The Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon

Art & Design, Community Organizing

I am a co-founder of the “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” Hackathon at the MIT Media Lab. The first instance of this collaborative art & design intervention took place in September 2014 and the second in May 2018.

Make the Breast Pump Not Suck 2018 – Official Documentary from Engagement Lab on Vimeo.

After the first event, we learned from over 1000 women’s and parents’ stories that breast pumps are not the only thing that sucks for postpartum women. Women pointed out the fact that black and brown babies are four times more likely to die in their first year and the rate is going up; the lack of paid family and medical leave in the US; the lack of affordable daycare; shaming women in public spaces while breastfeeding; women resorting to pumping in closets and bathrooms; the lack of postpartum care that makes mothers fend for themselves (and blame themselves when they “fail”); discrimination in the health care system and formula companies profiting in the billions off of women’s self-doubt. 

We staged a second breastpump hackathon for April 2018 focused on equity in breastfeeding as well as the “Make Family Leave Policy Not Suck” Summit focused on fixing the US’ broken paid family and medical leave policies. Check out the documentary to see the incredible, temporary utopia we created for mothers and babies and families:

Check out the website here:

More about the First Breastpump Hackathon in 2014

On Sept 20-21, 2014, 150 parents, engineers, designers, babies and healthcare givers gathered to address the profoundly terrible experience of breast pumping. Here is the official mini-doc produced by Alberta Chu and ASKLabs:

The hackathon garnered a lot of media attention – more than 80 separate stories. It was named one of the top 20 reasons to love Boston by Boston Magazine. It was featured in Forbes, The New YorkerCNN, and Fast Company. It was discussed on the BBC World News, NPRCBC, and WNYC. It went viral on social media, where users applauded the effort, offered their ideas, criticized the winners, and debated whether breast pumps should or should not suck by definition. For a very short introduction, this video does a really nice job of telling the story

We learned a lot in the process – about hackathons, breastfeeding supportive technologies, and maternal/family health. While some of the teams have dissolved, others are continuing to work on pushing the field forward.

Here are some of the places to read more about the project:

Co-authored Research papers: