Breast Pumps Abound

In recent years, the United States has been compared to everything from a banana republic to an Orwellian dystopia. In this week’s New Yorker, Jill Lepore has a different evaluation: “Behind closed doors, the nation begins to look like a giant human dairy farm.” Although it was believed in the second half of the nineteenth century that women, like men, were evolving out of milk production, breast-feeding is making a comeback. Doctors are now trying to boost breast-feeding rates, since it has been linked to lower rates of everything from ear infections to leukemia to obesity. Six-month maternity leaves, however, which require the mother to split from her child, have given rise to the breast pump. “Today,” Lepore writes, “breast pumps are such a ubiquitous personal accessory that they’re more like cell phones than like catheters.” The advent of “expressed human milk” has raised a series of questions, such as, “Can a woman sell her milk on eBay?” According to Lepore, “all this is so new that people are making up the rules as they go along.”