Last night I attended a special screening of “Breastmilk: The Movie” organized by the Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group Foundation. I was very excited to see this film since I recently completed an 18 hour course on breastfeeding for health care professionals and feel strongly about this issue. At the screening I was surrounded by doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, nursing babies, mothers and the occasional brave husband. The atmosphere felt incredibly supportive and open, we were all waiting to rally behind an informative, strong documentary about breastfeeding.
The film follows several women from the end of their pregnancies until their babies reach one year. They discuss their opinions and experiences regarding breastfeeding. The film also includes expert opinion such as Dr. Jack Newman and some couples who have epic breastfeeding stories. The lesbian couple who were jointly nursing their child was my favourite.
I wanted this film to be a rallying cry for mothers. I wanted it to explore in-depth the barriers to breastfeeding. I wanted it to empower its viewers that they too can breastfeed. Ultimately, this film was largely discouraging. If i did not have a broader knowledge about breastfeeding, I would have walked away from this film feeling like nursing is challenging and that I should expect problems. It would seem that problems are more normal than the act of breastfeeding itself. Now in our society that may actually be an inconvenient truth, but the film never dove into why these problems exist. Baby after baby were roomed in the nursery, away from the mother, skin to skin was not encouraged, partners were unsupportive or actually discouraging and formula was pushed starting in the hospitals. To the trained eye it was quite obvious why these women encountered problems, but these barriers were never pointed out by the filmmakers. No mention was given to the scientific literature that supports things like skin to skin or rooming in and no information was presented on the nefarious practices of the formula industry. The film needed more quantitative information to solidify it’s message.
Our society needs the message that breastfeeding is normal. Not that it’s best or beneficial or healthy, but that it is normal. It needs to be seen as a routine, daily practice of life. This film is really a series of personal experiences about breastfeeding in modern society. There is value to that and it is important that we consider the impact public policy has on the everyday experiences of the breastfeeding mother. But they could have gone further.