A reborn doll is a highly realistic vinyl doll that has been painted and otherwise modified in order to resemble a human baby as much as possible. The people who make these dolls typically do so on a very small scale, given the amount of detail and customization necessary for each doll. While the arts and crafts of creating a reborn doll are interesting and complex, most people tend to focus on the social aspects of owning a reborn doll when talking about these items. These dolls are so realistic that they are often used to replace human children, and they are sometimes confused with real infants.
Making a reborn doll involves taking parts of a vinyl play doll and painting each piece in a very realistic way. Hair is often added piece by piece, and details like veins may be included. While many dolls are made using a soft body with vinyl limbs and head, others include body parts like the chest or the rear. Certain doll kits are considered more suitable than others for these purposes, although any realistic doll kit will work. Special features, like a mechanism that makes the chest move such that the doll appears to breathe, can be added with relative ease.
Reborners, or people who own at least one reborn doll, often have a deep emotional bond with these dolls. These are not toys for children, but collectors' items for adults. Usually a person who buys a reborn doll will receive information about that doll's imaginary life and a fake birth certificate. Sometimes reborn doll enthusiasts will refer to this process as adoption rather than in commercial terms.
One of the major problems with these highly realistic dolls is that they can act as inappropriate surrogates for human children. From the perspective of the reborners, this attachment is certainly not inappropriate, or at least not more so than people who replace children with pets or other obsessions. Whether taking care of a doll like a human being is appropriate depends on the perspective, but many people find this practice disturbing.
While some people own many reborn dolls, it is common for people to have a single, very special doll, often modeled after a real infant. This doll is often treated like a living infant and may be regularly changed or even taken on walks in strollers out in public. One of the problems with bringing reborn dolls into public spaces is that people who do not understand that the doll is not an infant are sometimes revolted or confused. In fact, there have been several notable instances in which a reborn doll left in a car has drawn the attention of the police for fear that the doll was a child.