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Latching On

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


Main credits

Esson, Katja (film director)
Esson, Katja (film producer)
Esson, Katja (photographer)

Other credits

Camera: Katja Esson; editors, Kate Eales, Felix Drawe; music, Liz Lyzinger.

Docuseek subjects

Distributor subjects

Body Image, Health, Motherhood, Sociology


Social issues, Womanhood, Motherhood; "Latching On"; Women Make Movies