On Sept 20-21, 2014, 150 parents, engineers, designers and healthcare givers will gather at the MIT Media Lab for the Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon.

What do you want to accomplish?

We want to seed ideas, connections, and projects that will make the breast pump experience not suck so much. Covening talented people for a weekend is a first step. We also see this as an opportunity to catalyze innovation in maternal and pediatric health more generally.

Who's coming?

150 people that will self-organize into teams of 5-10 people per team. For our hackathon teams, we are looking for a mix of breastpump users, engineers, designers, health care and lactation specialists, and educators. Registration is free and open to the public but space is limited. You must register in order to attend and unfortunately all of our space is now full.

Why is this awesome?

As one of the midwives at our first hackathon said, "Maternal health lags behind other sectors for innovation." We are bringing together people from diverse fields, sectors and backgrounds to take a crack at making life better for moms, babies and new families. We see our role as a catalyst for new connections and new ideas that will inspire participants and highlight maternal and pediatric health as a vibrant, exciting space to be working in for the design and engineering leaders of tomorrow.

Why is breastmilk magic?

The health benefits of breastfeeding (both to mother and baby!) are numerous and include the reductions of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, female cancers, heart disease and osteoporosis. Despite the overwhelming data and worldwide endorsement of breastfeeding for at least two years, many women do not breastfeed at all or wean after several months. In particular, low-income, working women are rarely able to take extended maternity leave, to afford the cost of a pump, or to pump breastmilk at their workplace. In emerging economies around the world, women who go back to work wean their babies rather than using a breast pump.

Why does breastpumping suck?

Read our blog post about our prior hackathon that went viral.

I'm a nursing mom/lactation expert. How can I help?

The Breast Pump User and Health Care slots are full but there are a couple ways you can still help this effort.

  1. Submit your ideas! Click here to send us your best ideas. We are compiling an amazing, open data set of hundreds of creative, awesome ideas from pumping moms (and trans-dads). Teams will be reading about your responses and ideas at the hackathon.
  2. Donate your breast pumps. Bring your old pumps to the third floor of the MIT Media Lab, corner of Ames & Amherst St, in Cambridge. There is a donation box for pumps we can use at the hackathon.
  3. Get some media attention for the event in your locale. Part of this is about raising the profile of maternal health and bringing public attention to the idea that there are so many ways that our society could better support families and children.
  4. Show up. If in Boston, you can come by the hackathon at 5pm on Saturday to give teams feedback on their ideas. You can come listen to the final team pitches from 4pm - 6:30pm on Sunday and see who wins the grand prize, too.
  5. Connect with us post-hackathon. We are a little overwhelmed right now but afterwards we will be looking for ways to keep the momentum going. 
I'm a coder/hacker/designer. How can I help?

The Engineering and Designer tickets are all sold out, but there are a couple ways to help from afar: 

  1. Help us analyze and visualize the user-submitted ideas. Do you have data visualization or NLP skills? Email us and we'll send you the data set of amazing, creative ideas submitted by pump users. We'd love some innovative visualizations and ways to group and categorize the unstructured text. We can print out your work to be shown at the hackathon if it helps give insight into the user perspective.
  2. Connect with us post-hackathon. We are a little overwhelmed right now but afterwards we will be looking for ways to keep the momentum going.
What's the structure of the event?

Our program will begin with introductions and inspirational talks from our sponsors and guest speakers. Next, hackathon registrants will provide brief “rocket pitches” about any idea they want to work on, inviting attendees to join their teams and share their skills. Once teams are created, the hacking begins. Problems are explored, ideas are shared, and innovative solutions are crafted. All meals, water, coffee, and tea will be provided to properly fuel our collaboration. We'll also have a bunch of awesome tech on hand - 3D printers, wearable prototyping materials, arduinos, Raspberry Pis and more. What teams create is theirs to keep.

At the end of Day 1, each team will provide a brief update of their progress before adjourning for the evening. Additional venues for collaboration will be provided for teams that wish to collaborate past the official Day 1 wrap-up time of 7pm. Day 2 will feature continuing collaboration through most of the day. Teams will present their ideas before a panel of expert judges, who will award prizes for the three most promising projects before the event comes to a close.

View full rules


Please include a full description of your solution and include screen shots. 


Deborah Theobald

Deborah Theobald
Vecna Technologies, Inc., Innovation in Global Health for the Developing World

Janica Alvarez

Janica Alvarez
Naia Health

Nancy Holtzman

Nancy Holtzman
Lactation Consultant, RN

Beth Kolko

Beth Kolko
University of Washington; Shift Labs

Gabrielle Guthrie

Gabrielle Guthrie

Mar Hershenson

Mar Hershenson
Pejman Mar Ventures

Deanna Gilbert

Deanna Gilbert

Judging Criteria

  • Innovation
    How innovative is the project? Innovation might mean building on an existing platform or creating something new.
  • Impact
    What's the potential of this project to impact a large number of people? Here we will look at cost and accessibility concerns. Is this only an innovation for the 1%?
  • User-centered Design
    How well did the project take into account the concerns of real people? Did they listen to users, peruse the data set of user stories and design something to meet a real-world need?
  • Documentation
    How well did the team document their idea? Did they communicate it clearly in the presentation? Does the documentation inspire us?
  • Team Diversity
    Does the team include a range of backgrounds and skills? Did the team seek to round out expertise they might be missing (e.g. hardware design or lactation consulting or pumping mom feedback)?
  • Collaboration
    Did the team embrace collaboration in the spirit of open innovation and problem-solving?