Law & Order: Season 10, Episode 12

Mother's Milk (9 Feb. 2000)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
7.5
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Jack asks Abbie to try a case involving a young mother accused of starving her baby to death.

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Title: Mother's Milk (09 Feb 2000)

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Tessa Ghylin ...
Amy Beltran
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Jimmy Beltran
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Mitch Palichek
Peggy Roeder ...
Helen Beltran
Susan Blommaert ...
Lee Brock ...
Miss Strickland
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Detectives Lennie Briscoe and Ed Green investigate a possible crime when a landlord discovers broken glass and blood in an apartment that had been abandoned by the tenants. Amy and James Beltran had lived there for only for months and she had recently given birth to a boy, Kyle. They quickly track down James, whose is living with his parents, but he refuses to tell them anything other that the baby is with his wife. A local priest says James has been attending mass up to three times a week recently but not with his wife and child. When they finally find her, she insists that the baby is with her husband. When they find the baby's remains buried in his parents backyard, the medical examiner determines that the baby starved to death over a period of several weeks. It turns out Amy was having difficulty breastfeeding her baby and after getting advice from an overzealous lactation counselor, she thought it was wrong to give the baby formula. Guilt or innocence is left up to the judge in a... Written by garykmcd

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9 February 2000 (USA)  »

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What to do, what to do?
3 October 2012 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

Detectives Brisco and Green are called in to look at an empty apartment with blood on the floor and on a baby's crib. They track down the two parents, now living apart, but the baby remains missing. They discover it starved to death and buried in the back yard.

The charge against the young mother is manslaughter and the father is charged as an accomplice. It develops that the mother had given birth to a normal neonate some weeks before, has brought the infant home, and been neglectful. The baby cried all the time and the mother turned up the volume on the TV to drown it out. Little babies WILL be a pain in the neck sometimes.

The mother's defense counsel argues that the death was unintentional because the mother had been strongly advised by the hospital's lactation counselor that breast feeding was the proper way for the child to get nourishment. And, indeed, mother's milk passes on nutrients and antibodies that formulas lack. The parents had an abundance of commercial formula but didn't feed the child. In court, the lactation counselor sounds like a woman on a crusade, talking about "nipple confusion" and whatnot.

I don't know how many people recall what a serious issue this was during the 80s. The primary manufacturer of milk formulas was Nestles, a Swiss company, and there were outraged cries against it because bottle feeding was seen an artificial and unnatural. This episode touches on this sensitive issue.

I was auditing a class in Medical Anthropology in the years when this conflict was boiling, long before the release of this episode. The students were mostly women. I jokingly said I, too, was in favor of breast feeding because it placed the responsibility for feeding the baby back where it belonged -- on the mother. I was just trying to get a rise out of the other students but was unprepared for what came next, an immediate rustling sound followed by a tsunami of boos and hisses aimed in my direction.

Given that experience, as well as other impressions formed over time, this is a story about much more than mother's milk versus commercial formulas. It's about feminism. The mother may be the primary caretaker of the infant but the father should involve himself in all other responsibilities outside of breast feeding. The father has a responsibility too, and he must do more than work all day and slough household tasks onto his wife.

That, in any case, was the conclusion of the judge in this case. There's another issue that is touched upon, brought up but never explored. Are some couples simply unsuited for parenthood? How many parents, when faced with a baby who cries frequently, turn up the volume on the TV? Or worse? What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, anyway?


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