Leaking Breast Milk Innovation Over 150 Years

150 Years of Leaking Breast Milk Innovation

It’s always been a wonder how so many people dealt with leaky boobs throughout time.

Often a not-talked-about issue, we’re finally getting a better glimpse into how some people solved for this age-old issue in American history.

From rubber bags to extra bath times, let’s dive in and take a look back at 150 years of leaking breast milk innovation:

Nipple Glasses and Astringents - 1866

Leaking Breast Milk Innovation

The first medical recommendation we found for leaking breast milk came in 1866 through a medical book that said astringents and nipple glasses are best when dealing with milk “incontinence”.

Astringents you ask? Oh yes, astringents - as in rubbing a substance that draws water out of tissues, causing them to shrink, was prescribed for the nipples. After applying the astringent, you could then slide a comfy little nipple glass into your undergarment.

We joke about it being comfortable, as a nipple glass was indeed made out of glass and shaped as a one-size-fits-all solution to be worn over the nipple when dealing with leaking breast milk.

The Chest Bandage - 1903

Leaking Breast Milk Innovation

This next one helps lead the way as one of the most creative in terms of femtech fashion from the past. The chest bandage, as it was called, was designed in 1903 by Josie Baldwin, one of the only women inventors or medical researchers we were able to find making progress for leaking breast milk prior to 1942.

Similar in concept to that of breast milk collectors of today, the chest bandage differed in that it was an entire article of clothing that “embodies a coat-like device” to collect “superfluous” milk from the breasts of a pregnant woman.

What makes this invention even more interesting is that when pressure was exerted by tightly lacing the binder, more breast milk was presumed to come out and be collected in rubber bags.

Absolutely fascinating.

Boob Mummy - 1917

Leaking Breast Milk Innovation

In 1917 came a how-to guide on how to properly wrap someone’s body who may be dealing with “excess of milk”. As the medical book states, patients can often be “annoyed by having her clothing and the bed soiled by constant leaking of milk”. Accordingly, it was important that patients’ breasts be abundantly covered with sterile gauze to reflect this illustration.

With enough gauze to become a boob mummy, it was also noted that the patient’s diet should be altered to withhold liquids, cereal foods, cocoa, and some vegetables. Basically, starving the patient of food and liquid was their sure way to stop leaking breast milk.

Breast Shield - 1936

Leaking Breast Milk Innovation

In what is one of the earliest patented breast shields in America, John Tynan looked to create and improve upon a breast shield for absorbing leaking breast milk. This particular invention was designed to “provide a light, cool, and efficient shield” that could be used once or twice.

It was suggested that the shields should be held in place by a band, brassiere or adhesive tape. Picturing this taped to a breast in 1936 sounds like a sight to see.

Boob Bath Time - 1942

Leaking Breast Milk Innovation

And finally, it was intriguing to see in 1942 that conversations around leaking breast milk innovations started to dissipate around the same time formula was being more readily used.

In what could very well be filed under “not very helpful,” comes a suggestion from the U.S. Department of Labor Children’s Bureau that ensures nursing mothers stay stench-free when dealing with leaking breast milk.

Of the more than 60-page Prenatal Care book, one sentence speaks to how to handle leaking breast milk. It noted that when a breast full of milk leaks it “make(s) it necessary for the nursing mother to take extra pain with her toilet to prevent the odors” of “stale milk”.

Suggestions for how to absorb your leaks? Nope. A reminder to smell your best while leaking? Absolutely.


Leaking Breast Milk Innovation

There’s no doubt even more revolutionary progress has been made over the last decade alone in terms of innovation for leaking breast milk. As we see more women continue to invent and research, the more amazing solutions that are created.

Leaxy’s own breast leak leisurewear and 'Brooklyn' leakproof nursing tank has put leaking breast milk at the forefront of femtech fashion design. With signature nursing pads that actually hook directly into, and won’t slip out of our seriously soft tank, we design with leaky boobs in mind.

So, here’s to 150 years of innovation toward leaky boob design.

We look forward to all that’s sure to come.

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