Breast pump, electric, metal / plastic / glass, made by H I Clements Pty Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, probably 1940-1945
The Nursing Mothers' Association of Australia (NMAA) was founded in 1964 by a visionary young mother in Melbourne, named Mary Paton. When Mary's first baby was born in 1962, there was virtually no written information on breastfeeding available to either mothers or health professionals. The development of the NMAA faced a number of challenges and even deciding on a name proved to be a difficult because of censorship restrictions of the time. It was not acceptable to use words like 'breast', 'pregnant' or 'nipple' in public print or on the airwaves. The NMAA went on to become instrumental in changing community opinions on breastfeeding and child rearing.
The NMAA rented these breast pumps out to mothers, for a small fee, for use at home. They are used to collect a mother's milk when circumstances prevent her feeding her baby directly from the breast. Electric breast pumps can relieve a woman's engorged or infected breasts, or they might be used to collect a feed that a babysitter can give to the baby in a bottle.
The production of this machine is also significant. It was made by H.I. Clements in Sydney. Clements was an engineer who built some of the first motor cars in Australia and he was an important figure in the motoring history of NSW. He later turned his attention to medical equipment including portable suction machines such as this breast pump. He developed the use of fractional electric motors of commercial origins (many had been designed for vacuum cleaners). His ingenious pump and its unique lubrication system are an Australian innovation, which made the device almost immune to abuse by the technically ignorant.
The NMAA represents a voluntary service organisation that has been formed in response to a perceived need in the community. The NMAA (under their new name, The Australian Breastfeeding Association) continue to advocate breastfeeding and play a pivotal role in changing community opinion in Australia. They are also one of the largest womens' not for profit organisations in Australia.
Written by Erika Dicker
Assistant Curator, 2007.
The breast pump was made by H.I. Clements Pty Ltd in Sydney between 1940 and 1945.
Hubert I. Clements (1886-1969) was an Australian engineer who started out building automobiles before he made medical equipment.
"Fascinated by the internal combustion engine, by 1906 Clements had constructed a functional automobile. He established his own engineering business at Strathfield in 1908, manufacturing both marine and land-based petrol engines; a motorcycle bearing his name appeared in 1910. The business flourished with the increasing popularity of the motorcar; spare parts being hard to obtain, his workshop was able to fabricate replacements and improve the reliability of the original designs.
Probably through the many doctors among his clientele Clements became interested in medical equipment, especially anesthesia apparatus. As early as 1917, in collaboration with Dr Mark Lidwill, he designed and manufactured an ether vaporiser, incorporating an electrically powered source of compressed air. From the 1920s Clements devoted himself increasingly to improving ether apparatus and manufacturing portable suction machines for use in hospital operating theatres. The latter machines were to earn an unrivalled reputation for reliability; many remained in service over thirty years after their date of production.
Among their ingenious features was the use of fractional electric horsepower motors of commercial origin (many had been destined for vacuum cleaners). An innovation was the pump and its unique lubrication system, which made the device almost immune to abuse by the technically ignorant. Clements's other successful projects included centralized vacuum systems, breast pumps and laboratory centrifuges used in blood banks throughout Australia.. His son William, a science graduate, brought useful academic skills to the business which became H. I. Clements & Son."
H. I. Clements & Son was purchased by Rob Greig and Jack Bourne in 1967 and is now called Clements Medical Equipment. It is an Australian-based manufacturer and supplier of high quality medical and scientific laboratory equipment.
This breast pump is one of a number of items donated by the Nursing Mothers Association of Australia (NMAA) to the Powerhouse Museum. These pumps were used by the Hornsby and Penrith branches of the NMAA and hired out to breastfeeding mothers for use at home. In 1993 this equipment was declared out of date and the cumbersome models were replaced with more compact updated models.
In 2001 the NMAA changed their name to Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), supported by health authorities and specialists in infant and child health and nutrition, including a panel of distinguished honorary advisers. ABA is recognised internationally as a source of accurate information about breastfeeding management and research.