Sorry for the aggressive headline there, but the abysmal state of breast pumps is a topic that is close to my heart.
Thankfully for now I mean that just figuratively but for, three years of my life, I meant it literally. I hope I’m not done having kids but, at the same time, I would go through labor twice not to have to ever strap on a breast pump again.
Feeding a baby is one of the most humanizing things in the world. Pumping is one of the most dehumanizing. And if you are a working mom who travels a lot you have to lug that thing with you everywhere you go. You have to pump in conference rooms. You pump on planes. I walk in bathrooms and hear that “whirr whirr whirr” noise and know exactly what it is. I have visceral flashbacks. And I immediately want to hug/fist-bump/buy a drink for the lady in question. (Perhaps a Guinness to make the whole thing slightly easier on a few levels…)
Add to that the fact that everyone else is always confused by what you are doing unless they’ve been there. No joke: JFK has delayed me and searched my suitcase a dozen times because apparently they’ve never encountered such thing as a breast pump before. And unlike labor which has a finite limit of a day or so, pumping goes on. And on. And on. And on.
The highest end breast pumps are still awful.
So I nearly leapt out of my skin when I saw that MIT Media Lab is hosting a second, sold out hackathon called “make the breast pump not suck.” The event is a follow-up to a smaller breast pump hackathon back in May which, judging by this write-up by the organizers, made great progress towards solving the problem.
I can’t be the only mom who was so delighted to hear about the event. After all, it’s probably the most working-mom-friendly thing anyone in the tech world could do.
Almost more amazing than the fact this event exists is who is involved. The teams are a mix of midwives, lactation experts, designers, and techies and it’s sponsored by Medela and Lansinoh– two of the biggest names in pumps and pump accessories. These fixes might actually be designed for women and might actually get to market.