Ask any parent who has expressed breast milk with the help of a breast pump: the process is anything but enjoyable. Not only is being tethered to a machine uncomfortable and impractical, but the actual pumping is also physically unpleasant and requires a great deal of cleaning pump parts afterward. Scheduling pumping sessions, finding the time and place to pump, measuring, storing, and transporting breast milk, worrying about milk supply, and making sure you’re wearing the right bra—it’s both physically and mentally exhausting. While a breast pump is truly an incredible machine, it’s important to acknowledge just how demanding this little luxury is—which is why World Breast Pumping Day is so important.
What Is World Breast Pumping Day?
World Breast Pumping Day is recognized every year on Jan. 27 and is meant to bring awareness to the practice of pumping and to celebrate the hardworking parents who pump. The holiday was first established in 2017 by Wendy Armbruster, founder and CEO of Snugabell, a line of fourth-trimester essentials. Wendy created the PumpEase hands-free pumping bra “out of desperation” as a pumping mom herself who needed a bra that would allow her to not just multitask while pumping, but also to get the most output from each pumping session. Suffice it to say, after two kids and ample research and development, Wendy is well aware of just how much pumping parents need to be celebrated.
Since 2017, World Breast Pumping Day has become an annual day of acknowledgment, with each year having its own theme to help empower and encourage pumping parents in their journey (2023’s is “Celebrate Every Ounce”). Also, throughout the year, parents can come together online through social media to lift each other up, share their stories and struggles, and be part of the village created by this important day.
The History and Evolution of the Breast Pump
The breast pump as we know it today is, surprisingly, still relatively new. According to Smithsonian Magazine, there have been a handful of different pump designs over the years, but prior to the 1980s, pumps were mostly used on an as-needed basis (or as a last resort). As more women began entering the workforce, new parents were faced with having to choose between using painful pumping equipment or switching their newborns to formula. In 1988, Elena Grant filed a patent for a new pumping device that was more comfortable for the parent and gave them more control, and every pump since has been built from her model.
When Grant’s first pump came to market, as wonderful as it was, most families could not afford its $2,000 price tag. Over time, pumps became more affordable, but even today an electric pump can retail from $100 to more than $500. Since 2010, however, with the exception of a few insurance plans, the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to cover the cost of an electric breast pump for parents, so most families can get one for free or at a significant discount. Because of this, pumping is more accessible than ever—so much so that 85% of breastfeeding parents also pump to some extent and 6% of parents pump exclusively.
Advocacy for Pumping Parents
Because breast pumps are now much more accessible, the practice of pumping is becoming more normalized as well. It’s not uncommon for a pumping parent to find a dedicated space to pump in peace in a lot of retail stores, airports, and other public places. Also, in December 2022, President Biden signed the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act into law, which requires employers to provide parents with adequate break time and a private space to pump at work—and some companies even go above and beyond by offering some pretty swanky on-site lactation rooms for their employees. Additionally, in 2022, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its breastfeeding guidance and stressed the need for more support for pumping parents in its statement.
There has been so much progress for pumping parents over the last few decades, and as technology advances, we can only hope the practice continues to become even more accessible and sustainable. So let’s spend World Breast Pumping Day celebrating the incredible parents who pump today, and advocating for the ones who will be pumping in the years to come.