It might not be the first thing that comes to mind after the word "hackathon," but organizers of an upcoming one at MIT say the world is long overdue for a better breast pump.

Engineers, designers, moms, and health experts will gather later this month for reasons spelled out by organizers at their website:

  • "The motor is loud. There are too many parts. They are hard to clean. You can’t lay down and pump. There is no good space to pump. It’s hard to keep track of what you pump. Your colleagues think pumping is weird. People are skeeved out by breastmilk. People are embarrassed by breasts."

The Sept. 20-21 hackathon is an offshoot of a smaller brainstorming session in May that was in itself prompted by this article in the New York Times lamenting the baffling lack of progress on breast pumps.

By and large, they remain complicated and sometimes painful. It's about time, writes Melissa Malamut at Boston Magazine. "Let’s not forget that you just pushed a baby out of your body. You’d think that would be the hardest part of being a new mom. But no, then you also have to deal with the annoyances of pumping." Business Insider calls it "one of the biggest issues for working mothers," and NBC News notes that half of all new mothers breastfeed for six months, meaning that most require pumps for at least parts of that stretch.

The public health benefits of breastfeeding are "huge," say organizers, making the current pump designs all the more frustrating. Hackathon participants will split into teams and pitch prototypes at the end of the session.

(A new issue: Moms who breastfeed while using medical marijuana.)

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