Reborn babies: The growing fascination with lifelike dolls

WILLIAM WRIGHT Lifestyles Editor
Posted 2/3/16

Interest in lifelike reborn babies has increased in the past few years, making these carefully crafted, hand-sculpted dolls a cross-cultural phenomenon for many seniors, childless couples, …

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Reborn babies: The growing fascination with lifelike dolls


Interest in lifelike reborn babies has increased in the past few years, making these carefully crafted, hand-sculpted dolls a cross-cultural phenomenon for many seniors, childless couples, nurturing women and responsible families looking for alternatives to giving birth.

The psychology behind the growing popularity of owning these meticulously made dolls is rather complex, according to experts, who link therapeutic results to having such a doll especially after losing a child, suffering from the inability to conceive a child, to replace the loneliness of never having had a child or as one owner said, “There’s something soothing about holding a baby.”

Artists who create these heirloom infants are often called “reborners.” Jeanette Neaton is a reborn artist who specializes in creating amazingly lifelike baby dolls in Cleveland. Her dolls have become popular around the world, even in places like Tazmania, Ukraine and remote parts of China.

“I feel that reborn babies have such an appeal because they are so lifelike and everyone loves babies,” Neaton said. “They seem to be getting more and more popular. It’s not slacking off at all. I mean, there are times when I literally can’t keep up with the demand.”

Neaton said she believes her reborn dolls, all designed to resemble human babies with as much realism as possible, are going out primarily to women between the ages of 35 to 45, “Where they are done having their children and they want another baby in their arms. That’s just my opinion,” she said. “That just seems to be most of my customers. Then I have children of Alzheimer’s patients looking to buy their mothers a doll. I get that every so often.”

According to, there are several cases when reborn dolls produced positive effects in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.

“Primarily, reborn doll therapy success in patients is credited to the reduction of patients’ dependency on psychotropic medications,” the article said. “Female dementia patients respond positive to reborns as these dolls help them reminisce to the times when they were still housewives and very productive. As they adopt the reborn doll in their therapy, the patients’ memories as parents are recollected. As they consider the doll their child, it will revive the moments in their lives when they were useful, productive, being loved, and being able to love.”

Neaton indicated that it is not unusual for someone to want to give a reborn as a gift to their spouse or mate for other reasons. She explained, “If a guy was going to give his wife one for Valentine’s Day, I would picture a couple wanting to have a baby but can’t afford it, and this would be like the promise of a real baby to come — something to cuddle and to love until she has her own.”

When asked about the growing fascination with reborns, Neaton reasoned, “When we see a beautiful newborn baby our heart just melts. They are so sweet! We want to hold them. My reborn babies make you feel the same way because they are so real looking.”

She said she names each baby she “brings to life,” giving these living dolls an ID bracelet, hospital ID band and a reborn “birth certificate.” At the same time, she admits that parting with her reborns can be extremely difficult.

“Giving one of my babies to her adoptive mom after spending so much time bringing him or her to life is like giving up a part of myself,” she said. “But I think of the joy my baby will bring to her new mom and it makes me happy.”

Many women are said to collect reborns after suffering the loss of a baby or repeated miscarriages. Others simply enjoy playing the role of a mother to lifelike dolls who never age. Experts say fulfilling the dream to be a mother is an incredibly powerful driving force in millions of women around the world and reborn babies have become an answer for many of them.

Although genuine Reborn dolls may range from as low as $400 to as high as $15,000, many have found them to be less expensive than a formal adoption process while giving some females the opportunity to role-play and experience a hint of what it’s like to be a mother.

Neaton said she started making dolls nearly three decades ago, starting with “Cabbage Patch” dolls. She then moved on to soft sculptured dolls.

“When I first heard about reborn babies I wanted one for myself,” she said. “I searched the Internet and found one I liked. It cost $2,500. I was not willing to pay that much for a doll so I decided to try and make the doll myself.”

For Neaton, owner of Jeanette’s Little Blessings Nursery, the rest is history. She calls her ability to design a vinyl doll to resemble a human baby with as much realism as possible, “one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me.”

What was once a hobby suddenly became her passion and a labor of love that is both fulfilling and rewarding as much as anything she could ever imagine.

Whether you agree that reborn dolls have therapeutic value in easing emotional trauma, reviving fond memories of being a parent or is a way for some women to enjoy the advantages of looking after a baby without having to deal with the disadvantages, the fact is, these amazingly lifelike dolls — though artificial, have touched something genuine in the hearts of those who love their dolls.

For further information, email Jeanette Neaton at or call 423-479-5586.


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