As any new mom can attest, pumping breast milk can really suck—and not in the right way. Science to the rescue! MIT recently announced it will be holding a "Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon" on September 20 and 21, in order to bring some much-needed innovation to improve the breast pump.
Plenty of research has shown that breast feeding has major benefits for both mom and babe: It helps with bonding, guards against obesity, boosts the immune system, increases brain power, and can even save lives. Yet while 76 percent of women leave the hospital breastfeeding, by the time the baby is six months old, only 16 percent are still exclusively breastfeeding (although half are still getting some breast milk). One of the main reasons for this, according to MIT, is all the obstacles to pumping.
Currently, pumping milk involves attaching a large suction cup to each breast, then connecting those to a machine that uses vacuum pressure to pull on your nipples to extract the milk. If that sounds weird and uncomfortable, that's because it is—and not just because you see how incredibly long your nipples can stretch. There are a lot of reasons why pumping is tough. It can be painful. It can be hard to get your milk to let down. The machines are big and noisy. They're a pain to clean. You have to halfway take your shirt off. You have to find a place to be alone (or have really understanding coworkers). They have so many parts. Even the cheapest models can be pricey (and trust me, you do not want the cheapest model). These problems are particularly pronounced for lower-income women who simply don't have the job flexibility to accommodate or afford pumping.
This is why MIT declared, "The breast pump is the rallying cry for the event because it is a symbol of a technology that could be vastly improved in order to save lives, save money and lead to healthier and happier families," adding that they hope to bring together 150 engineers, designers, parents, public health researchers, and lactation consultants to bring innovation to maternal health and make the breast pump not suck. Or, at least, suck the right way.
For more details, visit the MIT Media Lab's official website. The event is technically free and open to the public to attend, but you do have to register to participate, and according to the website, registration is full right now. However, if you still want to contribute, you can submit your best ideas on how to improve the breast pump here.