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In 2008, filmmakers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein changed American childbirth with their landmark documentary The Business of Being Born, which inspired countless women to question the status quo when it comes to labor and delivery. Between 2004 and 2009, home births increased by 29 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and many credit the film, and its triumphant depiction of Lake’s home birth, with this phenomenon. Now Lake and Epstein are shining their light on breastfeeding and hoping for the same revolutionary results.
To make matters clear, Lake and Epstein did not make Breastmilk, a new documentary from filmmaker Dana Ben-Ari. According to an article they wrote for Huffington Post, they simply haven’t felt compelled by personal experience to make another film themselves. But when word of mouth brought Ben-Ari's breastfeeding documentary, which tells the stories of five women and their babies from pregnancy through the first year of life, to their attention, they signed on as executive producers.
Instead of dwelling on formula company conspiracy theories or flinging alarming stats about nursing’s correlation with IQ, the film simply shares experiences, both challenging and transcendent, to shed light on the discrepancy between the message that you must breastfeed and society’s obvious discomfort when women do so. “Ricki and Abby really added to the natural birth conversation by mainstreaming it,” says Ben-Ari. “I think that my film is the next conversation that needs to happen.”
And in case the emotionally charged, highly controversial topic isn’t enough to get people talking, there’s the promotional image, which shows a close-up of a breast shooting out breastmilk. Shots of a woman hand-expressing milk with her daughter watching are also included in the film (and you thought Ricki Lake giving birth in a bathtub was bold!) “So many women don’t know what breastmilk and the lactating breast look like,” says Ben-Ari. “I made this film because I wanted to validate women's experience, and images are the best way to do that.”
Breastmilk will be released in theaters in early spring. In the meantime, you can apply to host a community screening.