Image of mother and baby using Lilac to breast feed with Lilac Logo
Lilac is a breastfeeding aid that restores intimacy between mothers and their babies who could not otherwise breastfeed. Due to issues such as cleft palate or tongue tie, 1 in 6 babies struggle to breastfeed. This means hundreds of thousands of mothers who wish to provide breast milk for their child have no choice but to pump and bottle-feed, which is less intimate than direct nursing.
Lilac was made in MIT's capstone Mechanical Engineering Course, 2.009: Product Engineering Processes, which is arguably one of MIT's most famous classes. In 2.009, 8 teams of around 20 students work to ideate, prototype, and design beta versions of an innovative product revolving around a central theme each year. In 2019, Purple Team chose Lilac as their final idea halfway through the semester and spent many intensive weeks getting Lilac to presentation-ready form. The first half of the semester was spent ideating and prototyping promising ideas so that that most promising idea could be chosen. The class culminates in a presentation watched by a live audience of 2,000 people, with another 10,000 viewers tuning in to watch online across the world. Our presentation is the video below.
Lilac Product Details
On the end of lilac, is a nipple that attaches to the device housing by screwing on like a bottle cap. This off-the-shelf nipple is designed to release milk for babies who cannot naturally suckle. It is positioned at an angle such that a mother and baby have maximum skin to skin contact as if she were breastfeeding without assistance.
Housing: Next, the mother inserts lilac into her maternity bra to secure the device to her breast. A soft silicone flange creates the vacuum seal, providing added comfort and size customization. The transparent housing helps the mother properly align her nipple. The transparency also allows for real-time feedback on milk flow and consumption. Finally, the mother attaches the tube and turns on the pump which begins to apply suction. Two one-way valves and the diaphragm ensure that milk does not flow back into the suction mechanism.
Pump: Once this has been set up, the mother can begin feeding the baby. We have modified an existing pump to include a custom feedback system to prevent milk waste. It does this by balancing the baby’s feeding rate with the mother’ pumping rate. If the baby is feeding slower than the mother is pumping, milk will build up in the reservoir. When milk reaches about an ounce of volume, the milk blocks the view of the photo-transistor. This instructs the pump to turn off. As the baby continues to feed, the milk level falls below the view of the photo-transistor, and the pump turns back on.
After the feeding session, the mother disassembles lilac, allowing her to easily clean the dishwasher-safe components.
Image of the final beta prototype of Lilac, including the pump housing on the left
In this image are all of the components of Lilac deconstructed. I helped to design the ergonomic shape of the main body piece in the center back. I also designed the purple logo on the left.
In the image are all of the prototype evolutions of Lilac, the earliest prototypes on the left and the final prototype on the bottom right.
Earlier prototypes of Lilac had harsh geometrics, designed for functionality, not for the user. I helped to design the final ergonomic shape of Lilac.
Lilac only took up half of the semester of work in 2.009. For Lilac, I contributed to improving the aesthetic design of Lilac, creating the logo, and creating all presentation materials. Another teammate and I split all of the graphic design work between the two of us, which took up much of my time leading up to the final presentation. I worked closely with the presenters to create the presentation slides, which you can see in the presentation video above. I also designed the logo, which is two overlapping Lilac petals, one small and one big, together forming a heart-like shape meant to represent the close bond between mother and child fostered by using Lilac.
For the first half of the class, we focused on brainstorming, ideation, and prototyping. Below are images of my early stage brainstorming, trying to ideate as many concepts as possible. Then there are images of my sketches of the better ideas I had to show to the rest of the team. Before picking our final idea, we down-selected the three most promising ideas to make sketch models and works-like prototypes of, one of which was my idea: Bedder. Bedder is a system that lifts patients slightly above their hospital beds so that bed pan removal is much easier for both the nurse and patient. For that prototype, I designed the mechanism that uses hydraulics to rotate two constrained bands and welded together the steel frame. Below are images of the sketch modeling presentation I made for all three ideas, as well as some images of the Bedder prototype.
Concept for a gyroscopic tray stabilizer
Concept for a compost system to make composting easier to help with adoption
The full Bedder Prototype is on the floor, detached from the hospital bed. The design was focused on adding minimal equipment to the hospital bed.
Bedder sub-team at the mockup presentation. I couldn't be there because I was interviewing for fellowships. In the picture you can see bedder lifting a box off of the bed with a bed pan underneath it.
Set up to weld part of the frame of Bedder. I welded the frame with the assistance of a shop staff member, who taught me how to TIG weld in the process (I already knew how to MIG weld).
Photo of all of Purple Team on the day of the final presentations!
Finally, 2.009 is well known for being a crazy fun class that is way over the top. Below are videos and pictures showing the character of the class. It really is a class that you can't forget!
Picture of me riding our pogo stick inchworm vehicle at the Build Challenge.
Purple Team at the Build Challenge where we have to assemble a vehicle that we unintentionally came up with in a silly brainstorm and ride it back and forth to shoot balls into a hole to save stuffed animal versions of ourselves. Purple Team came in second to last place but won the team spirit award!