Monday, November 18, 2013

BREASTMILK The Movie - A Review

There were plenty of leaking breasts, milk-drunk babies, and personal testimonies, but unfortunately there wasn't enough information.

Click to watch the trailer!

Like many birth and breastfeeding professionals, I've waited months for the newest documentary by Rikki Lake and Abby Epstein (and Dana Ben-Ari), the directors of the excellent birth documentary The Business of Being Born, and was hoping it would be just as insightful, empowering, and informative... in some ways it was, but overall I was disappointed with the lack of information.

Beginning with the early breastfeeding experiences of various mothers, we continue through the first months and onto the first year with a diverse group of parents, couples, and babies.

We are witness to the first latch, numerous breastfeeding and pumping sessions, tandem nursings, and preemie supplementation. We hear about a mother's experience with induced lactation, the changing sexuality of the breasts for one father, and from many generous milk donors providing their milk to adoptive families.

The documentary demonstrates the diversity of experiences breastfeeding parents encounter and lends even more weight to the argument that we don't provide enough support to new families. One mother, a librarian who pumps for months to feed her daughter breastmilk, points out that as a country we claim to support "family values", but in reality the true picture of family across the US is hardly supported at all - an incredibly relevant observation as mother after mother is unable to meet their breastfeeding goal, or that of our country's Healthy People 2020 goals.

An unfortunate theme, pervasive throughout the film, was 'there's not enough milk'; a legitimate concern for many parents today. Mother after mother, and even the fathers, addressed concerns that they weren't making enough milk... it almost seemed as if the documentary was trying to drill this in :( 

Unfortunately I felt that the issue was never addressed beyond that. Where I saw opportunities to interview lactation specialists, health workers, and medical professionals about what a "normal" milk supply looks like, how to increase supply, and our cultural misconceptions about "low-supply", instead we hear a discourse about the importance of perceiving "an abundance of milk" - which don't get me wrong, I completely agree with, but I think is less than helpful to the majority of struggling breastfeeding mothers.

What about information on how long it takes for your supply to come in? This was only briefly addressed in that early pumping (often promoted by hospitals) can make many mothers feel they don't have enough milk because at this point it hasn't come in... but there is no real dialogue about how long it takes for breastmilk to actually come in! Colostrum, mature milk, let-down... none of these things were discussed, leaving those who don't already know about breastfeeding and breastmilk to still be in the dark.

This documentary was more of an observation of modern infant feeding practices (including breastfeeding), rather than an informative and empowering documentary about breastmilk. In the end we are left with an understanding of how difficult breastfeeding can be and that we are not alone in our struggles with breastfeeding... but nothing for what to do to improve this situation.

So enough of what I didn't like, what I did love was the montage of breasts squirting breastmilk - almost as an onscreen competition - making the audience laugh at the distance and amount of milk being sprayed everywhere; a testimony to the 'abundance of milk' discourse briefly mentioned in the film, but contrary to the mother's lived experiences of trying to salvage every last drop!

I had hoped for a movie that I could encourage expecting couples and future parents to watch and learn about breastfeeding, to even help with making a decision about breastfeeding, but I don't think that's what this movie is best for.

Rather, I'll be recommending this movie to anyone who has breastfed. This movie has the potential to help breastfeeding parents feel less guilty about their own breastfeeding experience and to know that they certainly are not alone!

One thing the movie does attempt to do is to normalize breastfeeding and to call attention to the challenges that breastfeeding in an industrialized country entails. As one mother points out, "this is what our mothers and grandmothers have been able to carve out for us in the feminist movement", having to juggle mothering and professional life - often feeling as though you aren't doing your best at either.

It is certainly upsetting to hear such negative discourse, but it is important we acknowledge the reality of motherhood (especially in the US) and how many challenges, obstacles, and road-blocks we face when it comes to parenting and feeding your baby - hopefully we can use this honest dialogue to advocate for greater family support in the US!

Overall, Breastmilk- The Movie was an enjoyable watch for someone who knows a bit about breastfeeding and breastmilk, and for those who have struggled through their own breastfeeding relationship, but I felt it needed more information for future parents and curious individuals that want to know more about how to make breastfeeding better, how to make it work!

What did YOU think about the movie? Please leave a comment!

~Wisdom and Birth

Also directed by Rikki Lake and Abby Epstein is The Business of Being Born, if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it!!! You can find it on Netflix.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

13 (AWESOME!) Evidence-Based Reasons to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding truly is the best feeding! And if you needed any more reason to think so, here are some wonderful research-based and perhaps less well-known reasons to breastfeed!!

If you have other ideas please share them in the comments below!!


1. Breastfeeding can decrease your risk of breast cancer. 
 This is a BIG one that I think we need to talk about more! 
Preventing breast cancer is better than having to treat it!!

A large meta-analysis of 47 epidemiological studies from 30 countries found a 4.3% (95% CI 2.9-5.8) decreased risk of breast cancer for every 12 months of breastfeeding. 

