A new documentary hopes to show how new families—mothers, fathers, and children—struggle with the physical and emotional complexities of breastfeeding
There’s an upcoming documentary, from director Dana Ben-Ari and executive producers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, that takes a new look at the topic of breastfeeding and I have to say, as a dad, after watching the first trailer for BREASTMILK the Movie, I was impressed by what I saw.
And what did I see in the BREASTMILK trailer? I saw women AND men having frank, honest, and earnest discussions about breastfeeding and treating breastfeeding not as a one-sided issue for women only, but rather as a complex topic that affects the whole family. And, as a dad who struggled to help my wife with breastfeeding issues, that was really nice to see.
When my wife was pregnant, like many parents, we signed up for as many local parenting classes as we could. And, while I never thought twice about the birthing class or the car-seat installation class, I’ll admit, as a man, I was pretty intimidated about the breastfeeding class. I just had no experience with the topic. I didn’t grow up around babies, so I had no idea about the in-and-outs of breastfeeding. I went into the class with two goals in mind—I wanted to support my wife and I wanted to get answers for a lot of my really, really stupid questions. (I’m not proud to admit that I once asked, “Do you ever squeeze your breast like an udder?” Total rookie mistake.)
The class, to put it mildly, was a huge disappointment. The teacher was an insensitive jerk. She spent two hours of the three hour class going off on an angry pro-breastfeeding screed—a smarter person might’ve realized that couples who’d paid $80 for a breastfeeding class were probably already open to the concept—and then chided all of the women in class who admitted that they were planning on eventually going back to work, telling them, “I think you need to ask yourselves if you’re being selfish and not really considering the needs of your child.” She was a monster, and, after leaving the class, my wife vaguely debated not breastfeeding at all just to spite her (which, of course, we didn’t do).
But that class was our first exposure to the occasionally vitriolic side of breastfeeding. Because, if you’re not a parent you may not know this, but people argue about breastfeeding ALL THE TIME. Seriously. And breastfeeding seems like such an odd thing to argue about because, in theory, it’s one of the most natural aspects of our human development. Human beings have been breastfeeding their children since human beings began. It’s part of our physical biology.
Personally, I can’t understand why anyone would ever object to breastfeeding in public or anywhere else. And yet, for whatever reason, in recent years, it’s become this hot button issue that can really inflame passions. People argue about breastfeeding’s benefits, appropriateness, techniques, advocacy… it’s crazy. And there are parties on both sides of the breastfeeding debate that are to blame for that craziness. For every pundit that stupidly argues that there’s something sexual or unseemly about a woman breastfeeding her child, there seems to be a breastfeeding advocate who equates handing a baby a bottle (no matter what the circumstance) with handing them a loaded gun.
So, when I heard that there was a new documentary about breastfeeding, I was afraid that it was going feature one side of those extreme fundamentalist arguments. But, instead, when I watched the trailer for BREASTMILK, I saw empathy. I saw empathy and I saw women talking frankly about their worries and concerns. I saw new families realistically struggling to learn how to live with breastfeeding. I saw fathers trying to figure out how they fit in to the breastfeeding equation. I saw real life, not cable news channel talk show bullshit. And it was really refreshing.
I hope director Dana Ben-Ari and BREASTMILK live up to the promise of this trailer. As a father who watched his wife go through the ups and downs of breastfeeding, I can tell you that a movie like this has the potential to be an invaluable resource for expecting parents. Because breastfeeding isn’t simple, physically or emotionally, and it affects the entire family—moms, dads, and kids too.