Before any parent begins breastfeeding, we are told that it is the most natural thing in the world — which, yeah, we are mammals — and it’s hard to imagine you would need any newfangled breastfeeding inventions to help us along. If only! While celebrating this World Breastfeeding Week, we would like to take a moment to give thanks for the many inventions, gadgets, innovations, and tricks available to make nursing possible for all kinds of parents.
Between our modern lifestyles and our flawed human bodies, nursing moms very quickly discover that making milk and serving it up isn’t always as simple as whipping out our boobs and popping on a baby mouth. I mean, sometimes it’s that easy, if you’re lucky. But sometimes, you get dealt the hand of low milk supply (raises hand), a baby with a tongue tie that rips your nipples to shreds (also me), excessive milk supply, a baby who can’t latch, inverted nipples, clogged milk ducts, or, scariest of all, a baby in the NICU who isn’t quite ready for direct nursing. For all of this, we are so grateful to live in a world where there are clever, enterprising people who have come up with inventions for all of our breastfeeding needs. Our babies need not starve or drink formula (though the latter is also OK).
So, we arm ourselves with nipple shields, nipple shells, nipple butter, and nursing pads. We drink teas and coffees filled with herbal supplements — the inventions of our ancestors! — to boost our supply. And we settle our babies comfortably onto specially contoured nursing pillows with attractive, machine-washable covers. But then we are faced with one more breastfeeding dilemma: Do we remain with this babe attached to our bosom for the next six months to two years? Or dare we step back and let someone else feed them too?
By the way, our ancestors also came up with a breastfeeding invention to solve that one: the wet nurse. But for our times, if we choose to step away from our kids, we have a slightly more palatable option, the breast pump. Hallelujah to that milk-extracting machine, even though it makes us feel quite like dairy cows in a factory farm. Pumping can help us maintain a good milk supply, and it can make it possible for us to leave the house without exploding. And to make pumping work, we also have seen the invention of other necessary accessories, such as special bottles for breastfeeding babies not used to the feel of an artificial nipple.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the breastfeeding innovation all parents have
needed the most: Acceptance of the importance of breastfeeding, and adapting our public spaces and workplaces to make it possible. Without having a time and place to feed our babies, mothers would have to decide between nursing and switching them entirely to formula. World Breastfeeding Week is a symbol of the effort made to get us to this point.
Take a moment to enjoy how far we’ve come, and to see if any of these breastfeeding inventions might make your life just a little bit easier.
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