It’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and to celebrate we decided to hop in our time machine and go back to what breastfeeding was like for our grandparents’ generation! Our societal norms definitely have changed – from work, to technology, to popular culture media, breastfeeding has gotten a few makeovers. Without the following innovations in the lactation world, we might still be at only a 25% rate of breastfeeding initiation with new mothers (lowest U.S. rate ever) and using breast pumps that look like they’d be more efficient as bicycle horns. Luckily, we are in the age of smart phones and smarter people!
Work Culture – Women, the 70s, and the workforce? Women have had a bumpy ride earning a spot in the workplace in the 60s and 70s, and then add parenting, breastfeeding, and pumping onto that! There was a decline in breastfeeding rates before and during the 70s that was a result of formula culture and working full time, mixed with the lack of cultural support to maintain breastfeeding. Women were fighting for equal social and economic rights, but the lactation world was a bit slower to catch up with the needs of the new working mom.
Thankfully, there have been recent strides with breastfeeding women in the U.S. and the rate of working women that breastfed rose from 29.2% in 1975 to 58.8% in 1994. That is over a quarter (almost a third) increase in about 20 years! One awesome innovation made in the American workplace to accommodate breastfeeding women was the introduction of pumping/lactation rooms. Lactation rooms are designed to give mothers a private, comfortable and safe place to pump and store their milk, as well as a place to clean and organize their pumping accessories. Imagine what it would have been like if older generations had utilized this concept?
Legislation – The mothers of our family worked hard, but probably didn’t have the rights to guarantee a safe place to pump during their work days. Honestly, workplace culture possibly wouldn’t have changed as quickly without the legislation passed to support lactation rooms. An important change to the breastfeeding and legal world was legislation passed under the Affordable Care Act in 2010 that ensures women more security when it comes to their breastfeeding at work. It became federal law that employers must provide a place for employees to express their milk, besides a bathroom, until the baby of the employee is one-years-old.
Another breakthrough: it is officially legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states in the U.S. (yay!!). But, just because it’s now legal doesn’t mean that our grandmothers weren’t feeding their babies in public regardless. An article published by The New York Times in 1973 about breastfeeding in public shares the same sentiments many breastfeeding women of today have. To summarize, a woman was at a restaurant for a dinner party and her baby was hungry, so she decided to breastfeed at the party. She expresses that it was natural for her to do so and even though some people gave her rude looks, she didn’t mind as long as her child was fed. Breastfeeding in public has become more normalized in recent years, and we have our grandmothers to thank for that!
Technological Advances – The transformation of the breast pump can easily go unnoticed, but we should thank the innovators of this machine until the cows come home! Breast pumps are by no means a new thing, but modern advancements have made it a better pumping experience from moms of the past had. The pumps that were for mothers to use at home look like a mix between a modern hand pump and a bicycle horn. The hospital grade pump of the time definitely wasn’t created to leave the hospitals, but it was the start of a business designed to make pumping safer and more efficient. They both apparently hurt a lot! Thank the stars that mothers now don’t have to go through using those bulky things.
Technological advances didn’t solely affect pumps, of course. Technology has changed our everyday lives, and it’s revolutionized how to keep track of Our grandparents have to log their breastfeeding the old fashion way: grab a notebook, get your pencils sharpened, and keep an eye on the clock! A notebook? Pencils? How do you even read analog?! Well, it’s probably not that outdated to jot things down with a pencil, but with innovations in personal technology our society has begun to shift and shape around these technologies. All you need to keep track of pumping is that smartphone in your pocket! There are so many apps centered around timing and recording your breastfeeding and pumping into a digital log. Already bought that amazing journal just for logging? Well you can still play Netflix and in-app games!