Friday, July 27, 2012

Lead nipple shields? What were they thinking?

The Museum of Healthcare is definitely going to be on the agenda of my next trip to Kingston, Ontario (my hometown). What could be more weirdly interesting than bad medical ideas of the not-so-distant past?

Case-in-point: Lead Nipple Shields, Circa 1920

Nipple shields are worn over a mother’s nipple during breastfeeding.  They have been manufactured since at least the 16th century and are used to help babies to latch on at the breast or to protect a mother’s sore or damaged nipples.  These shields are made of lead, but they have also been made from silver, wax, wood, pewter, tin, bone, ivory, and glass.  Today, nipples shields come in rubber, latex, or silicone. 
This pair of nipple shields come from Gananoque, Ontario where they were used in the general practices of Dr. C.H. Bird and his son Dr. H. Godfrey Bird in the first half of the 20th century.
Lead? The very element that sends parents today into paroxysms of fear and outrage when it shows up in toys or household products was purposely inserted into a nursing infant's mouth.

"Recommended by the most Eminent Medical Men"


  1. > was purposely inserted into a nursing
    > infant's mouth.

    maybe it is just how that photo was taken, but i do not see any hole in the shield? w/ mom shielded, and no hole, how does the baby get the milk?

    you need that sucking motion to get milk out. i imagine the shields were worn to protect / alleviate soreness, but were taken off for feeding.


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