Discoveries Magazine


Feeling Pumped

Bicycle horn-style breast pump, Ingram’s, London. Date of manufacture: circa 1920s. Photo: Lisa Hollis

Although inexpensive, the earliest manual breast pumps were no bargain. The small devices, which were operated by repeatedly squeezing a rubber suction bulb, failed to sufficiently stimulate or empty the breast, and could damage breast tissue, harbor bacteria, and fatigue the user. Wisely, physicians recommended them only for infrequent use.

Today, lactating women have many options for extracting breast milk. While bicycle horn-style pumps are still on the market, they remain difficult to clean and dry. More advanced manual pumps also are available, along with electric and battery-powered pumps.

Cedars-Sinai is continuing a study of breast milk composition to enhance the nourishment these pumps help extract. To date, researchers have performed hundreds of analyses with a device that evaluates the percentages of fat, protein, and carbohydrates in breast milk. The resulting information enables individually optimized nutrition and should ultimately lead to healthier weight gain, better outcomes, and shorter hospital stays for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Cedars-Sinai Maxine Dunitz Children’s Health Center.

Cedars-Sinai’s Historical Conservancy maintains an extensive collection of donated artifacts such as Ingram’s bicycle horn-style breast pump, along with documents and memorabilia relevant to the evolution of medicine and the development of the medical center since the early 1900s.

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