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So before diving into Breastmilk, a couple of cards on the table; as the father of a 7 month old and in a similar situation as our own Olie Coen, I had a natural curiosity as to what the film was about, and whether it was a case of advocating the benefits of breast milk and the mammoth industry surrounding breastfeeding, but it was not like that at all, and seems to mirror a situation that our family is experiencing.
Over a three-year period, director Dana Ben-Ari checks in periodically with several families who are about to have or just had babies, and sees how they are handling breast feeding their new addition (for the unfamiliar, the recommended goal is to have a baby fed either exclusively or almost entirely on breast milk for the first six months of their lives, before supplementing with formula). The interviewees span a variety of demographics, educations, economic classes and gender orientations as they talk about their experiences of the moment. The film is experiential and without judgment or narration as we see some of them interviewed just before or right when they are about to nurse their child for the first time, and sees their children go from this point, to the magical six month mark, to even a year in some cases.
So two things I knew before watching Breastmilk are that a) the six month thing is very real and b) the lengths that some will go to reach that mark, and we see that play out in the film in varying degrees, first and foremost is the time, effort and emphasis that is placed on pumping in order to realize this. We watch as one of the new mothers quietly pumps in a room while eating lunch, and another shows us the results of her pumping, as her supply is low. And as one of the subjects says, every drop is ‘liquid gold,' so ways of jiggering a bottle to catch drops on the walls and tops is shown from a geochemist.
The amount of pressure placed on mothers to reach this milestone in their child's life can be a taxing process, and some of it is shown here. Some of the mothers whose supplies are low speak to lactation consultants on camera, or attend meetings of La Leche, an international organization of breastfeeding support with group meetings all over the world. Some also obtain milk which other Moms have pumped; many times as donations but occasionally are sold, though the latter is not shown (or discussed if I recall) in the film.
All this said, Breastmilk, doesn't exclusively focus on the Moms who have trouble making milk, these just happened the stories that I related to the most. We experienced many of those same things and others when it came to ensuring that our son was able to receive milk in order to continue to grow and develop.
There have been some other wrinkles to our experience as well, but when we return to seeing some of the children we saw as babies as they are several months and even a year old, we get the thoughts from the mothers, and they seem to share a similar link about the experience of the first half year, and even despite the obstacles, they are proud of their children and their children appear both happy and healthy. There were an abundance of alternatives for those who couldn't nurse, and those that could recount them, but the common thread of healthy children is apparent.
The unspoken implication of the film, and one that I think our home shares, is that when it comes to this recommendation, there has to be some evolution in the thinking because if not, the pressure put on mothers unable to reach a six month mark is immense.The Disc:
1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen which for this, wasn't much of a surprise. Almost all of the film is in sit down interviews with an occasional moment or two of handheld footage and everything appears natural with little image noise, haloing or edge enhancement. Image detail is good and the image is stable throughout (the film was released in 2014), and all told looks nice.The Sound:
Two-channel stereo which does the job nicely given the source. Dialogue requires little user compensation and is clear as can be, with little in the way of robust noise to show off any dynamic range. Like the video, was pretty much what I expected.Extras:
A trailer for the film and little else.Final Thoughts:
When my wife and I were going through childbirth classes, we were exposed to a film that discussed both the birth and the initial nursing process. I'm guessing similar classes do the same thing. Breastmilk should hopefully receive a similar presence because as I learned and the film shows, not everyone is able to do this magical function of life, and there should be some preparation and/or consideration to a what if that seems to lack in the months leading to labor. For anyone who has or is about to have a child in their homes, I think both parents should give this a look.