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MIT helps to build better breast pump

The need to build a better breast pump led to the “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” Hackathon at the MIT Media Lab last weekend. More than 150 breast pump users, engineers, designers, health care, and lactation specialists gathered to brainstorm and listen to pitches from engineering teams who came up with new concepts to make breast pumping more comfortable, convenient, and efficient.

After using a breast pump to feed her 7-month-old twins, Katherine Ong, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering at MIT, already came to the competition with ideas for improvements. She and her team won the $2,000 second prize for designing a hands-free compression bra called Helping Hands to help women manually express breast milk.

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It has the potential to “get 30 percent more milk out with double the fat content,” Ong said. “When used with a breast pump, it might help the milk flow a bit faster and make sure that milk ducts don’t get clogged.” The prototype needs tinkering, she said, but the team was approached by two breast pump manufacturers at the event. “We’re hopeful one of companies will pick up idea and go with it.”D.K.


Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.