Chandler woman makes dolls that ‘calm and smoothe’ - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler woman makes dolls that ‘calm and smoothe’

October 1st, 2021 development
Chandler woman makes dolls that ‘calm and smoothe’

By Paul Maryniak, Executive Editor

Ann Baum’s business didn’t start out as one.

Close to 40 years ago, the South Chandler woman made some “comfort dolls” almost as a charitable hobby, but put then put it aside “for a good number of years” as life carried her along in other directions.

She picked up making them a few years ago, and now thinks the dolls are even more popular because the anxiety created by the pandemic has made them particularly useful.

To understand the impact of the dolls, Baum recalled the first one she made decades ago for a young family friend who had been born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

He was a lonely young boy and few people wanted anything to do with him.

So she traced his body to make one that matched his size, dressing it in some of his clothes.

“He and that doll were inseparable,” Baum said. “That was his best friend. He would watch TV with it, go to bed with it wrapped around him.”

In recent years, she redesigned the doll and the results have been “more wonderful responses.”

“These dolls have gone to memory care facilities and the residents find lots of fun and comforting interactions with them,” she said. “They’ve gone to autistic children, to veterans and children who needed some comfort after a traumatic incident in their life –  really, anyone who needs to have a tactile or comforting experience.”

Baum took some to a memory care facility in Chandler not long ago, recalling, “I was amazed at the response” from the residents.

“One lady said, ‘Oh there’s Addison,’ her 5-year-old granddaughter. One lady stood up and danced with it. One man, a dignified former executive with Alzheimer’s, put it in his lap and wouldn’t let it go. He just laid his head into it.”

In some ways, Baum continues to be surprised by the reactions of people who come in contact with the dolls. “You wouldn’t think some cloth and some fiberfill would have that affect but it does.”

Baum has improved on her design from the first one 40 years ago, but she still makes them without a pattern because “I can’t do patterns.”

Between 18 and 24 inches tall, the dolls consist of “soft, tactile fabrics generously stuffed with hypoallergenic fiberfill to give softness and substance,” she explained.

Weighing about five pounds, each doll is dressed in baby clothes, a diaper and socks that the owner can put on and take off.

No two are alike and they have no faces “so that each individual who interacts with the doll can apply their own interpretation.” However, she said she tries to put a hat or headband on their head.

“I look for low tech options to enhance the quality of people’s lives,” Baum said.

“Because these dolls give a sense of weight and are made with cozy, tactile fabrics, they are a perfect remedy for providing a sense of calm and constant friendship,” Baum said. “They provide a sense of ‘presence.’  Comfort dolls are always ready to be by one’s side, ready to be loved and to love. A comfort doll is not just a toy. It’s a gift of companionship and unconditional love.”

“Honestly, when I’m done sewing one, I usually hug it,” Baum added.

She said she has witnessed the dolls’ impact in so many ways – as nurture therapy, a conversation starter and a calming presence that can lull someone to sleep. Or they create a distraction from a particularly upsetting event or just provide “endless hours of hugs and smiles,” she said.

In other words, Baum added, the dolls have become “a non-drug way to calm and soothe.”

She can dress the dolls in the recipient’s favorite color. For example, one woman who wanted a doll for her mother, a memory care facility resident, “said her mom likes purple, so I put on a purple dress and she said it was perfect, that her mother took to it right away.”

But she added, “I can’t custom-make them because I’m not a  master craftsperson.”

“By any means, they are not perfect,” she said. “But then, neither are we perfect.”

The dolls range in price from $35-$55. To order a doll or find one that may already have been made, email: