Latching On

The Politics of Breastfeeding in America

A film by Katja Esson

2010 | 36 minutes | Color | DVD | Order No. 10999


After filmmaker Katja Esson’s sister gave birth in Germany, she was able to breastfeed her baby anywhere and at any time. Returning home to New York, Esson found that breastfeeding was rarely practiced and largely unseen. Academy Award® Nominee Esson (Ferry Tales) turned her quirky eye on the subject and set out to learn why this was so. Her wide-ranging, frequently funny documentary highlights the intersecting economic, social, and cultural forces that have helped replace mother’s milk with formula produced by a billion dollar industry, and reveals the challenges and rewards for women who buck the trend.

Latching On draws on lively first-hand accounts from mothers of diverse ethnicities and economic backgrounds, as well as candid observations by pediatricians, healthcare providers, lactation specialists, and the proprietor of New York’s first breastfeeding boutique. Including data about paid maternity leave, hospital post-delivery policies, and workplace accommodations for nursing mothers, the film compares current US practices with standards adopted elsewhere. Tensions around public breastfeeding and "breast is best" promotion campaigns highlight society's perceived interest in regulating women's reproductive behavior, as well as the power of culture to assign sexual and moral meaning to mothers' bodies. Entertaining and insightful, Latching On is an important analysis of the politics of breastfeeding, illuminating the complexities behind a simple, natural act.


“…would spark interesting debates among a generation of students that tends to have strong opinions to offer about issues of work-life balance, environmental responsibility, parenting, and motherhood.”

Erin Marie Arizzi Films for the Feminist Classroom

“With historical perspective, this film provides a comprehensive look at the multiple contemporary issues surrounding breastfeeding in the US. Can be used to spark discussion in medical anthropology, medical history, public health, and women's studies.”

Aimee Eden Dept. of Anthropology, University of South Florida

“The message is not that breastfeeding is inherently difficult for the vast majority of women; rather, it is the unsupportive way in which our culture approaches breastfeeding that makes this very natural process profoundly challenging for so many mothers.”

Dr. Jerry Calnen, M.D. President, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine

“Confronts the complexities [and] shine[s] light on the importance of breastfeeding and the significant need for education and support to help moms and babies connect from the start.”

Elaine Barrington, L.C.S.W. Founder, The Natural Parenting Way

"[E]xcellent for women’s studies, psychology of women or gender, and sociology of women classes at both the undergraduate and graduate level."

Sex Roles


  • LA Femme Film Festival


Katja Esson

Katja Esson is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, born in Germany and based in Miami. Known for her intimate character-driven documentaries tackling race, class, and gender, her credits include WMM release FERRY TALES, which turns the unlikely setting of the Staten Island Ferry Powder Room into a celebration of sisterhood (HBO 2004). In 2007, HOLE IN THE SKY - THE SCARS OF 9/11 received the Gold-Award at the World-Media-Festival. Her 2011 film SKYDANCER, a WMM release, about two Mohawk ironworkers torn between the Akwesasne reservation and New York City, received nominations for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Cinematography at the Shanghai Film Festival and premiered on PBS and ARTE in 2011. Katja’s POETRY OF RESILIENCE, a WMM release, was nominated for the Cinema for Peace Award in 2012. Her five-part documentary series BACKROADS USA (2014) and AMERICAN RIVERS (2016) premiered on ARTE and PBS in 2018. A Simons-Public Humanities Fellow at Kansas University, her films have screened at the Museum of Modern Art, American Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian. Katja’s work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Knight Foundation, ITVS, IDA Enterprise, NYSCA, the Redford Center, Sundance and the Ford Foundation. (10/23)


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