The movie “Breastmilk” is now available on Netflix, and I recommend it, if for nothing else you get to see the power of a breast squirting milk like a fire hose. It’s pretty amazing. Breastmilk is powerful stuff, in practice and in theory.
I liked a lot about this film. It showed a variation of experiences across many socioeconomic groups. They featured single, married, gay, and straight couples. There were women who exclusively breastfed, women who pumped a little, women who supplemented a little, women who struggled and struggled, and women who breastfed like it was easy as pie.
I was surprised by what an emotional reaction I had to the film. Mae is almost a year old, and I haven’t breastfed her in a long time. I stopped nursing her at the breast at eight weeks, and she drank pumped milk for three more months after that. Our journey was tumultuous and was the main trigger that caused my postpartum anxiety (an issue that the film didn’t touch on). Logically, I know I did everything I could to try and make breastfeeding work. I pushed myself to the edge of crazy, I tried so hard. But, still there is a but. But, what if I messed up somewhere along the way? What if I hurt her bonding abilities somehow? What if she was constipated today because I didn’t breastfeed her long enough?
As much as I try to push this down, it still comes up. And the documentary made me face these feelings head on again.
One woman in the film, started out optimistic and ready to breastfeed, and only breastfeed, for a long time. But her supply was low and her son had a tongue tie and it was the perfect storm. I didn’t expect it, but I started to cry when she spoke about feeling like she couldn’t provide what he needed. God, that struggle became so fresh again. It’s this chance, this opportunity, that you never get back. The regret is tangible.
Yet again, I tell myself, “but you did everything you could.” I list the things: you saw a lactation consultant, you went to la leche meetings, you called experienced friends, you fed her on-demand, you drank lots of water, you fixed her tongue tie, you got up every two hours to feed her for months, you kept feeding her when your nipples were bleeding, you drank a special tea every night and morning.
The list is long. But tonight it can’t make me feel better.
Watching the women who were successfully breastfeeding made me remember those times when Mae would latch well and we’d have a good session, and she’d be milk drunk and happy. It felt amazing. And at almost a year postpartum, I’m embarrassed to say I’m still angry and sad that I didn’t get more of that.
The part of the film that I hated was an interview with an Australian couple. The couple talked about not believing women try hard enough when they say “I didn’t produce enough milk.” They came off as totally judgmental shitheads. They are the awful voices inside most mom’s head. I know the filmmakers were showing a wide range of opinions, but I wish they’d left that one out. It felt like a punch in the gut.
I recommend the film, but if you struggled with breastfeeding, like me, be prepared to experience some sadness.