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?



3 Responses to “My Review of Breastmilk – the movie”

  1. abigailmccormack Says:

    I have yet to see this documentary, but now I’m wondering if I really want to (even though I really liked The Business of Being Born)!

    Personally, my breastfeeding experience has been amazing. It has given me so much confidence in myself and my body to know that I not only gave birth to a beautiful baby with it, but am able to feed her with it.

    Since birth, my baby girl has been so easy…she latched on after an hour of skin-to-skin. Yes, the first 2 weeks were pretty painful…yes, there were small obstacles. And no, she still doesn’t latch on right away at a month old. But for the most part, everything was so much more natural and easy than I had prepared myself for.

    All I had read during pregnancy were horror stories and how difficult it would be. Although it’s nice to be well-informed and to understand that breastfeeding might not be easy, I wouldn’t consider my experience hard either. It is relaxing and such special bonding time. Sometimes I find myself wanting to breastfeed even when my baby doesn’t want to…and that’s coming from someone who breastfeeds every 1-2 hours already, haha.

    I would love to see a breastfeeding documentary that focuses on breastfeeding facts, bad AND good, from lots of different cultures. I think women need to see the positives in this world of discouraging google search results. Not everyone has a hard time! It can be magic from the start. 🙂 xx

    • Abigail,
      That is lovely. It is my dream that more women have experiences like you have. I always say mothering is challenging but very rewarding – and breast-feeding is the same but so many are discouraged or undermined. Keep loving that baby and sharing your positive story!

  2. lolapaloozza Says:

    I haven’t seen the documentary, but did breast feed my four children for at least a month. It wasn’t easy at first. But I truly loved it. I worked, and pumped all the time. Maybe a little out of guilt but also because I really believed that breast milk was best.

    I do think the ability to breast feed is a luxury. The ability to pump milk at work is certainly not something that is easily done at many jobs, and it is frustrating. As are comments made by people, well meaning or not, when a mother nurses past what is considered a “normal” time.

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