Breastfeeding two children for two years each could conceivably reduce your risk of breast cancer by over 17%. [PubMed] (1)

2. And Ovarian Cancer. 
A meta-analysis found that the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer decreased 8% for every 5-month increase in the duration of breastfeeding (RR: 0.92; 95% CI: 0.90, 0.95). [PubMed] (2)

3. Breastfeeding will save you over 
$2,366 per year.
In The Business of Baby by Jennifer Margulis (2013) she estimates that infant formula will cost approximately $2,366 per year, whereas breastfeeding is free. This doesn't even take into account all the money you could save on doctor's visits and medicine because you'll have a healthier baby. See my post here for how to save over $4,000 with a new baby!

4. And your baby will be healthier.
Breastfeeding decreases the risk of infection such as gastrointestinal infections, lower respiratory infections and otitis media. Breastfeeding has also demonstrated an effect in the prevention of allergies, obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, hypertension, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This means less doctors bills, missed days of work, and money spent on medicine. [PubMed] (3)

5. Breastfeeding enhances cognitive development. 
Although there is some conflicting research, some studies show that breastfeeding may enhance cognitive development, at a minimum breastfeeding promotes optimal cognitive development for each respective baby. [PubMed](3)

6. And can give your baby better social mobility.
A large British cohort study demonstrated that there may be life-long social benefits to breastfeeding; a better chance of moving up the social ladder. It was found that breastfeeding increased the likelihood of upward social mobility and decreased the odds of downward mobility; an effect partially mediated through neurological and stress mechanisms. [NCBI] (4)

7. They may be less likely to become obese.
Although research isn't definitive on this because there are so many confounding variables, there does to be a correlation between increased breastfeeding rates and decreases in overweight and obesity. [PubMed] (5)


8. Breastfeeding is sustainable and Earth-friendly.
Infant formula, not so much. Just think about all that tin, cardboard, plastic, and the costs of cattle for milk, manufacturing dry or liquid formula and shipping... the environmental costs of infant formula are numerous, but breastmilk on the other hand is essentially cost-free. More environmental impact facts and information here.

9. You may raise a less picky-eater.
 Some research indicates that breastfeeding and especially extended breastfeeding may introduce a baby's taste pallet to a variety of flavors leading them to be less picky as they try foods in toddler-hood. You can find more in this article and this study

10. You can put a pause on your fertility. 
 An effective form of birth control, exclusive breastfeeding is 98-99.5% effective in preventing pregnancy in the first 6 months, when certain conditions are met. For some women ovulation doesn't occur for over two years, an excellent way to child-space for optimal health! Referred to as lactational amenorrhea, you can learn more about it here. Night feeds are an important factor in preventing ovulation and subsequent period. 

11. You'll get more and better sleep!
Research is increasingly demonstrating that breastfeeding mothers get more sleep than mothers feeding formula or using mixed feeding (contrary to what formula advertising alludes to!). Exclusively breastfeeding mothers report having more energy during the day, less symptoms of postpartum depression and more hours logged throughout the night. You can find an excellent summary of the research here.

12. And reduce your risk of  
postpartum depression. 
Breastfeeding can protect a mother from postpartum depression and reduce the severity of symptoms, this is possible through various mechanisms such as promoting hormonal processes that protect the mother against stress, helping to regulate sleep and wake patterns for mother and child, improving mother's self-efficacy and emotional involvement with the child, reducing the child's temperamental difficulties, and promoting better mother-child interactions. [PubMed] (6)


13. And you may lose more baby-weight!
Although there are some conflicting studies, there are some high-quality studies that demonstrate a positive association between breastfeeding and postpartum weight loss! [PubMed] (7)

Are there other research-based reasons to breastfeed? Leave a comment and let me know!!

Happy Breastfeeding!
~Wisdom and Birth

1. Breast cancer and breastfeeding: Collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, including 50302 women with breast cancer and 96973 women without the disease. Lancet. 2002;360:187–95. [PubMed]
2. Luan NN, Wu QJ, Gong TT, Vogtmann E, Wang YL, & Lin B. (2013). Breastfeeding and ovarian cancer risk: a meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2013 Oct;98(4):1020-31. [PubMed]
3. Leung AKC & Sauve RS. (2005). Breast is best for babies. Journal of the National Medical Association. 97(7): 1010-1019. [PubMed]
4. Sacker A, Kelly Y, Iacovou M, Cable N, Bartley M. (2013) Breast feeding and intergenerational social mobility: what are the mechanisms? Arch Dis Child 2013;98:9 666-671 [NCBI]
5. Lefebvre CM & John RM. (2013). The effect of breastfeeding on childhood overweight and obesity: A systematic review of the literature. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. doi: 10.1002/2327-6924.12036. [Epub ahead of print].
6. Figueiredo B, Dias CC, Brandão S, Canário C, Nunes-Costa R. (2013) Breastfeeding and postpartum depression: state of the art review. Jornal de Pediatria (Versão em Português), 89(4):332-338. [PubMed]
7. Neville CE, McKinley MC, Holmes VA, Spence D, Woodside JV. (2013). The relationship between breastfeeding and postpartum weight change-a systematic review and critical evaluation. Int J Obes (Lond). doi: 10.1038/ijo.2013.132. [Epub ahead of print] [PubMed]