My Review of Breastmilk – the movie
May 16, 2014
I have seen the documentary Breastmilk twice.
The first time around I was happy to see the diversity of the subjects, the inclusion of gay families and the normalization of milk sharing.
I came away knowing that Dana Ben-Ari is a true documentarian in that the viewer is brought into the scenes unobtrusively. We observed real life situations and outcomes.
The second time around I was sitting next to woman who nursed her child a decade earlier. She squirmed in her seat and whispered to me, “If I had seen this before having my son I would’ve been afraid because it seems so hard to nurse.”
Certain elements were left out that I believe only a seasoned eye would catch. Missing from the film: physicians trained to support breastfeeding, pre-natal education, support for the mom and baby and extended work leave. Were with these elements missing from the film because they are missing in real life?
There were a handful of subjects followed from pregnancy through the first birthday of the baby. In the end only one of those babies was nursing.
The moms who experienced premature weaning talked extensively about how was “really okay”, that “the doctors were right”, they “had their baby’s health in their best interest” and “thanked goodness that their baby was healthy.” What I saw behind those words was grief, defeat and lots of justification for their unplanned weaning.
The producers, Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, say the outcomes of the subjects of their film align statistically in the United States with breastfeeding rates.
I believe documentaries are made not only to show real life but to affect a change or to educate or to inform.
There were experts talking about the cultural anthropological aspects of breast-feeding in the Western world but there was no real information on how to make breast-feeding easier or even pointing out what got in the way. We did see a bit on how our culture gets in the way: the boyfriend who not wanting to be patient as his baby nursed, the nurse not wanting to be patient as the parents wanted to baby to self attach, the moms who had to go to work and could not keep up making milk. Once again women, these new mothers, are at the mercy of the system, a system that does not support women or children.
In my documentary I would show women all of the world breastfeeding. I would show statistics on breastfeeding rates in different countries. I would show how birth practices impact breastfeeding, how working outside of the home impacts breastfeeding, how education and lack of education affect breastfeeding.
But I am not a filmmaker. I am a lactation consultant, a La Leche League Leader, a mom, a friend. I am working in the field daily to support mothers and babies one by one.
The longer I work in this field the more obstacles I see. What do you think? How do you see breastfeeding? Do you see it as easy? Do you see it as a privilege? Do you see it as impossible? How does a baby see breastfeeding? What if we asked babies? Would that change our outcomes? Would that change our culture?