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Reborning Dolls

Updated on August 1, 2014

All About the World of Creating Super Realistic Baby Dolls

Years ago I noticed ads for beautiful and artistic baby dolls in the back of my grandmother's Good Housekeeping magazine. I was intrigued. As an 11 year old I was very interested in realistic dolls. My baby dolls growing up had never been real enough for me. They were too light and too small and too plastic.

But I didn't really give much thought to the dolls in the magazine. They were for collectors, not little girls like me.

Now twenty years later, I stumbled on a Jezebel article about women who have stunningly realistic baby dolls. I learned that the process of creating them is called reborning and that there are many reasons why someone might have a desire for one.

They've come a long way since the 90s! These dolls are sized and weighted like real babies!

{picture is a finished Gabriel by Michelle Fagan from}

Why Reborn Dolls?

On one of the Youtube videos about reborning dolls a person says, "I don't get it."

The fact is, you don't have to get it. There's a lot of different reasons why someone would collect these dolls and if it's not something you want to do...then don't! Simple as that.

So what are some of those reasons?

  • Collecting a piece of incredible art. There's a lot of skill that goes into making a doll look so real that people on the street mistake it for a baby!
  • Empty nest syndrome. For some whose children have grown up and moved on to their own lives, it's tough not to have that little baby to nurture anymore. A doll can be a comfort to these parents and help them let their child grow up.
  • Suffering a loss. For some people who have suffered a miscarriage or lost a baby, they get a doll made as a memorial. If it helps them cope, I don't see any problem with that.
  • Simple comfort. For some of us there is a strong built in love that comes with holding an infant. Placing a realistic baby doll in your arms can cause the same chemical reactions of peace, love, and comfort that holding a real baby would.
  • Struggling with infertility. When your biological clock hits hard and your body isn't able to provide a baby right away, a doll can help ease the longing. It's up to each couple with infertility to decide how to move forward in their quest to be parents and some may choose not to pursue it further. Others may struggle for years, whether with medical treatments or waiting on adoptions. A baby doll can be a great comfort through that.
  • Easily fulfills maternal instinct. Some women know that they don't want the responsibilities of a real child but they still find themselves with a bit of a mothering urge. A baby doll is an easy way to give that nurturing without the responsibility of a pet or other substitute.
  • It's not the right time. A teenager or young person with parental yearnings can use a doll to help ease the desire until a better time in her or his life.

Reborning in the Media - Talk shows love to sensationalize this hobby

Take the psychoanalyzing with a grain of salt!

Why Am I Interested In It?

I'm one of those struggling with infertility.

My desire for a baby is overwhelming. I sometimes feel like my blood itself is screaming for an infant. I've had these feelings intensify over the last four years and I have very little outlet. Despite my dog and cat, I yearn to cuddle a baby.

I want a reborn baby doll to put that nurturing into while I go through the process of doctors appointments and medical treatments.

But, I've never met a craft I didn't want to try myself, so I decided to learn how to reborn and create my own baby doll!

If you don't want to make your own - (At some point I'm sure I'll be selling them and I'll be sure to let you know when I do!)

There's a lot of dolls up on Ebay and Etsy. Just be cautious when purchasing. These are very expensive items! High quality materials and great artistry means these dolls are several hundred dollars.

Before buying from someone, pay attention to their reviews, maybe look them up on a doll forum, and do a google image search on the pictures from their listing to see if it is the actual doll they created or another artist's image.

Also make sure that what you are bidding on is a finished doll and not a kit to make yourself. Most kit listings have an image of a finished doll to give you an idea of what it could look like finished.

How to Get Started

When I started looking into it, I decided that I wanted to get a complete beginner's package. I wanted one kit that would have every material I would need to create my first doll in one place!

(Most "kits" are head and limbs only, since a lot of these materials you'll be able to use more than once before you run out)

I found that sells just such a kit with every single thing you could need in one. For around $150, I think that's really worth it. (I tried pricing out all the individual items and it was exhausting and kind of pointless, since literally everything is in these kits except for the limb plugs).

Just look at that list of supplies! It's making me giddy with desire just looking at it!

I am saving up my money for one of these kits. Once I've done it and have a bunch of the supplies, then buying the limb and head kits with the few other things needed will be a lot more affordable.

Here are some video tutorials

Bountiful baby's kits come with a DVD and that whole DVD is now available on You Tube so you can get an idea of what you'll be getting yourself into!

There's a lot of different techniques out there, so I recommend watching all the videos available to figure out the different options you have.

Supplies - Some other supplies that you might want to have

Luminaire Acrylic Air Dry Reborn Doll Paint Basic Set 9 Colors
Luminaire Acrylic Air Dry Reborn Doll Paint Basic Set 9 Colors

These paints set in the air and don't require heat but some people don't think they make as realistic an end result

Professional Glass Beads For Doll Making and Reborning! 5 Lb. Bag
Professional Glass Beads For Doll Making and Reborning! 5 Lb. Bag

This is the material to fill your doll with. Sand can leak or discolor the doll. Sand also has restrictions on transportation. You'll want to put these glass beads into a nylon or gloves

Sponge Kit For Re-borning
Sponge Kit For Re-borning

These sponges make good mottling effects for your baby's skin.

Heat Gun Perfect for Genesis Paints Useful for Reborning and other general craft projects!
Heat Gun Perfect for Genesis Paints Useful for Reborning and other general craft projects!

This is one way to set the Genesis paints without using your oven (can be dangerous to use your food oven for vinyl)

Nuwave 20326 Pro Digital-Controlled Infrared Tabletop Oven, Black
Nuwave 20326 Pro Digital-Controlled Infrared Tabletop Oven, Black

I've been reading about how some people are using NuWave ovens to set the Genesis paints. Setting 6 or 7 for 8 to 9 minutes.


Did You Know?

  • The realistic skin effects are created by painting extremely thin layers over the doll's vinyl (and when using certain paints you lightly bake the doll for each layer to set it!)
  • The practice started in the early 90s when people would modify factory baby dolls to make them more realistic. Now you can buy blank dolls made just for this purpose.
  • Each available blank doll is a "sculpt" created first in clay and then translated to vinyl by an artist. You'll start to recognize names of artists and doll templates. Some of them are limited editions.
  • You can add to the realism by getting a heart beat box, a voice box, and/or a breathing mechanism inside the doll
  • Some dolls have open eyes and others closed (they don't swing open and closed like in regular children's dolls)
  • You can create a pacifier (dummy) by attaching a magnet inside the dolls head and another one to the base of a regular pacifier
  • You can get belly plates and back plates to cover the cloth bodies for pictures (the cloth bodies feel more realistic)

Message Boards

Message boards are always a great place to learn more about a craft and make friends who have similar interests!

My Favorites - Dolls that are too "cutesy" hit the "uncanny valley effect" for me. I like them subtle and believable!

Click thumbnail to view full-size

My Reborning - I started doing it and here's some photos of the process of my first one...

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sculpt is called "Kate"
Sculpt is called "Kate"
Sculpt is called "Kate"

My first doll up for sale! - I have her at a bargain price because she's my first one

Check out the results of my first reborn experience...

UPDATE: And she sold! Quite a thrill. I'll be back selling more for sure!

Role Play

On YouTube it's easy to find people playing with their dolls as though they were real babies for some fun role play...


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