Breast pump, Europe, 1771-1830

1771-1830 in Europe

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Breast pump, late 18th or early 19th century. Front view. Graduated grey background.
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Breast pump in fishskin-covered case, late 18th or early 19th century

Milk was extracted from a nursing woman’s breast using this device. It is made from brass and glass. The pump may have been used by the mother of the child or by a wet nurse. Wet nurses were employed by families to breastfeed their children. They were seen by wealthy families as a status symbol. Wet nursing was popular from the 1500s. However, it had virtually died out by the early 1900s. Wet nursing was also used when the mother of the child had died or was ill. Artificial milk products such as powders are now often used when a mother cannot produce milk. Wet nursing continues in some parts of the world.

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Science Museum: Making the Modern World Gallery

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Nursing & Hospital Furnishings
Object Number:
box, pine, fish skin, syringe, brass, velvet and vessel, glass
breast pump
  • furnishing and equipment
  • tools & equipment

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