Full story in the Guardian – http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/aug/23/kate.garraway.breast.milk
The Guardian, Saturday August 23 2008
Kate Garraway has just made a Channel 4 documentary called Other People’s Breast Milk – which is why, she explains, she is now in a cowshed, pretending to nurse a small calf, hoping to make the point that it is as odd for a human baby to drink cow’s milk, as a calf to drink human milk.
Other People’s Breast Milk takes Garraway to America, to meet women who breastfeed babies who do not belong to them. She meets a working mother who employs someone to feed her baby while she is at work, and groups of other women who breastfeed each other’s for free.
“I’d gone into the film thinking, ‘Why are they doing it? Is it because it’s easier than breastfeeding themselves?’ They threw it back and said, ‘No, we’re not doing it for convenience, we’re doing it totally in the interests of the child, and we’re prepared to sacrifice our ego of having that role.’ ”
Garraway had always known, she says, about the nutritional superiority of breast milk. “From the second you’re pregnant, they tell you that breast milk can do anything from cure conjunctivitis to send your child to university. If it could put the kettle on, it would make you a cup of tea, kind of thing. So I knew that.” But her reasons for breastfeeding her own daughter had been purely psychological.
“I went back to work, albeit part-time, relatively early at three months, and I just felt it was really important to me, when I came in the door and Derek’s mum had been looking after Darcey all morning, emotionally I could push her to one side – mum’s here now – and it was something only I could do. That bond was really emotionally important to me, and so I would never have been able to let someone else breastfeed her in a million years.”
When she explained this to the women in the documentary, however, they told her it was the most selfish thing they’d heard. “They said, ‘What you’re entirely thinking about is your role as a mother, and your mental state, you’re not thinking about the child at all.’ These were clever, interesting women – and they said, ‘That’s all about you, not the child.’ I’d never thought about it like that before.”
The documentary is part of a Channel 4 strand that pairs presenters with subjects – another in the series takes Women’s Institute members on a tour of foreign brothels – and it’s easy to see why the producers chose Garraway for Other People’s Breast Milk, for she has never, she agrees, been “the earth mother type”. Yet her conversion is practically evangelical.
“To be honest,” she says, “I felt a bit like a milch cow when I was breastfeeding, a bit unfeminine, particularly when you’ve got a pump. It’s a bit unsexy, and you feel disempowered, and that’s been the view of breastfeeding for a while – you’re chained to this baby and it’s not the modern, feminist woman. But I came away from this documentary feeling the opposite, just in wonderment at the female body. Just how clever the breast is. If I was breastfeeding a baby right now, and you sneezed, within hours my body would have produced antibodies that through the milk would protect my baby from those germs. It’s just an incredible thing that we take for granted. But because of the sexualisation of breasts, we don’t see them as the clever, brilliant things they are. Not in the way that we see the brain or the heart.”
If she had another baby and couldn’t breastfeed, she still couldn’t see herself letting anyone else – but she would buy human milk from a milk bank.
“Before, I wouldn’t have, because I’d have found it a bit icky. But I think now that’s crackers, because why are we happy about giving it something from a cow’s breast, which is another species? The women kept asking me, ‘Why are you happy to give your baby milk from another species’ – which is what formula is – ‘but you’re not prepared to give it from another woman?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. You’re absolutely right. I’ve never thought about it. I’m bonkers.’ “