Thursday, June 13, 2013

A New Gadget to Undermine Breastfeeding

A man called Pete Hunt has created a 'Breastfeeding Volume Monitor' which he is showcasing at a forthcoming design convention. The gadget is a...

"new and exciting product, which measures how much milk a baby is consuming during breastfeeding to give the mother peace of mind and ensure that they have a healthy feeding baby. The device gives real time feedback of how much a baby is consuming without interfering with the breastfeeding, so therefore action can be taken before the baby becomes ill, saving the baby’s health, medical costs and easing the parents’ anxieties" (Press release).

The device has a rubber panel that attaches to the mother's breast. This is then attached to a circuit board with a digital display.

More images here.

My thoughts on this contraption? You don't need to be hooked up like C-3PO to know how much your baby is consuming. Diaper output and infant alertness are adequate gauges. I fear this device, whilst arguably well-intentioned, will provide more interference than it does assistance. It creates a barrier in the same way that a nipple shield does and so will restrict the flow of milk, causing baby to consume less than they would otherwise. Yet no doubt it will be spouted as ‘essential kit for breastfeeding mothers’ and purchased by preggos in their droves.

Furthermore, being a man-made device, it will be prone to malfunctioning, which will create false panic in mothers triggering them to abandon breastfeeding much earlier than they would have otherwise. Not to mention the fact that babies naturally consume different amounts at each feeding. Yet if the device is well received by medical professionals, it could become a diagnostic device pushed onto mothers during home visits and clinics.

The device reminds me of SIDS breathing monitors, which I examined here. These have a sensor pad that sits under the mattress of a baby’s crib to detect movement when the baby breathes, akin to the rubber sensor pad on this breastfeeding monitor. There is no evidence to show that such devices offer reassurance. In fact, they may only serve to increase parents’ worries because of the many inevitable false alarms. Bear in mind that breathing monitors do not prevent SIDS. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths says that it is far better to know and practice preventative methods for dealing with SIDS than to rely on electronic monitors. Likewise, this ‘breastfeeding volume monitor’ will not correct any problems, latching or otherwise. Ironically, it is likely to create them.

My final conclusion:

This gadget contributes to the unfortunate modern obsession with intervention and measurement exacerbating the myth that women’s bodies are prone to fail. It is an attempt to cash in on mothers’ good intentions and insecurities. It turns what should be a relaxing, sensual and intimate interaction between mother and baby into a clinical test.

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