Breast Milk or Formula? "Milk" Documentary Explores Sticky Politics Behind the Decision

©. Milk / film

This fascinating film reveals disturbing facts about malnutrition and infant mortality, and the role of insidious corporations in perpetuating these problems.

“The sound of a woman who is giving birth with dignity is a light that brightens the entire world.” With these words, I immediately became entranced by a brand new documentary called Milk, written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Noemí Weis.

This film is perfect for anyone who has ever struggled to breastfeed her baby, who dislikes the over-medicalization of childbirth, who feels uncomfortable with the pressure of hospital procedures, and who has wondered about the many ‘gifts’ of free formula, bottles, and diaper bags that accompany many women home from the hospital.

Milk trailer from Noemi Weis on Vimeo.

Milk shines its spotlight on childbirth and the post-natal period, when women and infants are at their most vulnerable. It is, appallingly, at this time that corporations, such as Nestlé, swoop in with inappropriate marketing to promote their infant feeding products. They take advantage of the lack of information that many women have, particularly in developing countries, and convince them that formula is the best option for their babies – despite the tragic fact that these women don’t have enough money to continue buying formula after their breast milk supply has dried up.

Director Noemí Weis says how surprised she was, in making this film, "to learn how little awareness there is about infant nutrition in emergency and disaster response in many areas around the globe."

Every child has the right to basic nutrition, and governments should take it upon themselves to ensure that this right is protected. It’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that babies thrive. Prevention is cheaper, better, and easier than attempting to cure the rising number of chronic diseases now causing infant deaths. The formula companies, however, have little interest in seeing that happen, as there is no economic gain to be had by encouraging women to breastfeed.

Milk takes the viewers to rural Brazil, where indigenous midwives deliver a baby the traditional way; to the Philippines, which has been devastated by a typhoon and the shock doctrine-like approach that formula companies take in disaster zones; to Kenya, where the Ministry of Health has pushed through impressive legislation to promote infant nutrition and ban advertising that would undermine it; to Toronto, where new mothers feel betrayed by the medical system’s usurpation of their birth experiences; and, finally, to France, where a mother discovers the wonders of breast milk and what it can do, not only for her children but also for others in need.

woman feeding baby in the Philippines

© Milk / film

It is a powerful film, filled with enlightening and often upsetting interviews with doctors, nutritionists, journalists, lactation consultants, midwives, and mothers from all around the world. It shows that there isn’t nearly enough education or training provided for the post-natal period, and that women worldwide often lack the support they need to persist in breastfeeding. The film raises big questions that need to be addressed, and hopefully this is just the beginning of the conversation.

Visit website to find out if there are any screenings near you, or to request one.