In 2008 a documentary, The Business of Being Born, exposed the real business of birth. For the past 6 years, it has been extremely influential, causing millions of women to question their options for childbirth and demand evidence-based care. Now there's a new documentary, The Milky Way Movie, doing the same thing for breastfeeding.
This breastfeeding documentary not only empowers women but also reveals billion dollar industries working hard to shape a dangerous new normal for birth and breastfeeding.
A Must-See Breastfeeding Documentary
I sat in a room full of moms and birth professionals as we watched The Milky Way Movie. We laughed, cried, and came together afterwards rejoicing that a balanced and empowering documentary about breastfeeding had finally been made. I walked away, as a mother who struggled to breastfeed my son, feeling like it could be different for my future children. What do you hope the message people walk away with after watching your film?
That nursing is normal and can be awesome, but our culture on the whole, supports moms to fail. Our initiation rates have risen, but our long-term rates have not.
1. Make sure you get professionals to support the nursing relationship.
2. Make sure you have a good birth. Obstetrics practices have a lot to do with getting the start you need to ensure you and your baby express the innate program within.
3. Do whatever you have to do to get a long maternity leave. Staying home with your baby for the first 6 months is the next most important thing that supports exclusive nursing.
4. And that above all trust your body, trust your baby, and trust your instincts in this most incredible time of your life.
Your film talks about the history of breastfeeding and the formula industry. So many eyeopening facts that I had never known about. Was there anything that surprised you as you were doing your research for The Milky Way Movie?
Not so much during the making of the film, but just last weekend at the USBC conference in D.C., we learned how insidious the formula companies really are. They now have found a way to embed into smart phone and pad/notebook apps geared toward the breastfeeding mom.
I have been very surprised over and over again, at how many people consider formula the norm. Formula companies are brilliant, and seem to always be several steps ahead of the breastfeeding community in terms of marketing and framing the cultural conversion. So much so that even researchers compare breastfeeding or breastmilk (the experiment), with formula (the control). The assumption is that formula is the NORM!!! Which makes breastfeeding the variable, or non-norm!
You can always tell when someone says, breastfed babies score higher, or breastfed babies are healthier, moms who breastfeed have a lower chance of getting breast cancer etc. that they were compared with the normal everyday way of feeding a kid – formula feeding.
If we compare formula with a physiological norm of breastfeeding, we would say, “Breastfeeding NORMALIZES a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer.”
There are quite a few celebrities who share their own breastfeeding stories and struggles. I thought it really helped to normalize breastfeeding for all women. Who really stood out to you as you interviewed all of these fascinating people?
They all were pretty awesome, normal, regular moms. Each of the moms we interviewed were incredible, as so many mothers are. Even the celebrities embodied normalcy, awesomeness, and were lovely, connected mamas.
You traveled to Germany and went to a hospital where NICU babies are thriving with 97% of full term and 86% of preemie babies exclusively breastfeeding. These babies are skin-to-skin against their mothers in bed together rather than being isolated in incubators. I have to be honest and say this is when I started reaching for the tissues. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, as someone who was only permitted to hold my newborn for 30 minutes every 3 hours. We've seen a lot of progress in the United States with hospitals becoming Baby Friendly, do you see us ever progressing as far as Germany has? What do you feel are the biggest obstacles?
Money and patriarchy. There is a huge industry in America around hospital care of mothers during labor and of their babies in NICUs. But, I think even that could be overcome if we practiced according to the overwhelming research literature.
So, I know I stand to be highly criticized for this answer, but in my experience – 24 years at a university hospital, and several years as a doula and a home birth midwife – the medical community just thinks they can care for babies so much better than a mother. There is an arrogance of knowing that permeates women’s medicine. Women are just not considered to be experts on their own body or their own babies. Period.
Every time we try to exert our self-determination, authority over our bodies or our babies, we are largely slapped down and considered selfish for wanting a “good” birth experience, or selfish and dangerous for sleeping with our babies, or selfish for wanting to hold and/or breastfeed our preemies. The underlying assumptions are that we are selfish, dangerous and ignorant, and the medicine is our savior, medicine needs to be respected, medicine will save us and our babies, if only we would surrender to their power.
We have seen medicine where mothers and families are respected and the families work hand in hand with the doctors for the best outcomes. These are the practices we wish to uphold, and yes we believe it can become more the norm as families begin to demand this kind of care.
Notice that in the countries where hospitals and medicine have a greater involvement of public money rather than private money, there is a difference as to how medicine is practiced.
The tagline for your film is, “Every Mother Has a Story.” As a lactation consultant I'm sure you've come across countless questions and issues women face. If there was just 1 tip you could provide to a pregnant woman who wants to breastfeed, what would that be?
Call a midwife! And even more than that, have your baby at home, or a birth center. Investigate the back up doctor and hospital to the point that you have a relationship with the hospital and NICU and know how your baby will be treated if it needs emergency care.
If you choose the standard hospital birth educate yourself about the practices of doctors and hospitals in your area. Choose your provider based on your extensive research. Get reviews from other moms about the doctors and hospitals. Do not go into birth blindly or that “they” will take care of you. Do not trust the typical medical model.
Thank you for this wonderful chance to interview with you and all your fans. Our deepest hope is to create the change our culture yearns for.
I want to thank Chantal and Jennifer for their time and participation with this interview. Please be sure to watch The Milky Way Movie!
Thanks also to Aperture Grrl for the use of their gorgeous breastfeeding photo for this post.
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