Historical information

These breast pumps were also known as breast relievers or breast exhausters. They were a refinement of the much earlier 'sucking glass'. The breast pump was refined during the Victorian age.

Glass breast pumps were used to manually express milk for the infant. These pumps were in use from the early 1920s to the late 1960s. They can also be used to stimulate lactation. These pumps were widely used in the 1950s by mothers of premature babies. The milk was expressed by hand in the home, then transported to the hospital to feed the premature infant.


Mary Howlett (1840-1922) began practising as a country midwife in 1866 in the western district of Victoria. She qualified as a 'ladies monthly nurse' in 1887 and continued to practise as a nurse and midwife until 1920.She began her six months training at the Melbourne Lying-In Hospital. She was known by many as 'Auntie', and her career spanned more than 50 years. Mrs Howlett's midwifery box and contents were given to Dr Frank Forster, and he donated them to the museum collection in 1993.

Physical description

Glass breast pump. Pump is loosely bell shaped with a glass bowl attached to the side of the bell.