The World Of Reborn Babies

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It might sound like a strange hobby, but a growing number of people are into collecting reborn babies – vinyl dolls that look exactly like real newborns. Here’s an insight into this unusual world. 
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Chances are you’ve never come across reborn babies, but these hyper-real dolls have a huge and increasing fan base. The craze for reborn dolls began in around 1999, when collectors began demanding more realistic dolls. And there’s no doubt that these babies are eerily lifelike, with the same rashes, wrinkles and other quirks you’ll see on real live newborns.
 
Creating the dolls is a labour of love, with reborn artists spending hours making sure that the skin colour is exactly the right shade and the anatomy absolutely perfect. Completed dolls are expensive – prices start at around £50, but can go into the thousands – which reflects the amount of work that goes into them.
 
Making the dolls is a serious business – so much so that a group was formed to maintain standards, the International Reborn Doll Artists. Any artist can join, but members must adhere to the group’s guidelines. The craft even has its own terminology – the art of creating a reborn doll is called ‘reborning’, while the artists themselves are known as ‘reborners’. 
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If you’re not prepared to pay thousands, or simply fancy having a go at being an artist yourself, you can buy a reborn baby doll kit for less than £50. For this you’ll get a life-sized vinyl doll that’s ready for painting. Creating a finished doll is a painstaking process, which involves many layers of specially formulated paint. There are a number of techniques that give the baby its realistic skin, which even features veins and mottling.
 
Once they’re painted, the babies are stuffed and weighted, which makes them as cuddly as a real baby. Hair and eyelashes – made from high-quality mohair – are also added. Each strand of hair is rooted using a special needle, a process that can take days. Hands and feet are carefully manicured, and nostrils are opened to make the face more lifelike.
 
The final step is to dress the baby in cute reborn baby clothes, adding extra touches like dummies and hair ribbons. Some dolls even have a heartbeat, and react to your touch by cooing and gurgling. Others will wiggle their feet when you tickle them. 

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Reborn doll collectors come in different guises – some are doll fans looking to expand their collections. Others are women who’ve perhaps lost a baby, and are using the dolls to help them through the grieving process. But for many others it’s simply a bit of fun – a way to experience motherhood without the nappy changes and 3am wake-up calls.
 
Either way, many owners take their role seriously – tucking up their babies in bed and treating them like real infants. They can even get their ‘parents’ into trouble – Australian police recently broke into a car to free a lone newborn, which turned out to be a reborn.
 
There’s a social side to collecting, too, as fans have plenty of opportunity to connect with each other. There’s a Reborn Babies Club with a Facebook page, where mothers of reborns can feel comfortable posting photos and sharing stories about their dolls. There are also forums like Reborn Babies UK, where fans discuss their hobby and arrange to meet.
 
But, be warned – like many hobbies, collecting reborn babies can be addictive. Some women have more than 100 in their collection.
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