Designing for Maternal Health
MIT Media Lab, 2015
While a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, I designed and prototyped accessories to tackle the logistical and emotional challenges of breastfeeding.
Bundle is a breastfeeding accessory that reflects and extends the tenderness of the nursing relationship between mother and baby. Through scent, sound, and touch, bundle transmits the sensory data that’s central to the nursing experience, and absent in the pumping experience.
Bundle is a cozy for a mother’s breastpump. Tucking away the pump and its tubing and flanges, bundle wraps tight around the body like a hug, occluding the clinical and dehumanizing mechanism of the pump. Offering discretion, hands-free comfort, and easy access to adjusting pump placement, it’s designed to look and feel more like a nursing baby.
Unwrap bundle, and it becomes a swaddle for baby. Made of soft material, Bundle picks up baby’s scent, allowing olfactory cues presence in the breastpumping experience like they do in nursing. Bundle has ears: two tiny, plush speakers listen when baby is swaddled, and can record her cooing or crying, which can later be played back as a pumping primer.
Athena is an open platform for breast pump research and development. It’s a software-defined, sensor-equipped pump operated through a smartphone. The Athena can emulate the motor operations of popular pumps on the market, or configure settings automatically through any combination of user adjustment and sensor feedback. Athena makes pump parts interoperable, allowing users to try on or reconfigure elements from different, existing pumps on the market (such as flanges, tubing, pumping cycles).
Athena provides an API for data-driven pumping, and is an open platform for the development of radically new pumping experiences and interfaces.
Both Bundle and Athena were developed according to a human-centered design process. We interviewed many mothers to identify pain points in the pumping experience, and rapidly ideated and prototyped interventions to address those pinpoints. For each prototype, we went through user testing and interviews with pumping mothers and babies to iterate and refine the experience.
Created by Julie Legault, Savannah Niles, Cory Schmitz, Ermal Dreshaj, Tal Achituv, and Daniel Goodman in conjunction with support from the MIT Media Lab's Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Wellbeing Initiative.