You’re surely familiar with the idiom “Action speaks louder than words.”
Today, most Western mothers are practically bombarded with breastfeeding information and advice.
“In modern…cultures, mothers have more information about breastfeeding than any time in human history,” Kathleen Kendall-Tackett writes in How Too Much Information May Cause Problems for Breastfeeding New Mothers.
However, she continues that breastfeeding is an activity learned by the right side of the brain. Right-brained learning yields heart or body knowledge, she writes.
“When breastfeeding was the norm, girls learned about breastfeeding as they were growing up by seeing women actually doing it,” Kendall-Tackett continues.
So what happens to the mothers and future mothers of a culture where breastfeeding is invisible, where there is no “action”? Where nursing dyads hide behind suffocating blankets and expensive, mumu-like nursing aprons? Where mothers feed their hungry babies in public restrooms, in the confines of their homes, in bizarre pods and lactation stations. Where laws have been established to protect the nursing mother but aren’t enforced? Where breastfeeding mothers are forcefully divorced from the possibility of integrating themselves into society?
For one, authors Pat Hoddinott and Roisin Pill conclude in Qualitative study of decisions about infant feeding among women in east end of London that “the decision to initiate breast feeding is influenced more by embodied knowledge gained from seeing breast feeding than by theoretical knowledge about its benefits.”
In other words, when women don’t see breastfeeding, they generally don’t do breastfeeding.
Healthy Children Project’s latest documentary, The Lost Secret of the Throne, to be shown on September 28 at NYU Langone, explores the “Icons of Breastfeeding” throughout history in Egypt, Rome, and London. Dr. Karin Cadwell, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANLC, IBCLC guides three young women on their quest to discover what happened to the image of breastfeeding and consequently, images of women as powerful, strong and capable.
Inspiration for the film
They discussed a variety of things: how adolescents aren’t exposed to the primary function of breasts. Instead, our youth learn that “breasts are for his enjoyment only,” as Brimdyr puts it. Further, they discussed how the lessons of traditional schooling only go so far.
“How do you teach [teenagers] the passion for knowledge, exploration and the love of learning?” Brimdyr asks.
She tells me all of these quandaries started falling into place as the three women developed a project centered around the exploration of the evolving images of breastfeeding in art as a reflection of a cultural framework of women.
All of the film’s participant’s backgrounds shaped the movie as it developed, especially the questions the three young women asked and explored through the making of the film.
“You could watch them awakening to the idea of how important breastfeeding is,” Brimdyr explains.
Popular culture’s power
“Everyone can tell you that breast is best,” Brimdyr says. “But to make progress we need everyone to understand its value.”
And, according to Brimdyr, what is popular in society is what matters in society.
Barbie-like replicas complete with shiny, swollen breasts infiltrate our media. Juxtapose these tragic images of women with those of Isis, proud and exquisite offering life from her breast to Horus, or Mary feeding baby Jesus.
“The fact is, culture matters,” Rachel Campos-Duffy writes in Why Miley Cyrus Matters. “…What ever happened to uplifting our children and reminding them that there are things like beauty and virtue that transcend even the worst of human conditions?”
The Lost Secret of the Throne unraveled in a very organic fashion, with no expectations or preconceived ideas about its outcome.
“The way things happen is the right way when they happen naturally,” Brimdyr comments as an ethnographer.
Sifting through 400 hours of film, Brimdyr asked herself: Where is the red thread that pulls this story together? How can we help other people understand this experience and present them with the opportunity for a transformative moment?
“I am hoping that the viewers think about breastfeeding in our community in a different way,” Brimdyr tells me.
By helping viewers to think about the implications of hiding breastfeeding within our communities in a non-forceful fashion, they are given a chance to think of how they can make a difference for our future.
“Anyone can be awakened to the importance of breastfeeding,” Brimdyr says. “Their own individual talents will help our country move forward.”
For instance, Brimdyr’s background in computer science, cognitive psychology and ethnography allows her to see breastfeeding in a different way; to create and communicate in an unconventional fashion.
“All roads lead to breastfeeding,” Brimdyr teaches me a common saying around Healthy Children’s Center for Breastfeeding. “Suddenly everything else you’ve done in your life starts feeding into the puzzle to help people breastfeed.”
“The Lost Secret of the Throne” premiered in January 2013 at the International Breastfeeding Conference in Orlando.
Don’t miss the next screening!
Where: NYC, NYU Langone
When: September 28, 2013 7:30 p.m to 10 p.m.
Price: $25, includes light snacks
RNs: 2 Contact Hours, IBCLCs: 2 L CERPs, CLCs: 2 hours
Click here to register.
“The Lost Secret of the Throne” is available for fundraising and special events. To host your screening, call Mary at (508) 888-8044.
Breastfeeding advocates across the world have already requested their showing!