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 writer/director based in New York City.

Born and raised in Germany, Esson brings a quirky European sensibility to the distinctively American subjects she chooses. Her documentary short, FERRY TALES, which turns the unlikely setting of the Staten Island Ferry Powder Room into a celebration of sisterhood received an Academy Award®-nomination in 2004 and premiered on HBO.

In 2006, Esson completed HOLE IN THE SKY - THE SCARS OF 9/11 (New York im Schatten der Türme), which premiered on ARD and received the Gold Award at the World Media Festival. A Season of Madness (2006) is a narrative short film based on a short story by best-selling Author Hanan al-Shaykh.

Her documentary, SKYDANCER, is about the Mohawk ironworkers who are responsible for constructing America's cityscape; the film is a provocative examination of Native American life in the 21st century. Other credits include VERTICAL TRAVELER which explores the pioneering spirit of New York City through the metaphoric story of the city's unique relationship with elevators; LATCHING ON about the politics of breastfeeding in America; and "HOOKER, HARLOT, WHORE, about the history of prostitution in Europe. POETRY OF RESILIENCE is about six international poets who have survived - and written about - some of the world's most unspeakable crimes against humanity. The film received a Cinema for Peace Award-nomination during the Berlin Film Festival in 2012. Esson's films have screened at film festivals around the world and been broadcast on HBO, PBS and ARTE among others.

Esson has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council of the Arts and the Jerome Foundation. She has been nominated for the Rockefeller Media Arts and the USA Artist Fellowships and is a recipient of the the Simons Public Humanities Fellowship.

Esson is currently in production with Cantineros De Cuba, a film that reflects on the story of Cuba, a country undergoing its greatest transformation since 1959. She also has created, written and directed two 5-part series for ARTE: Backroads USA (2013) and American Rivers (2016). (03/19)


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