October 25, 2018
Despite the fact that partnerships have become far more egalitarian in recent years, moms still put in more time parenting. Research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that when considering time spent on housework, working for pay, and childcare, the birth of a baby increased mothers’ total workload by 21 hours per week. Dads' total workload increased by only 12.5 hours per week. One of several factors contributing to this imbalance is breastfeeding. But a product design student from the U.K. aims to help future parents level the playing field on that front.
Marie-Clarie Springham is the mastermind behind a "chestfeeding kit," which could be available in as soon as five years. The kit would offer dads-to-be a supply of the hormone progestin—a man-made form of the female sex hormone progesterone—which they'd begin taking once a day as soon as they learn their partner is expecting. This would stimulate the production of milk-producing glands. And then six weeks before baby arrives, dads would start taking another hormone called domperidone which stimulates prolactin, the hormone that triggers milk production.
The kit also comes with some technical parts to make it easier for a dad to nurse: a pump and compression vest, which serves as "the male equivalent of the maternity bra."
"This project began when I learnt about the code of silence that surrounds the issue of mental health and new parents," Springham tells Parents.com. "I was shocked to learn that over half of women experience emotional problems postnatally or during pregnancy and that new fathers also often suffer, experiencing feelings of exclusion and a fear of being 'unable to cope.' After learning that common trigger of postnatal depression for mothers is the pressure to breastfeed, I developed this kit to help couples support each other, as well as their new baby."
Springham sees the kit as "an empathy tool that enables dads to take a more active role in the first six months of the baby’s life and allows moms to relinquish some of the pressures and duties of parenting." She hopes the concept will fuel "further discussion of mental health and empowers new parents to support each other even more at such an incredible time in their lives."
While the product isn't available just yet, the concept is already winning Springham accolades: Just this week, the chestfeeding kit design won the 24-year-old an award at the Meaning-Centred Design Awards in London.