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Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon

Partner Organization

MIT Center for Civic Media
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Problem Space

Science conclusively shows that breastfeeding saves lives, prevents disease, and provides optimal infant nutrition. But due to gaps in postpartum care, policy, and technology, it is almost impossible for parents in the US to fulfill the basic public health goal of exclusive breastfeeding for six months. And when women "fail", they blame themselves instead of the broken systems around them.

Proposed Intervention

To address these issues, the Hackathon included a variety of events and spaces; it was a design sprint for designers, engineers, parents, and health care providers. The Make Family Leave Not Suck Policy Summit acted as a convening for national thought leaders on paid family leave policy. The Innovators Gallery was an exhibitor space with 25 top breastfeeding tech companies such as Medela and EvenFlo. There was also an art exhibition showcasing artwork related to breastfeeding and pumping. And perhaps most importantly, there was the Baby Village, a space for babies and parents to chill and get massages. There was also a “Community Innovation Accelerator” to cultivate four community-based teams to take a leadership role at the hackathon. Participants in the accelerator represent people who have not traditionally been involved in hackathons but who were already talented innovators and advocates for low-income families in their communities. The 2018 Hackathon also recognized that the future is intersectional. Working with equity expert Jennifer Roberts and the Office of Diversity and Student Support at the Media Lab, Historically Black Colleges and Universities helped support the participation of undergraduate students in the hackathon and policy summit. There was also a “Community Innovation Accelerator” to cultivate four community-based teams to take a leadership role at the hackathon. Participants in the accelerator represent people who have not traditionally been involved in hackathons but who were already talented innovators and advocates for low-income families in their communities.

Social Impact

The event built off of the 2014 hackathon which resulted in 80+ articles in the press, an online documentary, a Facebook community, and two peer-reviewed research papers. In the year leading up to the 2018 Hackathon, the research team conducted applied qualitative and quantitative research with low-income women to understand the triumphs and challenges of feeding their babies. These digital stories and follow-up interviews resonated nationwide with women from diverse demographics and helped ensure that hackathon designs and ideas were inclusive. This initiative was developed with support by the MIT Center for Civic Media and made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Medela, as well as corporate sponsors. The Breast Pump Hackathon has been featured in Slate, Vogue, The Atlantic, and The Boston Globe.


Related Publications

D’Ignazio, C., et.al. (2016) "Towards a Feminist Hackathon: The Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon." In Journal of Peer Production (May 1 2016)
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