Gently scooping my daughter into my lap, pulling down my shirt, and nursing her has been an unexpected oasis in modern motherhood. A few weeks ago, we breezed past her first birthday and are still going strong, though her nursing sessions are getting shorter. I wouldn’t be surprised if we were done before the next six months is up. It will be a bittersweet ending to an almost entirely positive phase.
Breastfeeding hasn’t always been pleasant, though. When I was working full-time, all the schlepping of the pump, bottles, bags, and freezer packs was such a hassle. Painstakingly washing them every night was a total drag. But each day, when I got home from a long day at the office, I immediately felt an intrinsic release as she peacefully nursed, and it was all worth it. And in every parenting challenge that has come up – bedtime struggles, separation anxiety, long flights – breastfeeding has helped smooth it all out. Plus, it’s been a huge confidence boost to know that I have the ability to help sooth away almost any problems she could face.
A new documentary, “Breastmilk,” explores all the ups and downs of modern breastfeeding in the US. Released in late 2013, it will hit theaters in New York on May 7 and in Los Angeles on May 16. Filmmaker Dana Ben-Ari and executive producers Ricki Lake (who produced the viral hit "Business of Being Born" and its sequel "More Business of Being Born") and Abby Epstein (who directed "Business of Being Born") get the conversation going with a provocative, direct style, and real talk about the struggles and victories moms experience while nourishing their babies. It also asks questions about why breastfeeding rates are so low in the US, and what can be done to increase rates.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, while 77 percent of babies are breastfed after birth, only 49 percent are still breastfed at 6 months, and just 27 percent are breastfed at 12 months, though rates are showing steady improvement.
Documentaries such as this bring this important cultural and nutritional issue to the forefront of public discussion.
In the same vein as Ms. Lake’s previous documentaries, this film offers up various sides of the breastfeeding spectrum, and through that, offers social commentary about breastfeeding in the US, where it’s surprisingly unsupported at times.
As parents, we need to support each other and make sure our babies are getting the purest nourishment they need. We can’t leave it all up to the new moms to carve out the way and insist on getting their needs met – we need to support them every moment, even when it’s not the most convenient way to go.
The trailer of the film ends with a toddler playfully squirting bubbles in her cup of warm breast milk. May we all get to the point where that playful gesture will be just that, not a reason to get flustered.
[Editor's note: Some portions of this blog were removed because people intended to be anonymous were identifiable.]