As a birth worker, it is my mission to work my way through every pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood documentary I can. So when I saw Breastmilk available on Netflix it was a must see. I have to say the film did not disappoint and helped me work through many of my own personal views and emotions towards breastfeeding.
Towards the beginning of the film, Patrece a community health worker asks the question of why a woman breastfeeds. She then goes on to state the common response that it’s what’s best for the baby and mom and all these health benefits, etc, etc, etc. But she then says that’s not the real reason why a woman breastfeeds. She has to have a deeper more meaningful reason if she is going to successfully do it. I wholeheartedly agree that a woman’s reason to persevere despite trials has to be for reasons beyond just health benefits. I remember a friend of mine putting herself through hell to maintain her supply to breastfeed and pump and I was in awe of her. She explained to me that as a working mother, sending milk home was her tie to her baby. It was the connection to her daughter she didn’t get to have like stay at home moms do.
Patrece later asks "What if WIC stopped giving formula? Would that force women to breastfeed? Do we want to force women to breastfeed? Or do we want them to want to?” I think many women don’t give breastfeeding an adequate try because formula is so easily accessible and free. But it’s valuable to ask the question of if we really want to force them to breastfeed.
Dr. Linda Dahl’s explanation of ties and breastfeeding was a huge godsend moment for me. So often I’ve heard mother’s of children with ties who were able to successfully breastfeed dismiss our failure due to my son’s tie. I loved that she explained that there are 3 mouth components involved in breastfeeding and you have to consider all factors. Some babies with full tongue ties have no problems latching because the rest of their mouth works with that tongue. But others might barely have a tie but too high of a palate to express the milk. In our case, it was a combination of my nipple structure and his mouth that just didn’t work right together. I actually cried at that point in the movie because Colleen at the beginning expressed my exact views on breastfeeding prior to birth. And then she received the exact support I never got. Oh how I wish I would have had a more educated medical team when it comes to ties. Watching her dry pump was my exact experience. Towards the end of our experience, I would hook up both breasts for 45 minute each and barely even get an ounce. So many women who’ve never struggled with genuine supply issues struggle to understand that. And even though she failed at exclusive breastfeeding, I am so happy they included her experience because it reminded me so much of my own.
I appreciate the evaluation of the emotional guilt women who supplement go through. Just because they do it , doesn’t mean they don’t want what’s best for their baby like some EBF’ers would believe.
Karin’s words were both beautifully endearing and heartbreaking to me. “Whenever I see it like this, I’m fascinated by the fact that I can make food. I can sustain a human life for an entire year on this stuff alone. I mean, except that I can’t. I haven’t been able to make enough.”
My only negative was the overt product placement for Medela. I couldn’t find them listed as a sponsor anywhere (except for a screening giveaway) but they were the only pumping supply brand pictured. I would have been nicer to see a variety of pumping brands since many women experience find different pumps to work best for them Or if Medela was a sponsor, I would have preferred to see some sort of acknowledgement of that.
All in all, I think this film has something to offer every pregnant woman considering her feeding options. It beautifully provides fellow women’s experiences and will have something to resonate with everyone. Some people won’t like certain points and love others, and other women will feel the opposite. I think that is an indicator of a great documentary.