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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Dolls cry out against teen mums
Martha Faulkner at 0330
At 0330, Martha Faulkner just wanted to sleep
Lifelike dolls are introducing Bristol teenagers to the joys of motherhood - by keeping them awake at night.

The crying dolls are part of an effort to reduce teenage pregnancies.

They are programmed to wake at all hours and bawl for up to half an hour, before being cuddled to sleep.

Martha Faulkner, 15, said after taking one home: "That was the worst night of my life."

It's about 3.30am and this baby has been crying for about 15 minutes. I am really starting to dislike it now

Martha Faulkner
About 80 pupils at Fairfield High School in Bristol have volunteered to look after the dolls.

Avon Health Authority is trying to reduce teenage pregnancy by 50% within nine years.

Swindon has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the country, but Bristol is not far behind, with 226 under-18s conceiving each year.

It is hoped the reality of crying babies will bring home the commitment needed to bring up a child.

Night shift

Martha Faulkner was given a BBC video camera so she could keep a diary of her night with the doll.

"It's 10.45pm and the baby has just stopped crying," she recorded.

"I think he might go to sleep now, but I am not really looking forward to the night ahead.

Martha and baby
Martha did not fancy teenage motherhood
But the nightshift soon started and Martha experienced a series of abrupt interruptions to her sleep.

"It's about 3.30am and this baby has been crying for about 15 minutes," complains an exhausted Martha on the tape.

"I am really starting to dislike it now.

"The one thing that I really want to do is to have the rest of the night in peace."

Afterwards she declared: "People who have decided to have children at a young age probably shouldn't - because it is so much hard work and responsibility."

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See also:

22 Mar 01 | Health
Drop in teenage pregnancies
08 Mar 01 | Health
Contraception fails UK youth
22 Feb 01 | Education
Breaking the cycle of teen pregnancy
17 Jun 99 | Teen pregnancy
Teenage pregnancy: The reaction
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