“I Make Milk. What’s Your Superporwer?” – Bumper sticker

During my 12 years at Children’s Fairyland, I have seen breastfeeding moms nearly every day in the park. Unlike more corporate workplaces, our park is all about little kids, and we’re pleased that women can feel comfortable feeding their babies in our public space.

But Fairyland clearly isn’t the real world. Yesterday my daughter drew my attention to a series of new and compelling ads by two University of North Texas art students featuring women breast-feeding in cramped bathroom stalls. “Bon appetit,” reads the sardonic tagline on one of them. The campaign urges support for a bill in the Texas state legislature that would protect nursing mothers from discrimination when they’re feeding in public places.


Breastmilk, a new documentary by first-time filmmaker Dana Ben-Ari, explores “the most surprising and concealed aspects of what it means to have milk: from hooter hiders (discreet breast covering) to workplace pumping, from career moms to gay parents, from wet nurses to sex practices, from freaked-out fathers and impassioned ‘lactivists’ to the moms who halt breastfeeding before their infant is 6 months old.” And more. The film allows parents to tell their own stories—stories that former teacher and social worker Ben-Ari believes need to be told.

“I was interested in diverse and multiple voices,” she says. “The theme is that the infrastructure to support breastfeeding isn’t there, so we are left on our own to figure it all out.” She says that her film doesn’t argue the benefits of breastfeeding over formula, but rather that she wants to expose stories and raise a lot of questions.

Shot in and around New York over a four-year period, the film follows women who had responded to posted flyers. They include lesbian moms who lactate without having given birth, a couple who rely on donated breast milk from friends, and couples who are facing conflicting pressures about breast-feeding.

Along the way, the subjects of lactation pornography, gender, class and race are explored. Ben-Ari also addresses the biggest taboo — breastfeeding and sex — in scenes with a mother who worries that she can’t share her body with both husband and baby. Possibly most controversial of all is a scene toward the end of the film in which a woman squirts some of her breast milk into the family’s morning eggs.

I found myself having many conversations with family and friends about the provocative issues raised in this film, and that is just what Ben-Ari wants. “I leave it up to the viewer,” says Ben-Ari. “What is food? What is milk? Some people think it’s gross, and others say, ‘why not?’” The agenda-less approach of this film is part of its appeal.

Currently, human milk sells on the open market for $4 an ounce, more than the price of oil. And although breastfeeding has been on the rise over the last several decades, the percentage of teen moms who breastfeed has decreased; during the last decade alone, the use of formula by teen mothers has gone up by 10 percent. Maybe if we didn’t force them to nurture in the same place where nature calls, the percentages would change.

Breastmilk is currently playing at the New Parkway Theater—babies welcome at all “Baby Brigade” screenings! It will be released in digital form this summer. For information, visit breastmilkthemovie.com.

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One Response

  1. rayon

    Please think about this matter as a lactation consultant might see it … particularly for young babies.

    The standard advice is to use the old easy chair at home, without distraction and in a calm environment.

    In public places, the mother is advised to cover the baby’s head to prevent distractions. Even then, many babies will push the cover aside to see what all the noise is about.

    Women who are nursing young babies in public places will generally seek out a quiet, secluded area to be away from the noise and distraction. They often choose the restroom. The baby is nursing. Don’t pretend that the baby is licking the floors.

    I could go on. But consider the reasons you don’t often see public nursing. Usually, it is the mother’s choice to do so at home, to cover the baby, or to find an isolated area. Those are wise choices for young babies, and all in keeping with the advice of the experts.


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