Milking the System
If you’ve ever heard the expression “the first one’s free” you’ll understand the connection between your local crack dealer and the baby food Goliaths who prey on vulnerable women and children around the globe. In filmmaker Noemi Weis’ stunningly shot documentary, Milk, we are given a detailed picture of how society has turned birth into a global industry.
One of the film’s stories focuses on the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines where a culture of breastfeeding that had been in place for centuries was ripped away with homes and livelihoods. Baby food corporations saw a way to capitalise on the tragedy and quickly swooped in with powdered milk donations. The giant corporations gave the financially strapped mothers just enough formula to get them hooked and then cut off their free supply. In one of the film’s many poignant moments a group of young mothers who are no longer able to lactate confess to feeding their babies the only affordable “milk” they can access, a product that is the equivalent of coffee whitener. These marginalized women know that it is not a real substitute but they are desperate to feed their children something.
The impact formula companies have in disaster zones is the most troubling, but Weis notes that mothers everywhere, no matter what their country, culture or language are all struggling with the breastfeeding disconnect.
As Canadian lactation consultant Edith Kernerman puts it, “We’re all undereducated when it comes to breastfeeding. No one is trained. nepal We undermine mothers. We disempower them.”
Milk has its world premiere MONDAY, April 27th at Hot Docs, 2015
Judith Klassen is a Toronto-based writer, filmmaker (Love in the Sixth), and host of the celeb talk show Judecast.