this doll is exactly like the time my own child was a baby. When I hugged it, I remembered exactly when my child was a baby,” said Zabhipour. “These days families cannot even think about having three or four children.”
The dolls, while a sweet solution for some only-children’s loneliness, scrape the surface of a much larger, nationwide issue in Iran: A sharp, countrywide drop in fertility and mortality combined with increased education in public and reproductive health has left the country’s population growth at below 1%, according to the United Nations Population Fund and local media. If the trend continues, the Iranian health ministry said this month, Iran will be the world’s oldest country in the next 30 years, Reuters reported.
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