Saturday, April 28, 2018

Black Women to Help Innovate Breastfeeding at MIT Hackathon

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 Nationwide  -- For the first time, the Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon at the MIT Media Lab happening April 27-29th, will feature teams of innovators and advocates for low-income families from four key cities representing their community interests in the important conversation of improving support for breastfeeding. 

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The hackathon is a joint project between the Emerson College Engagement Lab and the MIT Media Lab designed to improve breast pump technology and address inequities in family leave policy. The first hackathon took place in 2014 and led to the development of smart pumps, new apps and better services for breastfeeding moms.

The Community Innovation Teams were added to the 2018 hackathon to articulate the challenges to breastfeeding in low-income communities and to kickstart innovations. 
"There is no one-size-fits-all solution to improving breastfeeding support in communities of color. We need community-partnered solutions rooted in the lived experience of local residents," says Kimberly Seals Allers, a nationally-recognized infant and maternal health advocate and strategist and author of The Big Letdown - How Medicine, Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding, who will also serve as the keynote speaker for the hackathon. "These teams know their communities well and are representing new levels of innovation that are so desperately needed," Seals Allers said.

Rachael Lorenzo, Founder of Indigenous Women Rising, says she and other indigenous parents have struggled with breastfeeding while trying to maintain a close relationship with the traditions and ceremonies in their communities. Rachael and her team in Albuquerque, New Mexico is developing breastfeeding-friendly traditional clothing that will adapt to the breastfeeding needs of parents and babies while remaining true to the traditional styles and design.

In Detroit, Harambee Care led by Executive Director Anjanette Davenport Hatter, provides high quality in-home maternal and infant care coordination for Medicaid eligible families. The team, is exploring the development of a self-advocacy breastfeeding tool to increase lactation support and education in Detroit. The tool addresses lactation acuity - a term that relates to providing the specificity and timeliness of lactation support based on individualized patient needs and health severity.

The Mississippi team, spearheaded by Toni Hill of the Northeast Mississippi Birthing Project is focusing on finding ways to identify women in the community, train them with evidenced-based information, and sustain a model of employing them as community health workers focusing majorly on birth and breastfeeding equity.

The team from Boston is working to open a free-standing birth clinic in Dorchester, Massachusetts, called the Neighborhood Birth Center. The clinic will provide comprehensive, evidence-based care during pregnancy, physiologic birth, and the postpartum period with a focus on liberation and justice, and providing a space for inter-generational healing and transformation.

The teams were supported by the Community Innovation Program, an accelerator which provides financial support and design resources and is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Learn more about the MIT Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon by visiting

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Posted by community events coordinator, Nzinga Lonstein Austin, is a prolific blogger who writes on the entertainment industry and issues for people with developmental and physical challenges.

She is presently in high school looking to have a career in video, film, and media. You can see more of her entertainment writing on Lonstein Movies.

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