MOUNT GREENWOOD — Nursing mothers are often relegated to a lonely corner or kept behind a closed door. On Jan. 10, they'll be welcome on the red carpet for a private screening of "Breastmilk," a documentary examining what it means to breastfeed.
Belle Up, a maternity store in Mount Greenwood, is hosting Chicago's only private screening of the 90-minute film, according to Kathleen McShane of Beverly, who is coordinating the event.
"I think any film that shows the benefits, but also the challenges of breastfeeding is important," said McShane.
McShane nursed her daughter, Molly, until she was almost 2 years old, and she is currently breastfeeding her 7-month-old son, Craig. She learned about the movie while browsing the Internet and decided to host her own private screening after discovering there weren't any showings planned in Chicago.
"Breastfeeding my children has been one of the most rewarding but also one of the hardest things I have ever done. I didn't expect it to be so hard. No one really spelled it out for me," she said.
Up to 60 people can fit comfortably within Belle Up at 3440 W. 111th St. All proceeds from the showing will benefit A New Direction, a group dedicated to wiping out domestic violence in the Beverly and Morgan Park neighborhoods.
Tickets for the private screening are $10. The film begins at 7 p.m., but moviegoers are encouraged to come early for discounted shopping, raffles and an opportunity to mingle. There also will be a discussion after the film.
McShane said people often were surprised by how long she nursed her daughter. Even her child's first pediatrician made it a point to tell her that there were no longer benefits to breastfeeding after a child's first birthday. The nursing mom strongly disputed these claims before switching doctors.
"Then there have been looks when nursing in public, or comments like 'if they are old enough to ask for it, they are too old to nurse,' " she said.
Nursing her son brought on other challenges. Craig suffered from a lip tie which made breastfeeding difficult and very painful. She said she hopes these issues and others are addressed in the movie, as she'll also be watching the film for the first time on Jan. 10.
"I think the more education people get on the benefits of breastfeeding, the hope is that more women will try it or seek support to hang in there longer. Minimally, others would be more understanding and supportive," McShane said.
As for her support group, McShane surrounded herself with other like-minded women. But her most ardent supporter was her husband, Craig.
"My husband has been amazing, and if he wasn't 100 percent on board I don't know if we would have made it so far," she said.