As anyone who has pumped breast milk for a baby can tell you, breast pumps kinda suck. Even when you use the best, fanciest, most "mom-friendly" pump, there's no escaping the fact that you're hooked up to a complicated contraption designed to mechanically extract milk from your body. There are a million plastic parts to keep track of and wash (and try not to drop on the floor) and the sound of that electric motor wheezing away will haunt your dreams.
And that's not even getting into the practical challenges of finding a private space and enough time to pump during a busy workday (I've heard horror stories of pumping in supply closets and even an airport bathroom stall—ew!).
That's why this past weekend the MIT Media Lab hosted their second "Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon," a gathering of "users" (aka nursing mothers), engineers, designers, lactation specialists, and other experts organized into teams who competed to come up with solutions to improve breast pumps and the pumping experience in general.
This year's winner: the Mighty Mom Utility Belt. (Motto: "Every mom is a superhero.")
It's a hands-free, wearable pump that also logs and analyzes your pumping stats. The creative team (who won $3000 and a trip to Silicon Valley to pitch their concept to investors) tout the design's portability and discretion—you can use the pump anywhere, even on your commute. Personally, I have a hard time imagining wanting to pump on the New York City subway—but then, I was lucky enough to have not only a clean, private place to pump during my workday and the ability to arrange my schedule as needed (many women don't, despite laws to protect nursing mothers at work), but an employer who provided a hospital-grade pump for me to use on site.
Second prize: the Helping Hands Bra, a bra that gently compresses and massages the breasts to help move milk out of the breasts. Third prize was PumpIO, a breast pump app. And my personal favorite, Second Nature, a pump designed to imitate the action of an infant's tongue and mouth (what most women's breasts respond to best, after all), won for "Outstanding User-Focused Design."
Three cheers to the teams for their creativity, and to MIT for working to change the conversation around breastfeeding, pumping, and maternal and baby health. Could a time when pumping doesn't suck be in our near future?