August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Throughout August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with other organizations, hopes to bring the newest research and services to the attention of the public and empower women to breastfeed their babies. A lot of factors play into whether or not a woman decides to breastfeed: whether she is working or not, medical issues, stress, and even her comfortability with breastfeeding all factor in. And these are actually some of the issues explored in the new documentary, Breastmilk, which debuted on DVD and Digital HD from Bond/360 just in time for National Breastfeeding Awareness Month.
Breastmilk discusses breastfeeding in the lives of many different families, each from different backgrounds, socio-economical levels, family structures, and belief systems. The filmmakers’ documentation of the families’ successes, struggles, and even failures with breastfeeding is coupled with expert commentary on a variety of subjects in connection with breastfeeding and breastmilk.
It seems that breastfeeding, particularly in public, is getting a lot of attention lately. Wherever you go, especially on social media and other popular websites, people espouse a wide variety of opinions. In the end, there are many reasons why a woman may choose to breastfeed or not. Whatever the reason, it is foremost a decision that should be based on what is best for the child and the family. This is something the documentary addresses at length. The film shows women who were very successful with their breastfeeding and other women who, for many different reasons, were not as successful. Some of these struggles relate to careers, schooling, or issues outside their control, and the filmmakers document the ways the women and families coped during these times without passing judgment on them.
One aspect of the documentary I found especially positive was that it included interviews with a somewhat comprehensive cross section of family types. There were people from many different cultures and family structures. They talked with single and two-parent families, people who were still in school and others who had graduate degrees, same sex couples, and even adoptive parents. The viewpoints were not exclusive to the mothers who were breastfeeding, though. The other family members’ viewpoints were explored as well, giving the documentary a more well-rounded perspective on the issue. By not allowing their commentary to become too one-sided, the filmmakers allow us to see just how much goes into the decisions being made by these families. Even in a single parent family, there are always other people and circumstances that are impacted by the decision.
Refreshingly, I never felt as if the documentary was preaching to the audience. It doesn’t try to make the argument that every woman should breastfeed. It is true that many of the experts interviewed in the film are of the mind that breastfeeding is the best for the baby, but this is a documentary about breastmilk after all. In the end, the point is that, although a lot of research states that breastmilk is the best for the infant and there are a lot of resources in order to help with that process, whether or not to breastfeed or use breastmilk is up to the individual family.